Yelly Eats

How To Make Chinese Bakery Style Milk Bread

This post was originally posted in our Pan-Asian Kitchen blog.  The text and photos by Alan.

When we go into Chinatown, our trip isn’t complete without getting buns from the Chinese bakery. There are a great variety of buns to choose from but we always seem to come home with the baked char siu bao (also known as BBQ pork bun or honey roast pork bun). All of the bread products that the Chinese bakery has to offer is generally made from a single type of bread dough called Milk Bread. Milk bread is an enriched dough which means that it contains butter, sugar and eggs and is softer than normal breads.

I am going to show you a basic milk bread recipe that can be made into loaves or other tasty baked treats that we will be writing about in future posts. What I love about this recipe is that it requires standard plain flour and milk rather than bread flour and cream that other recipes call for. Also, it is relatively easy to make (especially if you have a stand mixer) as there are fewer steps to follow.

If you are using sachets of quick dried yeast, they will normally come in 7g packets so it may be easier to double up the recipe and do two loaves or you could even do one loaf and one of the other milk loaf recipes that we will be writing about (please follow the instructions up to step 6 to prepare the dough for those recipes).

Chinese Bakery Style Milk Bread


65ml milk
35g granulated sugar
60g unsalted butter

1 teaspoon granulated sugar
60ml milk
3.5g quick dry yeast

1 egg (beaten)
1/4 teaspoon salt
275g plain flour


1. Put 65ml milk, 35g granulated sugar and 60g of butter in a saucepan and heat until the milk starts to boil. Turn the heat off and stir the mixture so that the butter melts and the sugar dissolves into the milk.

2. In a microwaveable jug or bowl, put the 65ml of milk and 1 teaspoon of sugar and heat in the microwave in full power for 30 seconds so that the milk is lukewarm. Stir in the yeast and leave for 10 minutes until the mixture foams up as the yeast activates.

3. In a mixing bowl, add the yeast mixture, the butter mixture and the egg. Mix the wet ingredients together and then spoon in the flour, mixing as you go along.

Keep going until all the flour has been mixed in and the mixture has turned from a batter into a dough. If you are working the dough by hand, tip the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and kneed for about work the dough for about 12 minutes. If using a stand mixer, mix for 6 minutes on a medium-low speed. The dough is ready when you can pinch some dough and stretch it quite far without the strand breaking.

4. Oil a bigger mixing bowl and tip the dough into it. flip the dough over in the bowl so that the top of the dough is also covered in oil. Cover with cling film and place in a warm place like an airing cupboard or proving drawer for about an hour so the dough will rise.

5. Once the dough has risen, it should have roughly doubled in size.

Knock back the dough by punching it so that it deflates back to its original size.

Tip out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and kneed for a couple of minutes (If you are using this dough for one of our other recipes, the dough is ready for for filling/shaping).

6. Divide the dough into three equal sized balls and roll each one in your hands until smooth. Place each dough ball into a greased 2lb loaf tin and cover with cling film.

Allow the dough to prove for a further hour in a warm place where it will double in size.

7. Preheat the oven to 170°C/340°F (160°C/320°F fan oven) and bake in the oven until golden brown.

Remove the loaf from the tin as soon as you can and place on a cooling rack so that the sides and bottom do not go soggy. Once cool store in an airtight container.