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Gluten-Free Japanese Milk Bread – the softest bread ever

Gluten-Free Japanese Milk Bread – the softest bread ever

This is about to knock your gluten free socks off: a loaf of super soft gluten free bread that is easy to make, and doesn’t intimidate (I’m here for you!). BOOM!

Gluten-Free Japanese Milk Bread - the softest gluten free bread ever

Have you ever heard of Japanese Water Roux (Tangzhong)? As a card-carrying member of the Food Dorks Academy, I love learning what other cultures do to make bread. And then I hunker down and bury myself in figuring out how to make it into gluten free bread for us. I might not be the most fun at parties any more.

Gluten-Free Japanese Milk Bread - the softest gluten free bread ever

But if you make this supersoft gluten free bread that stays fresh forever, you might just see that I’m tons of fun in the kitchen. And by might, I mean will. And by fun I mean hands-off-my-bread-get-your-own. I learned about this from someone else’s virtual kitchen. I adapted it from The 350 Degree Oven: Adventures in Mika’s Kitchen. She assembles her dough differently, and I’m sure more authentically. What do I know? I’ve never been to Japan. My method of assembling the loaf is a bit simpler, since I’m fairly certain that I’m a bit simpler than Mika. And by simple I mean … simple.

Gluten-Free Japanese Milk Bread - the softest gluten free bread everThis is what it looks like. I don’t really know what else to say. I think I just teared up a little.

Gluten-Free Japanese Milk Bread - the softest gluten free bread ever

To make the water roux, I placed 47 grams (about 1/3 cup) all-purpose gluten-free flour and 1 cup water in a small saucepan and whisked to combine well. Then I cooked it over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, and after almost exactly 2 minutes (yes, I timed it – please refer to dork designation above), it thickened quite a lot. One you see the whisk leaving tracks in its wake, it’s done. Remove it from the heat pronto, pardner.

Gluten-Free Japanese Milk Bread - the softest gluten free bread ever

Then let it cool. I put it in this here container, and refrigerated it. It makes enough for 2 loaves of bread (140g water roux per loaf), and I’m definitely going to be making more gluten-free bread with this stuff. It’s magic!

Gluten-Free Japanese Milk Bread - the softest gluten free bread ever

The dough is shaggy. And tacky to the touch. But you’ll dust it with more flour and pat it out into a rectangle, then divide it into 6 pieces.

Gluten-Free Japanese Milk Bread - the softest gluten free bread ever

Then roll each piece out into a disk about 1/2 inch thick. After that, gently fold each disk over on itself from short side to short side.

* I once had an editor — not my esteemed book editor whom I adore — tell me that the word “shaggy” is not a proper term for describing bread dough. No one will understand what you mean! I don’t like that particular editor. Admittedly, you did not need to know that, but I think I needed to tell it to you. Apologies.

Gluten-Free Japanese Milk Bread - the softest gluten free bread ever

Loosely stack the folded pieces of dough in a loaf pan. Make sure you don’t pack the dough in there, or it won’t bake evenly and you may have raw bits here in there in the dough even after it’s baked. You want the air to be able to circulate everywhere.

Spray the loaf with warm water, cover the pan with plastic wrap and place the pan in a warm, draft-free place to rise until it’s about 150% its original size.

Softest Gluten-Free Bread: Japanese Milk Bread
Recipe Type: Bread
Author: Nicole @ Gluten-Free on a Shoestring.com
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 40 mins
Total time: 1 hour
Serves: 8 to 10
Super soft & tender gluten-free bread made with a Japanese water roux
  • 3 cups (420g) high-quality all-purpose gluten-free flour, plus more by the tablespoon if necessary (and extra for dusting)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 4 tablespoons (48g) sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant (or rapid-rise or breadmaker) yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 extra-large egg plus 1 extra-large egg white
  • 1 cup warm milk (low-fat is fine, nonfat is not), about 100 degrees F
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 c (140g) water roux (half the yield of the recipe referred to earlier)*
  1. Grease a loaf pan that is no larger than 9 x 5 inches and set it aside.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place 3 cups flour, xanthan gum, cream of tartar, sugar and yeast, and whisk with a separate handheld whisk to combine well. Add the kosher salt, and whisk once again to combine. Add the vinegar, eggs, milk, butter and water roux, mixing well after each addition with the mixer on low speed. Once the dry ingredients have been incorporated into the wet ingredients, turn the mixer up to high speed and allow to mix for about 5 minutes. Cover with a tea towel in case any loose bits of dough fly out of the mixing bowl.
  3. The dough should be shaggy and tacky to the touch. If it is wet, add more flour by the tablespoon and mix to combine well until it is no longer truly wet. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, dust the top with flour, and pat into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick.
  4. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Dust each piece with flour, and roll lightly or pat out into a flat disk about 1/2 inch thick (see photo), sprinkling with flour if there are sticky spots. Fold each disk loosely in half from one short end to the other (see photo). You don’t want to compress the dough at all.
  5. Stand the prepared loaf pan on one short side, and begin to stack the folded pieces of dough one behind the other, the rounded (folded) part facing up (see photo). Handle the dough gently, still taking care not to compress the dough at all. You want it to have room to rise, and to expand in the oven so it bakes evenly.
  6. Right the loaf pan on its bottom, spray the dough lightly with warm water, and cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap. Place in a warm, draft-free location to rise (I use a Brod & Taylor home proofer – see the sidebar) until it has reached about 150% of its original volume. While the dough is rising, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (for a softer crust, heat the oven to only 325 degrees F, and bake a few minutes longer).
  7. Once the dough has finished rising, remove the plastic wrap and place in the center of the preheated oven. Bake for about 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove the bread from the loaf pan and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Return the bread on the baking sheet to the oven and continue to bake until the loaf is firm to the touch and sounds hollow when thumped, another 10 to 15 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving.

