I’m in love with milk bread. It’s sweet and tender, soft and light, and so easy to work with you can mold it into nearly any shape you can imagine. It’s bread magic. This version walks the line between being a snack and a dessert, which is the way I like it. I rolled circles of dough around an apple and cinnamon sugar filling and piled the whole thing into a tube pan. The result is a delicious, addictive pull apart bread that will have you coming back for bite after bite.
It’s hard to describe just how addictive this bread is; to give you some idea, my six-year-old asked me if she could grab a piece, then proceeded to put a full quarter of the loaf on her plate. And I think she would have eaten it all, too, if I hadn’t played the responsible mom and split it between the rest of us. Almost impossibly tender, with bites of sweet cinnamon apples in each piece, this bread is meant to be shared and devoured.
The magic behind this Japanese bread is creating a starter roux, called a tangxhong. You make it by mixing together bread flour, whole milk, and water, then cooking it over low heat until it becomes thick and pourable. You add this starter back into the dough later, along with eggs, more milk, and butter. The resulting dough is a dream to work with, making it easy to divide it into thirty pieces and then wrap them around chopped apples tossed with sugar and cinnamon. Pile them into a tube pan, bake for 45 minutes, and you have a show stopping and endlessly snack-able treat.
- I used a tube pan, but you could also use a bundt pan.
- My tube pan actually leaked while this was baking (thanks to my husband for cleaning that mess up for me), so the loaf in the pictures isn’t actually as gooey as the loaf should be. If you are smarter than me and use a non-leaking pan, then your loaf of bread should be dripping with even more cinnamon-sugar goodness. Just make sure you butter your pan generously to avoid any sticking.
- This recipe is adapted from this one over at New York Times Cooking.
- ⅓ cup bread flour
- ½ cup whole milk
- ½ cup water
- 2 ½ cups bread flour
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- ½ cup warm whole milk, plus extra for brushing on the unbaked loaf
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 large apple, such as gala or honeycrisp, peeled and diced
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
- To make the starter: whisk together the flour, milk and water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook, stirring often, for 5-7 minutes, until the starter is thickened but still pourable. Allow the starter too cool down to room temperature while you make the rest of the dough.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Add the egg, milk, and ½ cup of the starter. Stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a shaggy dough, then turn it out onto a lightly floured countertop and knead for 5 minutes.
- Cut the butter into pieces and sprinkle it into the center of the dough. Fold the dough over it and continue to knead. Your hands will get messy, but the dough will come together into a smooth, silky ball after about 10 minutes of kneading by hand. Note: if you have a stand mixer, you could use it with the dough hook attachment instead.
- Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover it loosely with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Let it rise until it has doubled in size, 45 - 60 minutes.
- Turn the dough out onto the counter and divide it in half. Lightly form each half into a ball and allow them to rise again for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the filling by tossing the diced apple with the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Preheat the oven to 350°F and generously butter a tube pan or bundt pan.
- Roll each half into a rough rectangle, then divide each big rectangle into 16 pieces. You’ll have 32 pieces total. Flatten each piece into a circle, then place a teaspoon of the apple mixture in the center. Wrap the dough around it, forming it into a sphere. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
- Place the dough balls in the tube or bundt pan in two layers. Don’t worry if there is space between each dough ball; they will expand while they bake. Lightly cover the pan with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise another 30 minutes.
- Bake for 45 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown. Allow it to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before flipping over onto a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.