Milk buns are a soft, pillowy bread type, common in Asia, and can be stuffed with all sorts of delicious sweet and savoury fillings. The texture of milk buns is like no other type of bread; they are meltingly soft, almost buttery, with a cloud-like texture. They are baked until golden brown, and the flavour is reminiscent of brioche, but gentler on the palate, milky and subtly sweet.
The method of making these milk buns is unique, as it uses a specific Japanese process called the tangzhong roux, a paste made from flour and milk, which, when added to the rest of the ingredients, results in a gorgeously soft and longer-lasting bread dough. While the method may seem a little unusual compared with a straight-forward yeasted loaf, it is worth it. Don’t be alarmed – it is easier than you think. And if you’re a keen baker, it’s a great one to try if you want to vary your bread bakes and expand your repertoire.
This is a yeast bread, so it does take a few hours to rise. If you’d like to bake it fresh in the morning, you can easily leave the bread in the fridge overnight to proof. It just needs to come back to room temperature in the morning before shaping and baking.
These buns are filled with a sumptuous, thick vanilla and honey custard; a beautiful creamy and deliciously sweet surprise. This custard is a crème pâtissière, or pastry cream, cooked over a medium heat with a starch to thicken it to its perfect texture; here I’m using cornflour. This element needs to be made in advance to allow it to cool completely, as it needs to be set enough to scoop into portions to fill your buns.
The buns can, of course, be made without the filling, but it really is worth making for the satisfaction of biting into the silky, milky bun and the soft creamy filling oozing out.
Recipe: Milk buns with honey custard