These milk buns are soft, pillowy and amazingly fragrant. If you like Asian bakery style buns and want to try making them fresh at home, this is the recipe for you!
If you've ever had soft buns from bakeries like 85°C Bakery Café, you may wonder how such soft and fluffy buns are made. Unfortunately, many such professional/mass produced buns use mysterious dough enhancers and conditioners that I personally prefer to avoid.
In this post I will walk you through the steps for making the best tasting milk buns at home without any mysterious ingredients. This recipe incorporates all my best tips that I've developed over the past 7 years. It's very simple and you don't even need tangzhong for this recipe.
Why You Should Try This Recipe
- These are REALLY good! Seriously, you need to try some fresh out of the oven!
- No mysterious dough conditioner/enhancer/softener needed.
- Great recipe to start with for those wanting to learn to make more Asian buns and breads.
- These freeze well (if they last long enough to end up in the freezer!)
Ingredients You'll Need
- Bread flour - bread flour is the key for this recipe, replacing with all purpose flour is not recommended as you won't get the same texture.
- Cake flour - adding a small amount of cake flour into the dough is an easy way to make the bread lighter and fluffier.
- Milk - use whole milk.
- Instant yeast - Saf instant yeast is highly recommended, you will be surprised with how it can improve the texture of the bun. I use the gold label Saf, but the red label will work just fine.
- Sweetened condensed milk - it gives the bun a sweet aromatic milk flavor. If it's not available to you, you can replace it with honey.
- Butter - use good quality unsalted butter.
How to Make This Recipe
Step 1. Add flour, sugar, sweetened condensed milk, milk, water, egg and yeast into the stand mixer and knead on low speed until the dough is formed.
After a rough dough is formed, cover and let it rest for 20-30 minutes for the autolyse method. Later on, this will help your dough to pass the windowpane test easier.
Step 2. Add salt and knead for 1 minute before adding butter. Knead until the dough is smooth and able to pass the windowpane test.
This process can take somewhere between 8 to 15 minutes, depends on how powerful your stand mixer is.
Make sure the dough stays cool during the entire kneading process. If the temperature of your dough becomes higher than 82°F (28°C) when it's done kneading, place it on a tray and chill it in the freezer for 1-2 minutes before proofing.
If you like making bread at home, I highly recommend that you invest in a good stand mixer. I own a Bosch universal plus that I really like, and I also hear good things about the Kenwood kitchen machine.
Step 3. Form the dough into a ball by folding and stretching the edges into the bottom of the dough and pinching it together into the bottom of the dough. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover and let it proof in a warm place for 1 hour until it doubles in size.
Quick tip - If you find it difficult to tell whether it has doubled in size or not, place the dough in a container with about double of the volume of the dough. That way, when the dough nearly fills the container, you know it's done proofing.
Step 4. Divide the dough into 12 pieces, cover with a damp towel or a piece of greased plastic wrap and let them rest for 5 minutes. After they're done resting, roll them into balls and place them in a lined baking pan.
This is how you shape the dough into a smooth and tight ball (reference pictures above for the steps below)
- Flatten the dough with your palm.
- Fold the edges to the center.
- Pinch the edges together to seal the dough
- Turn the seam side down and roll the dough with your hand (against the working surface) by pushing the ball up with the side of your palm that's close to your thumb and pulling it back with the other four fingers in a circular motion. Do this for two to three times and let the tension between the dough and working surface tighten up the dough ball.
After you're familiar with this process, you can skip steps 2 and 3 and speed up the shaping process.
Step 5. Place the dough balls in a lined baking tray, cover the dough with a greased plastic wrap and then cover with a damp cloth and do the second proof in a warm place for an hour until it doubles in size.
Step 6. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) in the last 20 minutes of the second proof and bake the buns uncovered for 16 minutes or until golden brown.
Step 7. Brush the surface of the bun with melted butter and transfer it onto a cooling rack to cool down a bit before enjoying.
There are so many different ways to enjoy these milk buns - enjoy it as a dinner roll to go with your meal, make it unto a slider, or spread with butter and jam. Even so, my family finds that these milk buns are so good, we usually just enjoy them by themselves!
