Home baking Japanese shokupan (white bread)

In Japan they have this really fluffy, Wonderbread-style loaf that they call shokupan. It’s basically freshly baked white bread except more exotic because the recipe is from Japan. I’ve been into baking lately so I decided to make my own.

When I was starting out I used a recipe from Ethan Chlebowski and another from Kitchen Princess Bamboo. I actually preferred the latter, even though it didn’t include egg or the additional tangzhong step, which is a roux made from flour and water.

I even bought this book about shokupan at Kinokuniya, the local Japanese bookstore. It has great instructional photos and takes the most intensive, handmade approach, but the recipe is still roughly the same as below.

Here is the rough recipe with the ingredients listed as a percent of the flour, by weight:

  • Bread flour
  • Milk and water (68-72%)
  • Sugar (5-10%)
  • Salt (2%)
  • Yeast (0.3-1.3%)
  • Butter (5%)

Mix ingredients until they come together into a ball. Add in butter, knead again. Once the dough comes together in a ball and passes the “windowpane test“, proof it for an hour. After that, shape the loaf by rolling it into a loaf the length of your loaf pan (think of the shape of a cinnamon roll, only fatter).

Once the bread has risen nearly to the top of the pan, bake it for 25-28 mins at 390 F or 30 mins at 375 F.

These recipes sometimes include egg, dried milk, or other additives. Some recipes use a tangzhong, which is a roux made from flour and water, though I’ve found it makes the dough even stickier than normal.

I tried several methods for working the dough:1. Our vintage Sumbeam mixer. The dough climbed the hooks and ended up inside the mixer, which took hours to clean out. I don’t recommend it.2. By hand, in a bowl or on the counter. High hydration dough sticks to everything, particularly your hands. I may try this again but it was a mess the first few times.3. The food processor. This was recommended in Bread Illustrated from America’s Test Kitchen and it actually works well as long as the dough is around 70% hydration or lower.

The biggest adjustment when making bread is the waiting. The first rise is roughly an hour, then you shape the dough and put it into the Pullman loaf pan and wait another hour. That’s the bare minimum. Some recipes have two rises or even rest the dough overnight, which lets it rise more slowly and develop more gluten and flavor.

After all the waiting, we’ve had some great bread lately and I will keep making more.

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