Maple Milk Bread
Inspired by the fluffy loaves at White Windmill, a bakery and cafe in Atlanta, this milk bread — a type of soft, bouncy white bread made with, yes, milk — is an homage to the Korean American community along the city’s Buford Highway and beyond. Milk bread exists across many cultures, but its distinguishing feature is the tangzhong — a cooked paste of flour and milk — that helps keep the bread from drying out. Maple syrup and a sturdier crumb distinguish this loaf from milk breads found at Asian bakeries. This one, which appears in “Korean American: Food That Tastes Like Home,” by Eric Kim (Clarkson Potter, 2022), has a deeply savory, pancake-sweet flavor and tastes fabulous plain, fresh out of the oven, or toasted, buttered and adorned with jam; honey and flaky sea salt are equally welcome as toppings.
- Serves: 1 person
- ½cup/72 grams bread flour
- 1cup/237 milliliters whole milk
- ½cup/118 milliliters heavy cream
- 4cups/576 grams bread flour, plus more as needed
- 1cup/336 milliliters maple syrup
- 1large egg
- 1 ½teaspoons coarse kosher salt or 2 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
- 4 ½teaspoons/14 grams active dry yeast (2 envelopes)
- Nonstick cooking spray
Step 1Make the tangzhong: In a medium pot, whisk together the bread flour and milk until relatively smooth. Set over medium-low heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens into a texture not unlike mashed potatoes or grits, 2 to 3 minutes. You may see lumps at first, but as you continue to whisk and the flour cooks, your mixture will smooth out.
Step 2Make the bread: Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the cream until smooth, which will cool down the mixture and add some necessary fat. To the creamy mixture, add 4 cups/576 grams bread flour, the maple syrup, egg, salt and yeast, and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until you can no longer see any streaks of egg or flour. Cover the pot with a lid and let sit in a warm place to proof and hydrate until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.
Step 3To knead by hand, keep ½ cup/72 grams bread flour next to you. Dust a clean work surface with some of the flour and turn the dough out onto the surface. Dust some more flour on top of the dough and on your hands, and knead the dough into a ball using both hands. As you start to feel the dough get sticky, add more of the flour. The goal here is to not use more than that ½ cup of flour to knead the dough and, at the same time, to develop enough gluten in it so that it’s no longer sticky, 5 to 7 minutes. Alternatively, knead with a stand mixer: Transfer the dough from the pot to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Knead on medium-low speed for 15 minutes; it will become pretty sticky and cling to the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Dust some more flour on top of the dough and on your hands, and form the dough into a ball using both hands, adding more flour as needed.
Step 4Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Cut the dough in half with a knife, then flatten each piece using your hands, pulling the corners of each piece up and over the center, all around, so that you’re creating two tight balls. Twist the pulled-up edges to seal and turn the balls over so their smooth sides are facing up. Nestle the two balls side by side in the pan and let sit, covered with a clean kitchen towel, in a warm place in your kitchen until the dough balls have risen an inch above the rim of the pan, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Step 5Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the bread until the crust is dark brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center reads 185 to 190 degrees, 40 to 45 minutes.
Step 6Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before taking out the bread and slicing into it. (Technically it should cool completely, but come on: There’s nothing like the glorious experience of tearing into a fresh, warm loaf of sweet milk bread.) The bread will keep for up to 3 to 4 days in a closed container at room temperature.