whole wheat milk bread & little sliders.

whole wheat milk bread (& little sliders) | two red bowls

whole wheat milk bread (& little sliders) | two red bowls

Here are the two things I made for the first time this month: (1) a copycat delivery pizza (I am nothing if not classy, also, in case you were wondering, making chain delivery pizza instead of ordering it was as gratuitous as you would expect but also as delicious) and (2) 100% whole wheat bread.  I’m going to go ahead and say one balances out the other, and I come out even on the health scoreboard (and way ahead in terms of doughy carbs).

But in all actuality, my first forays into baking with whole wheat have been so delicious, and tender, and light, and fluffy, and all of the things I associate with not-whole wheat flour, that I might not go back.  (In other words, here I come, whole wheat delivery pizza.)  Part of that is thanks to a few handy tips and tricks for baking with whole wheat, but a ton of it is because of a magical baking gem I only just discovered a few months ago, thanks to King Arthur Flour — white whole wheat flour.  It sounds like it should be some kind of all-purpose and whole wheat blend (or, okay, that’s just what I thought it was at first), but it turns out it is 100% whole wheat, just milled from a lighter grain than the darker whole wheat I normally think of, for a flour that’s “light in color, mild in flavor, and as healthy as ever.”  Or, to sum up in two words, flour wizardry.

whole wheat milk bread (& little sliders) | two red bowls

whole wheat milk bread (& little sliders) | two red bowls

whole wheat milk bread (& little sliders) | two red bowls
whole wheat milk bread (& little sliders) | two red bowls

whole wheat milk bread (& little sliders) | two red bowls

whole wheat milk bread (& little sliders) | two red bowls

I dipped a toe into whole wheat baking with this half-whole-wheat pie crust last week, but white whole wheat really got its chance to show off in a whole wheat version of Hokkaido milk bread, my old, favorite stand-by.  In some ways, milk bread epitomizes everything I love about totally naked, wheat germ-stripped away white flour — long strands of gluten, a bouncy, pillowy texture — and so if anything were to test the mettle of white whole wheat, it would be milk bread. But lo and behold, it was everything I hoped it would be. 

whole wheat milk bread (& little sliders) | two red bowls

whole wheat milk bread (& little sliders) | two red bowls

Just as KAF suggests in their baking guide, replacing 50% of the bread flour by weight in the original recipe and changing nothing else will yield a Hokkaido milk bread that is practically indiscernible from the original — a little bit less lofty and sky-high, but pillowy-soft and snowy-white, and just as creamy and light in flavor.  But a 100% (or nearly, minus the tangzhong) version was what I was really after, and so the version below zaps out all the bread flour except the 1/4 cup for the tangzhong, and takes KAF baking guru PJ’s advice in adding a few more tablespoons of liquid (plus a healthy bit more butter, just because).  The result is a milk bread that isn’t identical, that forgot to put on sunscreen at the beach and got a little tanner, but is still every bit as glorious — still sheets of feathery-light dough pulling away at the seams between buns, soft and squishy and chewy, just slightly sweet and rich with egg and dairy, but also a little bit earthier and nuttier and full of flavor.  It’s not the milk bread of my Asian bakeries past, but in many ways, it’s so much better.

whole wheat milk bread (& little sliders) | two red bowls

whole wheat milk bread (& little sliders) | two red bowls

I was head-over-heels for the King Arthur Flour products I used for this post: light but sturdy Wisconsin mixing bowls, the handiest dough caps ever, this fantastic Thermapen that I’m convinced is going to solve all of my candy-making and chicken-cooking woes, Baker’s Dry Milk, and SAF Instant Yeast.  And, of course, white whole wheat flour!  On top of the all the goodness from white whole wheat flour, KAF’s is extra neat because it’s Identity Preserved — grown from certified seed, with sustainable practices, and you can trace every bag back to the field it came from. Thank you so much to KAF for sponsoring this post, and to you for reading.