*The water roux is made by combining 1/3 cup (47g) all-purpose gluten-free flour with 1 cup tepid water in a small saucepan. Whisk to combine. Cook, whisking constantly, over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened to where the whisk leaves a trail visible behind it (see photo). Allow to cool completely. It will yield approximately 280 grams, enough water roux for 2 loaves of bread. Store leftover roux in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.
Adapted from The 350 Degree Oven: Adventures in Mika’s Kitchen (http://bit.ly/A2Uc4Q)


Gluten Free Japanese Milk Bread - the Softest Gluten Free Bread Ever


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  • You can come to my parties! If I had parties. =)

    • Thanks, Mandy! I accept. I’ll bring the bread. ;)
      xoxo Nicole

  • Pamela G

    Ok, Nicole….I gave in. I just purchased the proofer. No more lopsided bread for me. I love making bread, but the kitchen is too chilly here in WNY. Everything rises lopsided!
    Besides…when I grow up I wanna be MORE like you!

    • You did, Pam?! I can’t believe it! I know it’s expensive, but you know I wouldn’t recommend it so highly if it weren’t worth it. Think of all the bread you’ll make without having to worry about its rising perfectly. I can’t wait until you see! Congratulations!
      xoxo Nicole

  • Pamela G

    ps…you’re not a DORK….passionate…..and maybe a little shaggy…..but definately NOT a dork. :)

    • You actually made me laugh out loud, Pam! I am shaggy! ;)
      xoxo Nicole

      • Pamela G

        in the best way possible, of course! :-D

        • Of course, Pam. :)
          xoxo Nicole

  • Linda Stoddard

    This looks wonderful!. Interesting reference to ‘Japanese water roux.’ I first learned about this method in a book by Chinese writer Yvonne Chen (“65 Degrees”) in which she coined this dough mixture as ‘tang zhong.’ In any case, it’s a wonderful method of keeping bread soft. I never thought I’d miss that Wonder Bready softness, but here it is….:-)

    • Hi, Linda!
      65 Degrees, huh? That sounds kind of familiar. I might have to investigate a bit further… :)
      xoxo Nicole

  • Anonymous

    Do you think it would work with a hand mixer? Silly question I know, most dough is too hard to mix with a hand mixer, but just curious. Thanks so much for all your work!!

    • Hi, there,
      Nope. A hand mixer will burn out, and won’t work on this sort of dough anyhow. Just do it by hand, and put a lot of elbow grease into it!
      xoxo Nicole

  • Elyse

    Is this your new favorite GF bread? I keep meaning to try to make one, but want to make the best one first.

    • Hi, Elyse,
      I couldn’t possibly choose among my bread recipes. They’re all my little recipe children. You’ll have to just jump in.
      xoxo Nicole

  • I might be baking bread today in my new USA pullman pan….

    • Did you really buy a USA Pans pullman? Why does that thrill me so? I really need a new hobby.
      xoxo Nicole

      • I did. And I bought muffin pans and I’m about to buy a couple of loaf pans. I cannot believe the difference between them and the other guy (think a midwest city). Nothing compares. I had no idea, seriously. Not only does it have that magical nothing sticks to it,but it isn’t dark which helps you control the over-brown over-done GF thingy that happens with those other pans…

  • Emma

    Hi Nicole, this bread looks great! I’ve been trying many different bread recipes lately and I think this one might be a winner. I was looking at the original recipe that you adapted yours from and wondering if you tried rolling the dough into cylinders at all? If so, what were your results like?

    • Hi, Emma,
      Feel free to experiment. What I did is what you see!
      xoxo Nicole

  • Mattison Mania

    Urgent Help, Please!

