We all have our idea of the perfect loaf, be it tangy sourdough, crunchy seeded-crust bloomer or indulgent brioche. If you fancy trying something a little different, Japanese milk bread should be top of your to-bake list.

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A Unique Recipe
Sometimes known as Hokkaido milk bread, this loaf is particularly notable for its sweet, milky flavour and chewy, fluffy texture. Japanese food is becoming increasingly globally popular and has even been designated as a world cultural heritage by UNESCO. Part of the popularity of the cuisine lies in its use of unusual flavours and textures, with this bread being no exception. The secret ingredient is the inclusion of a water roux, also known as TangZhong, which makes the bread light yet chewy. This creamy paste adds extra moisture to the dough, preventing it from drying out during the cooking process.

A Pleasure To Prepare
Making your own bread and cakes at home is an easy activity more people are turning to http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-2739845/Great-British-Bake-Off-helps-fuel-62-leap-sales-baking-goods-2007.html/ . Not only can you be certain exactly what is going into the finished product but baking at home is fun for all the family. This loaf, despite its name, requires no special Japanese ingredients and is simpler to make that you might think. Begin by making the water roux, combining 25g of flour and 100ml of milk. Whisk together in a saucepan, heating until it forms a smooth paste. Cool in the refrigerator before use. Activate 5g of yeast with 30ml of warm milk, omitting this step if you are using instant or fresh yeast. In a stand mixer, place 70ml of heavy or double cream, one large egg and 155g of the pre-prepared water roux. On top of these ingredients, add 330g of bread flour, 50 sugar and a small teaspoon of salt. Knead these together until a sticky dough forms, which will take around twenty minutes. Add in 30g of softened butter and continue to knead for another 10 minutes.

Proving And Baking

Cover the dough and leave in a warm place for between 45 and 90 minutes until it has doubled in size. Knead the dough for 5 minutes then divide into four balls. Cover these with clingfilm and allow to rest for ten minutes, before rolling each into a rectangle. Fold in both sides to the middle, and top and bottom edges to the middle, before rolling into four cylinders. Let these rest for ten minutes. Flatten each cylinder, roll out into a rectangle, turn over and re-roll into four cylinders. Place these into a lined or oiled loaf pan and prove for a further 60 to 90 minutes. Brush the loaf with eggwash and bake for 15 minutes at 177c. Cover with foil and bake for a further 20 minutes, before cooling. A Miyabi Bread Knife, available from stockists such as Cilantro cooksshop is ideally for slicing this soft, chewy loaf into portions. It can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, in sandwiches or as a side dish at dinner, or even paired with some honey or jam for a sweet afternoon treat.

This recipe may take a little time but the technique is simple and the deliciously unique results are well worth the effort.