Whole wheat milk bread

As KAF's baking expert PJ notes, baking with whole wheat will usually go well if you add two teaspoons or so more liquid per cup of whole wheat flour used. This recipe for whole wheat Hokkaido milk bread goes a little farther and ups the liquid by a little less than two tablespoons per cup, and doubles the butter, which I found added a creaminess that beautifully balances any slight bitterness from the whole wheat. There's also a long rise built in to help with hydrating the dough, building gluten, and softening the bran. Note that this recipe is almost 100% whole wheat (with a bit of bread flour for the tangzhong roux), so it won't taste like the milk bread you find in most Asian bakeries -- but it's every bit as soft and fluffy. For a version with some whole wheat but truly an identical taste to the bakery version, replace half the flour by weight with white whole wheat in this recipe (adding two more teaspoons of milk, if desired).

This recipe is for little dinner rolls, and yields a little more than the regular loaf recipe to make 24-36 dinner rolls (or about 1 1/2 of the regular loaves). You can enjoy these plain with a little butter (my favorite) or in little sliders. See Notes below for an easy balsamic-chicken version that I have pictured.


  • for the tangzhong:
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
  • for the rest:
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 packet)
  • 4 1/2 cups (525 g) King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (optional; if not using, you may want to add another 1/4 to 1/3 cup White Whole Wheat Flour)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk powder
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tbsp (3/4 stick, or 85 g) butter
  • for baking:
  • 1 egg and a splash of milk or cream (optional)
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (optional)


  1. The night before baking: In a small saucepan, whisk together 3/4 cup water and 1/4 cup bread flour until no lumps remain. Heat the mixture over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, for about 2-3 minutes. The mixture should thicken to a gel-like consistency. As soon as lines appear in the mixture when stirred, remove from heat and transfer to a small, clean bowl. Let cool to room temperature.
  2. Next, heat the milk briefly to just above room temperature, about 110 degrees or lukewarm to the touch. I do this simply by microwaving it for 10 seconds. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk and set aside for 5-10 minutes for the yeast to activate. The milk should foam.
  3. In the meantime, sift together the white whole wheat flour, oats (if using), salt, sugar, and milk powder in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl or a measuring cup, whisk together the tangzhong, cream, and egg.
  4. When ready, add the milk and yeast mixture to the wet ingredients, then make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula until the mixture forms a loose, shaggy dough. At this point, let the dough rest for 20 minutes before kneading.
  5. Knead for 4-5 minutes, or until the dough forms a semi-smooth ball. The dough will be very, very sticky, though it should hold its shape and should not be gloppy. I found it sufficient to "knead" by using my spatula to fold the dough in on itself repeatedly.
  6. Add the butter to the dough in batches, two to three tablespoons at a time, kneading after each addition. Add the next batch of butter only after the first has been fully incorporated. Here, I found it easier to use my hands -- the butter should help the dough from sticking to your hands. Knead for an additional 4-5 minutes, or until butter is fully incorporated. Dough will still be a bit craggy. No worries. The long rise will help.
  7. Place the dough in a large bowl with plenty of room and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel (or these wonderful dough caps). Let the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator, about 10-12 hours or at least 6 hours. The dough should be fine for up to 24 hours. If planning to do a two-day rise, decrease the yeast to 1 1/2 tsp. (Note: The dough will also be fine with a traditional 1- to 2-hour rise on the countertop at room temperature, but I prefer the overnight rise to give the whole wheat flour time to hydrate and the gluten extra time to develop. Also, this longer rise will soften the bran nicely.)
  8. The day of baking: Line a 9x13 glass or metal baking dish with parchment paper, or butter it well. Once the dough is doubled, turn it out and roll it into a large rectangle. Cut into 24 equal pieces (for regular dinner rolls) or up to 32 or 36 for mini dinner rolls. For each piece, tuck the edges into the middle of the ball to form a smooth-topped ball, and roll a few times to create a bit of tension on the top. (Here's a great video illustrating how. If you're shaping these cold out of the fridge, this dough will be sturdier and less soft than the video shows, but the concept is the same.) Place seam-side down in the baking dish with the sides barely touching the next ball. Let proof until nearly doubled, another hour or so.
  9. After about 40 minutes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Test the dough by pressing gently with one finger; when the indentation bounces back slowly but remains visible, the dough is ready to bake. Whisk an egg with a splash of cream and brush the egg wash over the dough. Sprinkle with oats, if you like. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until golden-brown on top. When it’s done, the bread will sound hollow when tapped (or, if you have one of these most magical Thermapens, should be about 190-200 F in the center). Let cool briefly, then enjoy warm.


