Milk Bread

With a bit of snow overnight and a light freezing rain falling since early this morning, there is just no reason to leave the house. And no reason to leave the house is the perfect reason to bake a loaf of bread.

There’s just something about freshly-baking bread that can liven up an otherwise gloomy day. The smell, alone, puts one into a great mood. It’s the giddy anticipation of slicing off that first piece.

I was going through bread recipes to see what I wanted to make when I came upon Milk Bread from Kindred, in North Carolina. I think I originally saw this recipe in Bon Appétit magazine several moons ago. I’ve made it as rolls many times – but never as a loaf.

The bread is interesting in that it starts off with a Japanese technique called the Tangzhong method. The Tangzhong method calls for cooking off a small percentage of the flour with water or milk into a roux of sorts before adding it into the dough. Cooking the flour gelatinizes it, allowing for more water absorption. That allows for more steam in the baking, making a higher rise and a lighter loaf.

Milk Bread

adapted from Kindred, North Carolina

  • 5 1/3 cups bread flour, divided, plus more for surface
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup mild honey (such as wildflower or alfalfa)
  • 3 tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder
  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast (from about 3 envelopes)
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • Flaky sea salt (optional)

Cook 1/3 cup flour and 1 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a thick paste forms (almost like a roux but looser), about 5 minutes. Add cream and honey and cook, whisking to blend, until honey dissolves.

Transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and add milk powder, yeast, kosher salt, 2 eggs, and 5 cups flour. Knead on medium speed until dough is smooth, about 5 minutes. Add butter, a piece at a time, fully incorporating into dough before adding the next piece, until dough is smooth, shiny, and elastic, about 4 minutes.

Coat a large bowl with nonstick spray and transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

If making rolls, lightly coat a 6-cup jumbo muffin pan with nonstick spray. Turn out dough onto a floured surface and divide into 6 pieces. Divide each piece into 4 smaller pieces (you should have 24 total). They don’t need to be exact; just eyeball it. Place 4 pieces of dough side-by-side in each muffin cup.

If making a loaf, lightly coat a 9×5″ loaf pan with nonstick spray. Turn out dough onto a floured surface and divide into 6 pieces. Nestle pieces side-by-side to create 2 rows down length of pan.

If making split-top buns, lightly coat two 13×9″ baking dishes with nonstick spray. Divide dough into 12 pieces and shape each into a 4″-long log. Place 6 logs in a row down length of each dish.

Let shaped dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size (dough should be just puffing over top of pan), about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375°. Beat remaining egg with 1 tsp. water in a small bowl to blend. Brush top of dough with egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt, if desired. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until bread is deep golden brown, starting to pull away from the sides of the pan, and is baked through, 25–35 minutes for rolls, 50–60 minutes for loaf, or 30–40 minutes for buns. If making buns, slice each bun down the middle deep enough to create a split-top. Let milk bread cool slightly in pan on a wire rack before turning out; let cool completely.

Milk Bread

It did not disappoint! Nor did my bread pan – I’ve been having issues with it sticking and swore that if this loaf stuck, the pans were going into the trash. It didn’t stick.

The bread is substantial but light with a really great crust. I’ll bet it could be reworked into a really good sweet roll dough, too. I may have to play with it for Easter…

In the meantime, we have a great loaf of bread on a not so great day.

I’ll take it.