Introduction: Asian Sweet Bread (Hong Kong Pai Bao, Hokkaido Milk Bread)

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I am so happy to share this recipe with you. Asian Sweet Bread is a staple in all Asian bakeries. The bread is soft and pillow-y and just melts in your mouth with a slight sweet flavor. The crust is perfectly brown and flaky. It's gorgeous to look at...and delicious to eat. A perfect snack on any occasion and it can hold its own next to any store bought rolls or loaves. 

This recipe is close to my heart as well. I have always gotten some sweet treat when going to Asian bakeries. I always came home with all kinds of bread...all of which derived from this simple recipe. 

Asian Sweet Bread (otherwise called Hong Kong Pai Bao or Hokkaido Milk Bread) is a staple in Asian bakeries and it should definitely be a staple in your household :) Delicious, fluffy, soft and everything bread should be. 

Step 1: Ingredients

For this delicious sweet bread:
  • 5 cups bread flour (all purpose flour will also work: the kneading time will need to be increased though)
  • 1/3 cup plus 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 4 teaspoons instant yeast (this is usually two packages of yeast)
  • 6 tbsp butter (cut the butter into small pieces and make sure it is softened at room temperature)
  • 1 serving of  tangzhong: this is a separate recipe and you will use all the tangzhong made with the recipe

For the tangzhong:

1/3 cup of bread flour (all purpose will work as well)
1 cup of water

Step 2: Making the Tangzhong

These are some simple steps to make the tangzhong:

Mix the 1/3 cup of flour and water together. Whisk until the flour is completely dissolved there are no lumps. 

Pour the mixture into a saucepan and turn on the heat to medium. Stir the mixture constantly as the mixture heats up. Cook the tangzhong until the mixture thickens. You should be able to draw "lines" in the mixture and the indent should remain for a little bit (it will be noticeable). It is the best to use a thermometer. The mixture should be perfect at 149 degrees Fahrenheit (65 degrees Celsius).

Once the mixture is just right, take it off the stove and step aside. 

Step 3: Combine and Kneading

Combine the flour, salt, sugar and instant yeast in a bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add in all wet ingredients (milk, eggs and the tangzhong).

Use the dough hook attachment on your stand mixer. Begin mixing on medium speed until the dough comes together. Then add in the butter and continue mixing/kneading. 

Keep kneading until it is a smooth dough. It shouldn't be too sticky and have some elasticity. It took me around 30 minutes to mix the dough in the mixture. I would also knead for a little bit by hand. I added some more flour to keep the dough from being too sticky. 

You can knead the dough by hand totally, but it can be very, very, very tiring :)

Step 4: Creating the Form

Knead the dough into a ball shape. Take a large bowl and grease with oil.  Place dough into the greased bowl and cover with a wet towel. Let it proof until it’s doubled in size, about 40 minutes.

After proofing, move the dough to a clean surface and split up the dough into four equal portions. Knead  and form this dough into balls. Cover the book with the wet towel again and let it rest for 15 minutes. 

To form the shape shown in the picture below (with helps create the fluffiness of the layers): 

Taking the rolling pin and roll each portion of the dough into an oval shape. Then take one end of the oval dough and fold it to the middle of the oval. The other end should then be folded to meet top of the other end of the dough (as seen in the picture below).

Now in order to further create the fluffiness of the layers, flip dough over with the folds facing down. Flatten the dough with rolling pin and flip it over again. 

Finally, it's time to roll the dough in the shapes shown below. 

Step 5: Alternative Shapes

Place the dough into a greased pan. 

Throughout this entire process, you can have fun with it! I formed my dough into rolls, a regular loaf, and even a funky small combination of rolls, as shown int the second picture. 

Step 6: Proofing the Rolls in the Pan

Now it's time to place each of the rolls into the bread pan. After, put a wet towel over the rolls and let them rise until they are double the size, which is about 50 minutes. 

Before baking the final proofed break, beat an egg until thoroughly combined. Brush the egg mixture on top of the bread in order to create the beautiful brown shiny finish after baking.

Finally, bake the bread at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 30 minutes.

Step 7: Finish!

You finally accomplished making Asian Sweet Bread (otherwise known as Hong Kong Pai Bao or Hokkaido Milk Bread). Don't they look great?!

They have the perfect texture on the inside, with a perfect combination of fluffiness in the center and the shiny, beautiful crust. I love making the rolls and peeling back all the different layers in the bread. 

This recipe is versatile, so you can use the dough to create different shapes and forms. You can even try making bread with different fillings! 

Try out this recipe to create the perfect loaf or the perfect roll! :) If you do, be sure to drop a comment below and tell me how it turned out!

Happy baking!