Scallion Milk Bread
I’m proud to say that my family loves my baked scallion bread (蔥油麵包) because it reminds them of Asian bakery bread. That scallion bread is one of my favorites, too. For the past year, I’ve been trying to adapt the recipe by baking the bread in a loaf pan instead of shaping two large twisted loaves. That way, I can enjoy the bread on its own or slice it up for toast and sandwiches. I baked this scallion milk bread for my family a few times now, and it gets their seal of approval!
TANGZHONG: THE KEY TO A SOFT LOAF
What I love most about this bread is its soft and feathery interior. To get this incredibly airy crumb, I add tangzhong (湯種) to the dough. Tangzhong is a Chinese technique of heating flour and water together to form a paste that is then added to the dough. The paste allows more water to be absorbed into the flour, yielding bread with softer texture. Not only is the bread soft the day it’s baked, but the crumb stays soft a few days later too!
TESTING THE SCALLION MILK BREAD
To develop this recipe, I adapted my Japanese milk bread and baked scallion bread recipes. As I tested this recipe, I tried shaping the loaf in many ways. I wanted to shape the bread like a babka because I love how the twists look at the top of the loaf. But after baking the bread a few times, I found the distribution of the scallion filling very inconsistent. Most of the time, the scallion filling ended up on the top of the loaf with a few tiny scatterings of scallions in the center.
This is one of the first few loaves I’ve tested. 80% of the scallion filling ended up at the top.
Next, I tried shaping the dough like a cinnamon swirl loaf with the scallion filling swirled inside. That didn’t work either because the center of the bread collapsed as it cooled. Because there was so much scallion filling in the center, the inner swirl couldn’t cling onto the exterior of the bread completely. As a result, there were large holes in the interior of the bread.
This is how the bread looks with the filling swirled inside. Notice the large holes inside the bread.
Finally, I decided to add the scallion filling to the bread in 2 additions. Essentially, I rolled out the dough into a rectangle once and spread half of the filling over the dough. Then, I fold it up, roll the dough into a rectangle again, spread the remaining filling, and shape the loaf like a babka. This final method of shaping the scallion milk bread yielded the best results. The scallion filling was much more evenly distributed.
The scallion filling looks so much more evenly distributed when I layer the filling.
CAN I KNEAD THE DOUGH BY HAND?
Typically, I use my stand mixer to work the dough because it feels very wet at the beginning. However, it is possible to knead the dough by hand; it will take more time and be a messier process.
Once you’ve made the tangzhong and activated the yeast, add all the ingredients for the dough in a bowl. Using a wooden spoon, mix everything together until it looks like all the liquids have absorbed into the flour (see photo below).
Lightly dust the work surface with flour. Have a bench scraper ready to scrape wet dough off the counter.
Transfer the dough onto the floured surface. Knead it a few times. Then grab onto the bottom half of the dough and stretch it towards you. Fold it over the other half. Repeat the stretch and fold process for several minutes. Use the bench scraper to scrape off dough that’s stuck to the work surface. It won’t be easy at the start because the dough is very wet and sticks to your fingers. Just keep going as best you can.
After a few minutes, grab all the dough, slap it on the counter, stretch it towards you, and fold it over. Repeat this process until the dough no longer feels like it’s really sticky on your hands.
When kneading dough by hand, don’t pay attention to how long you’re kneading the dough. Rather, focus on how the dough feels. By the end, the dough will feel slightly tacky but not overly sticky.
Window pane test of dough taken when I was making bread in the UK
Finally, do the window pane test to make sure the gluten has been properly developed. Take a golf-ball size of dough and stretch out the center of the piece of dough. If the dough stretches out to a thin layer and light is coming through, the dough is ready for the first rise.
CAN I MAKE THE DOUGH AHEAD?
Yes! Right after you knead the dough in the mixer or by hand, place the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let it rise overnight. When you are ready to bake the next day, just shape the dough directly out of the fridge. You don’t need to let it reach room temperature first.
MORE BREAD RECIPES
Scallion Milk Bread
The dough is enriched with fat and sugar, so the second rise will take time: 1 1/2 to 2 hours (it’s usually 2 hours for me during the fall/winter). If you bake an underproofed loaf, there will be a lot of small tears throughout the bread. It’s not the end of the world–the bread just won’t look as nice.
2 tablespoons (20g) bread flour (see note 1)1/3 cup (75g/78mL) water
oil for greasing bowl any oil works1/2 cup (115g/118mL) whole milk4 tablespoons (50g) sugar1 1/2 teaspoons (5g) active dry yeast2 3/4 cup (330g) bread flour (see note 2)1 tablespoon (10g) instant milk powder (see note 3)1 teaspoon (4g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt or sub with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt4 tablespoons (55g) unsalted butter melted and cooled slightly1 large egg
1 1/3 cup (90g) sliced scallions3/4 teaspoon (3g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt or sub with 3/8 teaspoon sea salt1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 egg1 tablespoon milk1 to 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
This volume measurement comes from the spoon-and-sweep method of measuring flour.
I add instant milk powder to give the bread a milky flavor. You can leave it out if it’s difficult to source.
If you’re using an older pan, one that has issues with bread sticking to the edges, grease the loaf pan. Then, line the long side of the pan with parchment paper.