Tips and Tricks
- Measure your ingredients with a kitchen scale! Especially for flour and liquids, because your one cup can be very different from my one cup.
- Start with cold liquid - I learn this from professional bakers in Taiwan. Since the dough needs a lot of kneading, using cold liquid prevents the final dough from becoming too warm, which will affect the texture of the bun.
- The best proofing temperature is between 80 - 90°F (26.5 - 32°C). If your indoor temperature is too low, you can proof your dough in a sealed oven that also contains a separate glass tray on the bottom rack that's filled with boiling water.
- I usually bake these buns in a 9 x 9 (23 x 23 cm) tray, but you can use any tray of a similar size. If you use a sheet pan, place each dough ball half an inch apart.
This is not recommended, as the texture won't be as good.
Cake flour causes the bun to be softer and fluffier, but if you really can't find it, you can replace it with all purpose flour or use all bread flour, but expect the bun to be a bit less fluffy.
If your dough doesn't seem to rise after an hour, it might be that your yeast is not fresh or the proofing temperature is too low.
The windowpane test is a simple way to check if the dough has been kneaded enough. To perform this test, simply get a small piece of dough and stretch it carefully and see if it can be stretched into a smooth and almost see-through membrane. I usually do this test once the surface of the dough is very smooth.
Yes! Place the dough in a greased zip lock bag, squeeze out the air and place it in the fridge overnight (12-24hrs). When you are ready to shape it, take it out and let it sit on the counter for 20 minutes before dividing and rolling. In this case, the second proof might take a bit longer, as the dough is cold.
Of Course! Actually freezing is the best way to store these buns if you are not eating within a day. Place the buns in a zip lock bag once they are cool completely and freeze it for up to three months. Never store these in the fridge as they will dry up.
Let the bun thaw for 15 minutes or so before baking in 350°F (180°C) for about 5 minutes, and it will taste as good as fresh ones!
Here are more delicious bun recipes for you to try
- Stand mixer
- 250 g bread flour, 2 cup
- 50 g cake flour, ⅓ cup
- 30 g sugar, 2 tablespoon
- 20 g condensed milk, 1 tablespoon
- 85 g cold water, ⅓ cup + 1 tbsp
- 80 g cold milk (preferably whole milk), ⅓ cup
- 25 g whole egg, about half an egg
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast, ideally saf instant yeast
- ½ teaspoon sea salt, ¼ teaspoon if using table salt
- 30 g unsalted butter, 2 tbsp
- melted butter for brushing
- Add flour, sugar, condensed milk, milk, water, egg and yeast into the stand mixer and knead on low speed until the dough is formed.
- Cover the mixing bowl and let the dough rest for 30 minutes. Store it in the fridge if your room temperature is higher than 80°F
- Meanwhile, bring the butter out from the fridge, cut it into 4-6 pieces and leave it on the counter to soften a little.
- When it's done resting, add salt and continue to knead the dough for 1 minute.
- Add butter cubes one by one and knead until the dough is very smooth and passes the windowpane test. (This step takes me about 7 minutes, with 6 minutes on low speed and 1 minute on medium speed. The actual time it takes depends on your mixer. It can take up to 15 minutes.)
- Form the dough into a ball (it will be very sticky, but if it's too sticky to handle, then add a little bread flour and knead for another 1~2 minutes) and put it in a lightly greased bowl. Cover, and let it rise for 1 hour to 1.5 hour in a warm place (between 80°F to 90°F) until it doubles in size.
- Transfer the dough onto a working surface and cut it into 12 even pieces. Cover and let them rest for 5 minutes.
- Form each piece into a ball (see the instruction in the main post) and place them in a lined baking pan, cover with greased plastic wrap and then cover with a damp cloth and let it rise in a warm place (between 80°F to 90°F) until it doubles in size (about an hour).
- In the last 20 minutes of proofing, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake at 375°F for 16 minutes or until golden brown.
- Brush the top with melted butter and transfer the rolls onto a cooling rack. Let it cool for 10 minutes before enjoying.