To make into balsamic-chicken sliders, take 1 lb cooked and shredded chicken breast and mix with 1/4 cup mayo, 1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Slice the little rolls in half and layer with chicken salad, lettuce, and avocado, and enjoy.



  1. says:

    May 24, 2016 at 9:07 am

    Dough pillows!! Fourth year will give me more time hopefully for adventures in bread baking and this is totally happening. They look so good and professional with the oat topping finish! Hope all is well!

    • tworedbowls says:

      May 25, 2016 at 10:54 am

      Yay for fourth year!!! Hope you get some much deserved down time this year, Erica! Thanks for the sweet words πŸ™‚

  2. says:

    May 24, 2016 at 11:02 am

    Baking bread is so satisfying . Your rolls and bread look perfect . I would love to have a slice of your bread toasted with butter and honey for breakfast . Yum!

    • tworedbowls says:

      May 25, 2016 at 10:55 am

      Ooh, you will love milk bread if you can find it in a bakery! These are considerably wheatier, but I love both versions πŸ™‚

  3. says:

    May 25, 2016 at 5:33 am

    I need to make milk bread or pain au lait πŸ™‚ I’ve seen so many recipes for it and it looks like the fluffy delicious loaf I’m hunting for. I’m just not a huge fan of milk, so I worry that it will taste a lot of milk, is that the case?

    I love my thermapen and they’re great for making sweets, caramel and italian meringue – you’re going to love it! I use mine for tempering chocolate as well.

    I thought they were shower caps by the bowls as well! I thought you’d had some ingenious idea, I didn’t know it was an actual product.

    • tworedbowls says:

      May 25, 2016 at 10:59 am

      Hi Angela! Hmm, no, I don’t think it tastes very much like milk — just more like a very soft and rich bread. I hope you like it if you try it! And I’m so with you — I’m already absolutely obsessed with that Thermapen! It’s made cooking meat so stress-free already that I can’t wait to try it out with candy.

      Aren’t those dough caps hysterical? I think I saw on the product description that the idea actually did come from shower caps — but I definitely never had that idea before. I love them because they give just enough to let the dough breathe, but not so much that it dries out.. so cool.

      Thank you for the kind words, Angela!

  4. says:

    May 25, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    Hmm yesterday I tried to comment and my browser hung so now that I’ve checked to see if it posted (it didn’t) I can try this once more.
    I think sliders are my favourite type of finger food because just like cookies, you can eat 5 and feel little guilt because they’re not that big for a sandwich. Am I right or is this comparison too much of a stretch?! Anyway, I’m totally team white bread too. It’s nice to know it’s possible to have white whole wheat to kind of mimic what we love about white bread. I’ve never taste milk bread but now I must after your review and only so I can make these sliders with pulled pork takeout in the summer. I’ll send you a full report when I do. Xo

  5. says:

    May 25, 2016 at 4:57 pm

    Oh wow this looks amazing! You just gave me inspiration of what to bring to a brunch this weekend. Either that, or your asparagus quiche from last post! Ahh amazing! <3

  6. says:

    May 26, 2016 at 10:05 am

    These little buns are so perfect, Cynthia! I just imagine how puffy and delightful they are. And omg, balsamic in chicken salad!? What a game-changer! xo’s to you, friend!

  7. Margaret Jones says:

    May 29, 2016 at 10:26 am

    If you are really into using Whole Wheat flour why not invest in a grain mill and grind your own. You can’t get any fresher than that. And KA White Whole Wheat Flour could be rancid. They say it won’t be but how long has it been since it was ground? It’s ground at the mill, then it is shipped to the packaging plant, then put on pallets for shipping, and days on trucks, then stored in the back until time to restock the shelves in the store. How long does it sit there? The wheat germ oil will go rancid pretty quickly which is why you store freshly ground flour in the refrigerator or freeze, not on pallets or shelves after grinding and packaging. My husband and I have been grinding our own wheat for several years and enjoy our bread so much more.

