Black Sesame Swirl Milk Bread (Asian Sweet Bread, Hong Kong Pai Bao, Hokkaido Milk Bread)
Ingredients for the milk bread
- 5 cups (640g) all purpose flour
- You can also use bread flour and just reduce the kneading time.
- 1/3 cup plus 4 teaspoons (83g) sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup of milk
- You can also substitute with 1/2 cup of heavy cream plus 1/2 cup water.
- 4 teaspoons instant yeast
- This is usually two packages of yeast.
- 6 tablespoons butter
- Make sure to cut the butter into small pieces and that 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 just right below
Ingredients for black sesame mix
- 1/4 cup (40g) black sesame powder
- I used the powder that is normally used to make Chinese black sesame soup, like this one. However, you might not have that powder on hand, so you can just grind up 3 tablespoons of toasted black sesame seeds and 1 tablespoon sugar.
- 1/4 cup toasted black sesame seeds
Ingredients for the tangzhong
- 1/3 cup (43g) all purpose flour
- You can also use bread flour here as well!
- 1 cup of water
Ingredients for the egg wash
- 1 large egg
Basically, this tangzhong technique gives the milk bread it’s signature fluffy texture. It’s like magic! Also, I want to give a shoutout to my old food blog, where I had my original milk bread recipe. If you want step-by-step pictures or just want to see my old blog, check it out here.
This recipe yields a pretty large amount of bread, so feel free to reduce the recipe or make all kinds of different types of shapes, like standard loaves, muffin-sized buns, freely shaped buns, bundt pans, circular loaves, etc. This recipe yields approximately 2 loaves or 1 loaf and 12 buns.
- First, let’s make the tangzhong, which is actually super simple and gives the milk bread its signature fluffy texture. 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). If you have a thermometer, your mixture should be perfect at 149 degrees Fahrenheit (65 degrees Celsius). Once the mixture is just right, take it off the stove and let it cool until it’s lukewarm.
- Next, let’s make the rest of the milk bread dough. In a bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, salt, sugar, and instant yeast. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add in all wet ingredients, which are the milk, eggs and the lukewarm tangzhong.
- Using your stand mixer, mix 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 that shouldn’t be too sticky and have some elasticity. It took me around 20 minutes to mix the dough to this point. Since this timing may be variable, keep checking for elasticity and stretchiness. (You can knead the dough by hand totally, but it can be very, very, very tiring).
- If you’re making the black sesame swirl, now divide the dough into two equal halves and knead into balls. Set one half aside. Let’s make the black sesame mix. Mix together black sesame powder and black sesame seeds, and add that to the remaining half of the dough. Mix until evenly combined (approximately 2-3 minutes). You should now have 2 dough balls, one regular and one black sesame.
- Now, it’s time to proof the dough balls. Place each dough ball into 2 separate large greased bowls. Cover with a wet towel, and let the dough proof until it’s doubled in size, about an hour. My trick to to heat up my oven for a few minutes, turn the oven off, and then place the bowl of dough into the warmed oven. (You can also let the dough proof overnight at this point too).
- After proofing, move the dough to a clean surface and split up each dough ball in 8 pieces. This means you should have 8 regular small dough balls and 8 black sesame dough balls. Cover with the wet towel again and let it rest for 15 minutes.
- Next, let’s form the signature milk bread shapes, which helps with the fluffiness and the layers inside. Using a rolling pin, roll each dough ball into an oval shape of equal size. Take one of the black sesame rolled out ovals and place it on top of one of the regular rolled out ovals. Gently, roll to flatten and press the black sesame oval onto the regular oval with your rolling pin, creating a combined oval dough.
- Then, take one of the shorter ends of the oval dough and fold a third of it up. The other shorter end of the oval should then be folded to meet top of the other end of the dough. Basically, you’re folding the oval in thirds, just like an envelope.
- Now to further create the fluffiness of the layers, flip the dough over with the folds facing down. Flatten the dough with a rolling pin and do the letter folds again.
- Flip the dough over again and roll it out until flat. Time to make the rolls! From one of the shorter ends of the oval, roll the dough into a roll with the seam side down. This is how the swirl is created!
- You’ve made one section of the milk bread now! Placed that roll into a greased loaf pan. One loaf usually has 4 sections, so repeat the rolling and folding with at least 3 more combined ovals. (You’ll still have dough left, so that’s where you can be creative with alternative shapes or just create another loaf. You could make more “loaf sections” and just cut them like cinnamon rolls to make muffins. Or you could make tiny rolls to make buns. Or you could just roll the ovals out into a circle and stuff it with red bean, coconut, matcha, etc. Sky’s the limit!).
- Now, it’s time to proof the loaves in the bread pan. You should have placed 4 of those sections into the loaf pan, which should fit comfortably (since these will rise). Place a wet towel over the loaf and let it rise until it’s double in size (about an hour).
- 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 milk bread at 325 degrees for approximately 30 minutes. You’re done!
Black Sesame Swirl Milk Bread is a great twist to the classic fluffy milk bread otherwise known as Asian Sweet Bread, 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, forms, flavors, different colored swirls, etc. 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!