    I am in the middle of making this wonderful looking bread right now as we speak. I have a dilemma tho. The recipe says 4tsp or 48g of Sugar. I’m noticing 48g is more like 4 Tablespoons. Am I on the right track, or should it be closer to the teaspoon range?

    Thanks bunches!!

    • Hi, Mattison,
      So sorry! It was a typo. It should read 4 tablespoons, not teaspoons. I have made the change in the recipe.
      xoxo Nicole

      • Mattison Mania

        You truly are a fantastic human being! We are truly spoiled with such a talented soul as yourself. Not only great recipes, but prompt responses. You really shouldn’t be so kind … next time ;-) … this is time is fabulous!

        A million thanks!

        • You’re very welcome, Mattison. Sorry about the typo! It happens sometimes, despite my best intentions. :) Enjoy the bread.
          xoxo Nicole

      • JoAnn C

        I’m baking this bread tomorrow after I remove the snow from the driveway. I have the flour problem, (no more gritty bread), settled and am back in business, (so to speak), baking again. I really miss soft bread.

        Unrelated to this recipe, two thumbs up to you for the Pound Cake recipe from your book. It is the best I’ve ever made. Thanks.

        P.S. I love to read cookbooks and have at least 30-40, some from when my parents got married 56 years ago. So am I a food dork too? Is there some sort of secret handshake?

        • Hi, JoAnn,
          Glad you’re back in the saddle. So glad you liked the pound cake! It takes a lot of tender-loving care, but it’s worth it. You are clearly a Food Dork. Check your wallet, there must be a card in there somewhere. :)
          xoxo Nicole

  • Dotty x

    Yum! Looks delicious, will have to try this

  • Kristi

    You never cease to amaze me. This is a beaut! I know this seems weird but I really want to smell that bread, like now!

    I am breaking down and getting the Brod and Taylor. I also want the pullman and the muffin pan from USA Pans.

    I hope my husband will still respect YOU in the morning (when the bill comes). I tell him that you are bossy and make me buy things. ;-)


    • Kristi, I would not dispute even one thing you said. I am bossy, and I do make you buy things. And I take full responsibility for it.
      And it doesn’t sound weird to me at all that you want to smell that bread. It smells amazing. Unlike any other bread I’ve made before. It’s really different.
      xoxo Nik

  • Cannot WAIT to try!
    Just so you know…my pastry instructor in culinary school referred to dough being shaggy all. the. time! What does that BOOK editor know anyway?!
    P.S. – Your GF blog is my favorite of all!

    • Hi, Jen,
      Ha! So glad to know that about your pastry instructor! In fairness, it was a magazine editor (my book editor is a dream), and she doesn’t even cook! What-does-she-know indeed. Thanks, Jen. So glad you enjoy the blog. :)
      xoxo Nicole

  • I LOVE bread!!!! LOVE IT!!..oh, and with fresh, butter? Yummy, yummy!!! I’m going to bookmark this recipe :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

  • I have my bread in the oven–actually I just took it out of the pan and put it back in the oven just a moment ago. it looks awesome!

    I already know that the dough tastes yummy because I had a small chunk of the dough that wouldn’t fit in my 8.5×4.5 USA Pans. The bread is browning wonderfully!

    So, I cut my flattened disk into 4 pieces let them raise while my little baby deep fryer heated to 350 degrees. Then I fried them up and topped with a small amount of maple frosting.

    I can hardly wait to get my next batch of dough made (Looks like Sunday after my Hubby’s birthday party–gotta get the chocolate Whoopie Pies made on Saturday–YUM!!!

    Oh My goodness! Light, Fluffy, Soft fried doughnuts.

  • here’s a link to the photo of my bread still cooling!

  • Linda

    This looked so yummy I had to try it today.

    Well, I had very wet dough (it was shaggy before the 5 minute mix) – maybe my roux wasn’t quite cooked enough?
    So after I had added 5 or 6 Tbsp of flour and it was almost shaggy I scooped the dough into 6 piles and very gently pressed each flat after moving on top of a floured section and sprinkling with flour.
    My very soft loaf is currently hopefully rising…

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  • ErinK

    hey there!
    I am accidently visit your sites and wow!
    It is the perfect place that I was looking for!
    cuz these days I am trying to have a gluten-free diet! and really worried about the recipies! and you have all!
    I am in Korea but I think I’ll visit here everyday!

    • Hi, ErinK,
      Welcome! I hope you are able to find the gluten-free products you need. :)

  • Sarah

    So I just tasted my first loaf of Japanese Milk Bread. It looks beautiful AND tastes wonderful. It’s definitely the best gluten free bread I’ve made so far!
    Besides a big “Thank You” for the recipe, I wanted to ask if you recommend storing the loaf whole or slicing it all before storing it.

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