  8. MaryJo says:

    May 29, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    I’ve made white flour tangzhong bread several times and it was fabulous, the your recipe sounds outstanding with a lot more nutrition!

  9. Nancy says:

    May 29, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    Have you tried turning this dough into a traditional bread pan for a nice traditional loaf? Do you think that would work? Cant wait to try this!!!

    • tworedbowls says:

      May 31, 2016 at 10:23 pm

      Hi Nancy, yes! I think this would work wonderfully in a traditional loaf pan. You would want to bake it longer, about 30-35 minutes or more, or until the bread reaches 180-190 degrees, is golden on top, and sounds hollow when tapped. A batch of this size should fit a 13″x4″ Pullman loaf pan, or else you could bake about two-thirds of it in a 9″x4″ pan and bake the rest as rolls. I’d love to hear how it goes if you try it!

    • tworedbowls says:

      May 31, 2016 at 10:25 pm

      Hi Gail! I think a batch of this size would work in a 13″x4″ Pullman loaf pan. You could also bake some of it in a smaller pan if that’s all you have, and bake the remainder as rolls. I hope you enjoy it if you try it!

  10. Nancy says:

    May 30, 2016 at 10:08 am

    I went immediately from this blog to the kitchen! Last night was the overnight rise, shaped in 24 muffin tins this morning! Ate them for breakfast! Little pillows of delight- would never guess they are 100% whole wheat! Fabulous!

    • tworedbowls says:

      May 31, 2016 at 10:26 pm

      You don’t know how happy this makes me, Nancy! Thank you so much for trying the recipe and for reporting back. I’m so thrilled to hear you liked it. Thank you!

    • Nancy says:

      June 1, 2016 at 7:09 am

      Having made this recipe, it did not taste too sweet at all, but certainly you could do that. I wouldn’t mess with this recipe at all, since it turned out so perfect! But I know some bakers like to adjust and experiment! Good luck!

  11. Bonnie says:

    June 1, 2016 at 6:27 am

    Hello! This may lead to some interesting comments from you true diehard bread bakers out there but…any possibility of a version for a bread making machine?

  12. says:

    June 11, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    I am just making this now. The instructions don’t say whether or not to oil the bowl before putting this down to rise…. To oil or not to oil….that is the question!!

    • tworedbowls says:

      June 12, 2016 at 11:10 am

      Hi Elaine,

      This is probably a bit late, sorry! You can oil if you like, but I never do and find it to make little difference — I just scrape out any remainder with a rubber spatula. Hope that helps and hope the bread turned out for you!

  13. says:

    June 13, 2016 at 9:19 am

    Thank you so much for emailing me with the answer to my question. I did oil lightly – your response came after I had already put the dough to bed – but I cannot tell you how much your personal response meant to me!! Nice to know I don’t need to oil. The rolls came out beautifully – light, a titch sweet but oh so yummy. I will make these again and again. What changes would I have to make, if any, if I wanted to use only unbleached white flour?

    • tworedbowls says:

      June 13, 2016 at 9:39 am

      I am so very happy to hear that, Elaine!! If you’d like a version with only white flour, this is my go-to, and the recipe on which it was based: http://food52.com/recipes/30962-hokkaido-milk-bread

      Feel free to decrease the sugar in that recipe to 2 tbsp instead of 1/4 cup for a less sweet bread. You can also swap out the 1/4 cup heavy cream for milk (for a total of 1/2 cup whole milk in the recipe). I’ve done both with success.

      Thank you for trying the recipe and for reporting back! I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed the rolls.

  14. says:

    October 30, 2016 at 11:12 am

    I am so excited to make these, 2 questions though:

    1) is it possible to use whole wheat flour for the tangzhong? Or is the Bread Flour a crucial part?
    2) I’m curious as to the function of milk powder (is that the same as powdered milk?) in this recipe.

    Any advice is much appreciated!

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