Japanese Milk Bread (Plant-Based): Recipe #209

The overnight rise in this recipe is totally worth the fluffy, soft texture for which Japanese milk bread is known. It’s an unusual, brioche-like bread recipe that starts with making a kind of roux, or thick flour paste, that gets mixed into the rest of the dough as you go. Then it gets finished off with a lovely maple glaze. It’s versatile enough to pair with any soup or stew you like, or to be toasted as part of a sumptuous breakfast. Thanks to Hannah for inspiration.

This is part of our 1,000 Food Experiments to create sustainable meals for our family and hopefully yours.

Ingredients ($3 for 1 large loaf)

Flour paste:
1/4 cup flour – $0.04
2/3 cup unsweetened soy milk – $0.25

1 tbsp active dry yeast – $0.50
1 tsp brown sugar – $0.01
1/3 cup hottest tap water – free
1/3 cup + 3 tbsp soy milk – $0.19
3 cups white + 1/3 cup whole wheat flour (plus extra as needed) – $0.53
1/4 cup brown sugar – $0.13
1 tsp salt – $0.05
3 tbsp Miyoko’s vegan butter, softened – $1.31

1/2 tbsp maple syrup – $0.12
1 tbsp water – free

Directions for Japanese Milk Bread

1. Make the flour paste: in a small pan, mix the flour and soy milk together until smooth. Turn the heat onto medium-low and whisk continuously until you get a thick paste. Remove from heat and cover the surface of the paste with parchment paper, then cool to room temperature.

Next, in a small non-metal bowl, gently mix together the yeast, brown sugar, and hottest tap water. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to form a thick foam, then stir in the soy milk.

In a large metal bowl, mix together the flours, brown sugar and salt. Add the cooled flour paste and yeast mixture, then stir it until it comes together into a ball of dough. Knead for 10 minutes by hand, adding small amounts of flour if it really sticks to your fingers. The dough will be nice and soft and elastic. Then add the vegan butter and knead for 10 more minutes to thoroughly incorporate the butter into the dough so it’s not oily.

Put the dough in large bowl, cover and leave it in the fridge overnight to rise and double in size.

2. The next day, punch the dough down to release the air, then divide it into 4 pieces. Use a rolling pin to roll each piece out into an oval, then fold the oval in thirds to make a long rectangle (see picture below). Roll out the rectangle to seal the seam, then use your hands to roll it up from one end to make a stubby, tight spiral. Repeat with the other pieces of dough.

Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and put each spiral into the loaf pan with the seam at the bottom. They should be wedged in next to each other nicely. Cover and rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours until doubled in size again.

3. After the dough has risen, use a pastry brush to gently coat the top with the maple syrup and water mixture.

Bake at 350F for 30 minutes until it’s nice and dark golden on top, or until a thermometer inserted into the loaf measures over 200F. When it’s ready, remove the bread from the oven, cool it in the loaf pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Pull the sections apart and slice to your desired thickness. Enjoy your Japanese milk bread warm or have it toasted the next day. Freeze any leftovers in a sealed container or bag for future eating!

Sustainability Score (explained here)

  • Time to make: 1 = >3 hours
  • Servings: 3 = lots of leftovers
  • Cost per serving: 3 = <$5
  • Deliciousness: 3 = when are we having this again?
  • Environmental impact: 3 = minimal damage
  • Nutritional value: 2 = healthy-ish
  • TOTAL: 15/18

If any of you amazing home chefs tried it, or have other recipes you’d like us to experiment with, please let me know. Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy day!