If you’ve ever eaten shokupan in Japan, you know this delicate white loaf has a soft and fluffy interior. It’s the perfect balance of sweet, buttery, and milky flavor that makes it a comforting favorite. It also features a unique shaping method that organizes gluten strands into tightly wrapped coils that make it super light and fluffly.
A traditional Japanese milk bread, shokupan is a lighter, softer version of a classic Pullman loaf. It’s also a lot more enriched than American bread, which means it has more fat, typically from milk or butter.
Shokupan is a popular comfort food in Japan and it’s becoming more widely available here, thanks to the resurgence of artisanal bakeries and restaurants serving picture-perfect shokupan sandwiches. One new shop, Ginza Nishikawa, has opened in Santa Monica this summer, and customers tell owner Hiroko Okubu that they’ve driven from as far as San Francisco to get their hands on a shokupan loaf.
Unlike most commercially baked bread, shokupan is not enriched with sugar, milk powder, or other additives. Its delicate texture comes from a technique known as tangzhong, which involves cooking some of the flour in liquid before adding it to the dough ingredients. This pre-gelatinizes the starch, resulting in a more tender loaf and longer shelf life.
This recipe makes a large loaf that is perfect for sliced with proscuitto and smoked salmon. To make it even more special, brush the top with milk and butter. Store the leftovers well-wrapped at room temperature for 5 to 7 days or freeze them for a longer period of time.