Japanese Milk Bread
The texture of Wonderbread, but with that fresh, home-baked flavor. I like to kick the flavor up further by swapping 1/4 cup of white flour for something different. Usually whole wheat, but sometimes I'll use ground almonds, or barley flour, or just toss a bunch of things into the grain mill and see what happens. I also like to switch some or all of the sugar for something else, like brown sugar, maple sugar, or buckwheat honey.
The key to getting this light, fluffy texture is in cooking some of the starch with water before adding it to the bread.
The original instructions can be found here
, but I use a bread machine, so my instructions are as follows:
-2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter, plus more for coating the bowl and pan
-1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
-2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons bread flour, divided
-1/2 cup whole milk, warm but not hot
-1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
-1 1/2 teaspoons salt
-2 tablespoons sugar
-1/3 cup heavy cream
Combine the water with 2 Tbsp flour, and heat until thick. I find this easiest to do in the microwave, but a small saucepan will work too. Let cool.
In your bread machine bucket
, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, all remaining ingredients, and the cooled flour paste.
Run the machine on the "bread dough" setting, but watch closely during the first 10 minutes. Add the remaining flour, a little at a time, until the dough looks "right". You may not need all the flour, or it may turn out that you need more. That's ok. After the dough has the right amount of flour, let the machine run.
When the dough cycle is done, pull the bucket out. Wipe down the heating elements with a damp cloth, removing any flour dust or bits of dough that might have gotten kicked out during the kneading cycle. Wipe down the outside of the bucket as well. Use a wooden tool to dislodge any ingredients that got stuck in the corners of the bucket, so they'll mix with the dough during the next step.
Put the bucket back in the bread machine. If you plan on doing the final baking in your oven
, set the machine to "bread dough" again, then follow directions in the user's manual for using your machine to make dinner rolls. Otherwise, set it for the normal bread cycle and let run. The finished bread will probably be taller and fluffier than you expect, so keep that in mind when choosing a pan.
(I've mentioned elsewhere how running the bread machine twice does a lot to improve the texture of the finished loaf. Feel free to try that technique with other recipes.)
Let cool 30 minutes before slicing.