When Joe and Katy Kindred prepared to open their restaurant earlier this year, they thought hard about how it might be taken. Kindred would be located in Joe’s tiny hometown of Davidson, North Carolina, and the chef-somm, husband-wife duo was concerned that a cheffy menu and polished interior might raise eyebrows among the locals. After careful consideration, they settled on a strategy for welcoming their guests: Bread would be their edible ambassador. It worked. “People are freaking out about it,” says Joe Kindred of the restaurant’s signature Japanese milk bread. “It became a thing and I didn’t know it would become a thing. We make 180 loaves a day now—it’s crazy.”
If you taste this bread, you’ll understand. Buttery and rich but also airy, Kindred’s Japanese milk bread is the product of a Japanese technique called the Tangzhong method. You start by whisking together five parts water to one part flour to create a thick gel—Kindred likens it to a loose roux—that is then added to the bread dough. The result is an especially moist dough that makes for super-fresh-tasting bread. It also has the added benefit of inhibiting gluten development, so the bread turns out especially tender and fluffy. Kindred’s take on Japanese milk bread departs slightly from tradition. Instead of milk, he uses cream to create richer, more flavorful dough. He also swaps the sugar for honey because it adds more depth and creates better-tasting bread.
“We’ve done all sorts of things with the milk bread—it’s really, really versatile,” says Kindred. Formed into individual rounds and topped with benne seeds, it becomes the bun for their skillet burger. Shaped into a rectangle, it’s the split-top bread for their shrimp roll. Kindred has even added dehydrated green curry to the dough and baked it into buns for brisket sandwiches. One thing he’ll never be able to do is stop serving it to dinner guests, which is quite all right with him. “We’re really just excited that people are so excited about it,” he says.