Fluffy milk bread is swirled with sweet red bean paste and topped with a matcha condensed milk glaze. This Chinese bakery-inspired loaf is the perfect combination of sweet and sophisticated flavors.
Red bean buns were always my childhood favorite. When I visited a Chinese bakery, I never wanted the hot dog breads or custard buns – I wanted a good, old-fashioned red bean bun. There was nothing more comforting than biting into that soft, fluffy white bread spread with a sweet layer of red bean paste. There was nothing more unpleasant than biting into what I thought was a red bean bun and getting custard instead.
And if you think red bean paste sounds weird, you can think of it as the strawberry jam or apple pie filling of Chinese bakery goods. It’s sweet and mushy and goes perfectly inside any kind of pastry, whether its bread or mochi balls or moon cakes.
This recipe uses my classic Japanese milk bread recipe. The red bean paste is swirled inside and then the whole loaf is topped with a wonderful matcha condensed milk glaze. The matcha adds just a hint of bitterness that balances out the rest of this sweet and decadent loaf. Using the tangzhong method makes this loaf incredibly fluffy and soft, even after a few days.
Can I make this loaf by hand?
Yes! But please be sure to follow the by-hand instructions, please use bread flour (not AP flour), and read my original milk bread recipe if you need extra help. Milk bread is notoriously sticky and difficult to work with, and I use some techniques to help make it easier for you.
If you have a stand mixer, you can use that too. Just mix for 10 – 15 minutes on low-medium speed until your dough passes the window pane test. Even when I make this with my stand mixer, I like to finish by hand to make sure the texture is perfect.
If you’re a beginner bread maker, I suggest you check out my complete guide to baking enriched bread. It will help you troubleshoot common problems that will lead to a faulty loaf. I also encourage you to use a kitchen scale – bread making is a precise form of baking, and a kitchen scale is more accurate than cups.
Where can I find red bean paste?
I use canned, store-bought red bean paste that I bought from my local Asian grocery store. If you don’t have an Asian grocery store near you, you can try making your own homemade red bean paste.
- Can I use 2% instead of whole milk? Yes, I’ve used both. However, I have not tried this recipe with skim milk or plant-based milk.
- Can I use all-purpose flour instead of bread flour? I very strongly encourage you to invest in bread flour, but, yes you can make this loaf with AP flour. However, the results will not be as fluffy and the loaf will not rise as high. Bread flour has a higher protein content that helps with the structure. The dough will also be stickier and harder to handle, since all-purpose flour absorbs less water than bread flour, so I would not try to make this by hand if you are using all purpose flour.
- Can I use salted butter instead of unsalted? No, don’t do it.
Other sweet bread recipes:
If you make this recipe, please let me know! I always love to see what my readers are baking. You can comment below or tag me on Instagram @halicopteraway.
Red bean bread with matcha glaze
- 1 medium mixing bowl
- 1 small skillet or pot
- Round 9'' pan or 9'' x 5'' loaf pan
- Rolling Pin
- dough scraper (optional but helpful)
For tangzhong (makes 1/2 cup)
- 1/6 cup (23g) bread flour
- 1/4 cup (60g) water
- 1/4 cup (60g) whole milk
- 1/2 cup tangzhong (see above)
- 2 1/2 cup (325g) bread flour
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 2 tsp (7g) active dry or instant yeast
- 1 tsp (4g) salt
- 1/2 cup (120g) lukewarm whole milk
- 4 tbsp (60g) room temperature unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 egg
- vegetable oil for greasing
For filling and glaze
- 1/2 cup (120g) red bean paste
- 3 oz (80g) sweetened condensed milk
- 1 tsp matcha
- 1 tsp milk
- 1/4 cup (30g) powdered sugar
Make 1/2 cup tangzhong
- In small skillet or pot, whisk together flour, milk, and water until smooth. Bring to simmer over medium-low heat, whisking frequently, until mixture has thickened but is still pourable. It should take 5 – 10 minutes. Your whisk should leave a mark when dragged along the bottom of the pan.
- Pour into a bowl and cover surface with plastic wrap to prevent a film from forming, and allow to cool to room temperature.
Make dough (by hand method – see note for stand mixer)
- Mix together yeast and warm milk and set aside for 5 minutes. The milk should feel comfortably warm to the touch, but not hot, otherwise it will kill your yeast.
- Combine flour, egg, milk and yeast mixture, 1/2 cup of tangzhong starter in a medium mixing bowl. Mix together with your hands until combined. Cover with a damp kitchen or paper towel and let sit for 20 – 30 minutes.
- Pour dough out onto clean countertop or nonstick surface. Don't worry if it is quite sticky. Gently smooth out the dough and sprinkle surface with sugar and salt. Gently fold the dough over the sugar and salt a few times. Slowly push the dough out until it is thinly smeared on the countertop, then gather back in to one lump. Repeat the smearing and gathering until you no longer feel the salt and sugar grains.
- Gently smooth out the dough and place softened pieces of butter in the center. Gently fold the dough over the butter a few times. Again, slowly push the dough out until it is thinly smeared on the countertop, then gather back in to one lump. Repeat the smearing and gathering until you no longer see streaks of butter.
- Knead using the slap and fold method. Do not add flour. Lift the dough up and "slap" it onto the countertop. Fold up, raise, and repeat until the dough is smooth and passes the window pane test. You'll notice the dough sticking more to itself than to your hands or the countertop.
- Shape into a ball and place into a lightly greased mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 40 – 60 minutes until roughly doubled in size.
- Grease your baking pan or loaf tin. Remove the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Use your rolling pin to roll into an 8'' x 12'' rectangle, with the longer side parallel to you. Evenly spread the red bean paste across the surface of the rectangle, being sure to spread to the ends.
- Roll up the dough tightly so that you have a 12'' long log. Use a knife or your bench scraper to cut the log in half. Twist the halves together so that the red bean faces up, and coil the dough into your baking pan or loaf tin. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the loaf to proof for 45 – 60 minutes. When you press your finger into the loaf, it should slowly come back about halfway. Towards the end of the proof, preheat oven to 350°F
- Place in the lower third of the oven and bake for 35 minutes until golden brown and makes a hollow sound when tapped. Remove from oven and let cool for ~ 1 hour before cutting.
For the glaze
- Whisk together the the sweetened condensed milk, matcha, milk, and powdered sugar until smooth. Pour over the loaf right before serving.
- For stand mixer: Combine flour, egg, milk and yeast mixture, 1/2 cup of tangzhong starter, sugar, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Mix on low-medium speed until combined. While the stand mixer is running, add pieces of softened butter until fully incorporated. Mix on low-medium speed for another 10 – 15 minutes until dough passes the window pane test.
- Ingredient substitutions:
- You can use 2% instead of whole milk
- You can add more red bean paste to your taste
- If you would like to make this loaf the evening ahead – after shaping the loaf, cover and place in the fridge and let it proof over night. In the morning, remove from the fridge and let it come to room temperature while your oven is pre-heating.