If you love bread that is soft, tender, and slightly chewy, then Asian White Bread will soon become one of your favorites. Asian White Bread, also called Asian Pain de Mie or Hokkaido Milk Loaf, is widely available at Chinese, Japanese, and Korean bakeries and is slightly richer than the standard American white bread.
By adding some more butter and sugar, Asian Pain de Mie is both sweeter and richer than American white bread, but not as sweet and rich as a brioche is. To put it simply, if American white bread and French brioche had a child, it would be Asian Pain de Mie.
The most unique and important ingredient of this bread is a water-roux, which along with the sugar and butter acts as a bread softener, giving the loaf its characteristic springy, silky tenderness. This water-roux, also called a tangzhong, is the secret to all Asian breads. Not only does it add softness to breads but it also allows for a slightly longer shelf life.
This recipe is adapted from the dough recipe for my Honeyed BBQ Pork Buns. There is nothing complicated about making this bread–you just need to allot some time to make it. There are certain times where only an Asian-style white bread will do, and this is especially true for my Maple Brick Toast Recipe. This bread is also perfect for making tea sandwiches because of its soft texture and because you will be able to cut it thinner than the standard slice.
Getting a whiff of this bread baking in the oven is one of my favorite scents on a cold winter day. Fluffy and soft, this bread is perfect on its own but will also make any spread or sandwich fillings eaten with it that much more delicious.
Asian White Bread (Asian-Style Pain de Mie)
Makes 1 loaf.
4 cups bread flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup non-fat dry milk
1 Tbsp instant yeast (I use SAF instant)
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup butter (at room temperature)
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp water
bench flour and oil for proofing bowl
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp bread flour
Pullman Loaf pan (13″ x 4″ x 4″) or regular loaf pan (9″ x 5″)
1.) Make the Water Roux. Place a 1/2 cup of cold water into a small saucepan and add the 2 Tbsp of bread flour. Mix well until the mixture resembles homogenized milk, then turn on stove top to medium heat. Cook the roux until it thickens up and has the consistency of a yogurt, making sure to keep the mixture a pure white color by not overcooking. The mixture should not exceed 150 degrees F. Place the mixture into a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap, making contact with the top surface of the roux (to prevent a skin from forming). You should end up with 1/2 cup of roux, ready to use when it has cooled back down to room temperature.
2.) Make the Dough. Using the bowl of a stand mixer, place all the wet dough ingredients (including the roux) into the mixing bowl. Place the bowl in the stand mixer with a dough hook attachment and start to mix on low-speed. Add the flour gradually, a cup at a time, scraping down the insides of the mixing bowl periodically. Increase the speed to low-medium and continue to mix the shaggy mass for 5 minutes until you get a soft and supple ball of dough. If the dough seems dry, add 1-2 tsp of water. The resulting dough should feel tacky when you press into it without actually sticking to your finger. Transfer the ball of dough to an oiled bowl to proof, lightly coating all sides of the dough with some of the same oil. Cover the bowl lightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough proof in a warm, draft free place for 30-40 minutes or until the mass has doubled in volume.
3.) Shape the Loaf. After the dough has doubled in volume, turn it out on a work surface scattered with bench flour. Oil the pullman loaf pan (or regular loaf pan) well, both the top and bottom pieces. Gently roll the dough into a log slightly longer than the length of the loaf pan. Transfer dough log into loaf pan tucking ends underneath the log to create a smooth, even top to the dough loaf. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft free place to allow to double in volume and come within a 1/2″ of the top edge of the pan. Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
4.) Finish and Bake. After the second rising, remove plastic wrap and slide top of pullman loaf pan on (if using). Bake in oven for 30 minutes, then remove from oven and slide the top cover off the pullman pan. Place back into the oven, and bake for an extra 15 minutes. The bread is done when it hits an internal temperature hits 190 degrees F. Transfer the loaf to a rack until it cools to room temperature.
This bread is perfect for tea sandwiches, a light morning breakfast, or for Maple Brick Toast, a Taiwanese tea shop favorite!