Sweet Milk Bun With Tangzhong

Growing up in Kerala has contributed a lot towards my taste palate.  Even though I was not a coffee or tea drinker during  my childhood days, I enjoyed the bakery bought sweet buns with milk.

I spotted those buns from Indian stores while visiting my parents once.  Since then, we used to make sure to buy packs of those buns each time we visited them.  It became a family favorite.  Eventually I started making my own.  I used to flavor them with cardamom, but kids preferred the plain milk bun rather than flavored ones.  Hence I settled on plain milk bun.  Boys enjoy the sweet milk bun with Nutella.  Our daughter likes it with Chai like how both of us enjoy it.  I use my bread machine to make the dough which makes things way too easier to prepare these buns.  Hence I make them more often.  Hope you will give this bun recipe a try and let me know how it turns out for you.  I would love to hear back from you.

Tangzhong method is a Japanese technique of using a gelatinous mix of flour and water in the bread making process.  This yields a soft and fluffy bread.

Yields - 12 - 15 small buns

Prep Time:2 hours 30 minsCooking Time: 30 minsCooking Temp: 325° F / 160° C



3 tbsp - Bread flour/All purpose flour (Refer notes)

1/2 cup - water

Ingredients for the bun

2 1/2 cups - Bread flour/All purpose flour

5 tbsp - granulated sugar

1 tsp - salt

1 - egg at room temperature

1/2 cup - milk at room temperature

Prepared Tangzhong

3 tbsp - softened butter

1 - 7g packet instant yeast (refer notes)

To Brush

1 - egg white whisked



  • Whisk the 3 tbsp of flour in 1/2 cup of water in a sauce pan.  Turn on the flame on low heat and cook the mix till it thickens like a spreadable paste consistency is attained, by continuously stirring with a wooden spoon.  This step should be done carefully and slowly so that the Tangzhong does not lump up like a ball.  Set it aside to cool completely.

Sweet Bun

Bread Machine Method
  • Add all the wet ingredients including Tangzhong followed by dry ingredients into the bread machine and select the Dough cycle and prepare the dough and let it proof there.
Stand Mixer Method
  • Add all the dry ingredients followed  by wet ingredients into the stand mixer bowl.  Attach the dough hook and let it mix for 2 minutes.  Turn off the stand mixer and take the dough hook out.  Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it sit for 10 minutes undisturbed.
  • After 10 minutes, attach the dough hook and let it knead the dough till everything comes together as a ball.  It takes 30 minutes to get to that stretchy consistency.  
  • Once the dough is formed into a ball.  Cover it with a damp cloth and keep it in a warm place for it to rise to its double size.
Manual Kneading Method
  • In a mixing bowl, add all the dry ingredients and mix well.  Make a well in the middle and add all the wet ingredients.  Use a wooden spoon to roughly combine all together.  Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it sit for 10 minutes to develop the gluten.
  • After 10 minutes, flour the kitchen counter and drop the dough on it and try to fold them together with a bench scraper or a spatula.  The dough will be very sticky.  But don't add any flour.  Try to fold them in using the bench scraper.   In between you can give the dough some time to rest by covering it with a damp cloth.  Then try folding it after giving a 5 minutes break.  Repeat the folding and resting process till it turns into a stretchy pliable soft dough.  This method is more time consuming, but can be done as a shared family activity.
  • Once the dough is formed into a ball.  Cover it with a damp cloth and keep it in a warm place for it to to rise to its double size.

Bun Preparation
  • Transfer the proofed dough on to a lightly floured kitchen counter.   Punch down the air and roll the dough into a log.  Cut into 12 - 15 equal size pieces and roll them into balls.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place the rolled dough on the baking sheet with 1 inch spacing between each ball.  I used 2 baking sheets for this quantity.
  • Cover the prepared dough balls with a plastic wrap and keep it in a warmer place to rise for 20 minutes till they are slightly bigger in size.
  • Preheat the oven to 325 °F/160 C.
  • Remove the plastic wrap and brush the top of the dough with egg white.
  • Bake the buns for 25 - 30 minutes till the top attains a golden brown color.
  • Let the buns cool down on a wire rack completely before using it.
  • The cooled buns can be store at room temperature in an air tight container for up to a week.

  • I use King Arthur Brand of Bread flour for all my bread recipes.  I have tried this recipe with King Arthur All purpose flour too.  Both of them gives good results.  Since the bread flour has a little more gluten, there is a slight difference in texture between the 2 versions,  The buns made out of bread flour is slightly more lighter and softer than all purpose flour version.  I have tried this recipe with 2 different brands of all purpose flour, but it was not close to King Arthur All purpose flour version.  The buns turned out to be more stale faster even though they were kept in air tight containers.  So I recommend using King Arthur bread flour or any bread flour that has a protein content of 12% or above.  If bread flour is not available, then I would recommend King Arthur All purpose flour or any all purpose flour that has a protein content above 11.5%.
  • If rapid rise/instant yeast is not available, you can use 2 tsp of active dry yeast in this recipe.  I have tried this recipe with active dry yeast too.  When using active dry yeast.  I warm the 1/2 cup of cold milk in the microwave for 30 seconds till it gets slightly luke warm.  Add the 2 tsp of active dry yeast to the milk and mix well.  Boil a cup of water in the microwave for 2 minutes.  Once the water is boiled, place the milk and yeast mix in the microwave and close the door.  Leave it it in the microwave for 5-10 minutes for the yeast to get activated.  
  • You may feel tempted to add more flour to the sticky dough when kneading manually.  But adding more flour will make a tighter dough and will not give the best results.  The bun will be more dense and harder.  Rest and fold method is better for manual kneading.
  • Instead of egg white you can use melted butter/heavy cream to brush the top of the bun to give the golden yellow color.  But egg white gives the shiny glossy look for the buns.
  • You can prepare the Tangzhong a day before and keep it in the refrigerator.  Bring it to room temperature before using it in the dough.

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