Ham & Cheese Buns

 
I am so busy keeping my head above the water that I scarcely know who I am, much less who anyone else is.
— Sylvia Plath
 

About two block away from my house there is a small Chinese Bakery that I have been visiting ever since I was in high school. They have two large cases full of cakes, pastries, and of course, buns, a staple at any Chinese bakery. These buns are filled with at least 10 different fillings that are surrounded by extremely soft bread. My favorite has always been the Ham and Cheese Bun.

The bread at the bakery is similar to brioche in that when you pull it you get long glutenous strands that are equally soft and fluffy. Unlike brioche, however, milk bread that is commonly used in Chinese bakeries lacks that extremely buttery flavor, and it’s definitely not a bad thing. Milk bread has a very pure “milk” flavor. There is only a small amount of butter in it and it really does get most of its flavor from milk. I don’t know how else to describe it other than the best white bread you will ever eat.

I have been meaning to make milk bread for a couple years now and was always scared because the few times I have tried making a yeasted dough it has not worked out. For one reason or another these various attempts didn’t work so I had pretty much given up on bread. And then one day I stumbled upon a Youtube video for milk bread. My intrigue for bread had been sparked again! I jotted down the recipe and set a date to try it.

And you guys, this milk bread is truly amazing! Milk bread is known for it’s extremely pillowy and soft texture and this recipe delivers that. One of the great things about milk bread is that it stays fresh for longer. Trust me, I ate one of these Ham and Cheese Buns three days after I made them and the bread tasted and had the exact same texture as the day I baked it. Good luck keeping them around that long though! ;)

Now the actual recipe is fairly simple to make, it just requires a bit of resting time. Just dedicate a full day to make this bread. Trust me, it will be a very relaxing and delicious day. And again, this recipe is pretty easy to make. You just need to have a scale (yes, buy a kitchen scale already!) and a stand mixer. If you don’t have a stand mixer you can still make the bread, just be prepared to knead the bread by hand for 20-30 minutes…

These Ham and Cheese Buns are filled with ham and cheese, of course. I opted to use a pretty standard smoked ham with no special flavors or anything like that. I bought a pound of “black forrest ham” from my local deli and asked them to slice it “sandwich thin” and then I diced it up at home. As for the cheese, I wanted something that had a good melty “pull” so I decided to use monterey jack and diced that up as well. Now the type of ham and cheese you use it totally up to you but I think that the pairings I chose worked perfectly for a Ham and Cheese Bun.

Now I know that making a yeasted and kneaded dough can seem very intimidating but can actually be very easy. Trust me, I didn’t attempt making bread for two years myself! However, once you find a good recipe that works, it really takes most of the work out of it for you. All you need to do is spend a little time and you will have one of the best loaves of bread you’ve ever had. Turning the bread into pastries is just a bonus!

If you give this recipe a try please let me know how it goes! I would love to hear your thoughts and/or feedback. Be sure to tag me on Instagram @person.kitchen so I can see your photos as well. Happy baking everyone!

A Quick Note:

Like I mentioned above, the actual Milk Bread recipe is not mine. I found a video on Youtube and decided to try it. I only “translated” the instructions from watching the video. I’m not very savvy when it comes to bread and I definitely did not trust myself to develop a milk bread recipe all on my own. The recipe is from a Youtube channel called Umi’s Baking. I will link to the Youtube video and blog below.


Ham & Cheese Buns


Ingredients:

For the Tangzhong

  • 40 g All Purpose Flour

  • 200 g Water

For the rest of the Milk Bread

  • 580 g All Purpose Flour

  • 60 g Sugar

  • 12 g Kosher Salt

  • 10 g Active Dry Yeast

  • 10 g Dried Milk Powder

  • 260 g Whole Milk, room temperature

  • 50 g Egg, whisked & room temperature

  • Tangzhong (recipe above)

  • 50 g Butter, room temperature

To Finish

  • 1 pound Ham, thinly sliced & cut into cubes

  • 1 pound Monterey Jack Cheese, cubed

  • 1 egg + 1 tsp water, whisked, for the egg wash

  • Sesame seeds, for topping

  • ¼ cup Water + ¼ Sugar, for the finishing coating

Directions:

Make the Tangzhong

  1. Whisk together the flour (40g) and water (200g) in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened like pudding— this will take about 1-2 minutes. Continue cooking for a full 60 seconds. The mixture will be very thick and sticky, like silly putty.

  2. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.

  3. Once ready to make the milk bread, take the tangzhong out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature before adding it to the dough.

Make the Milk Bread

  1. In a bowl, mix together the ham and cheese until evenly combined. Set aside.

  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, add the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and dried milk powder and mix until evenly combined.

  3. Add in the milk, eggs, and tangzhong and mix on low speed until a shaggy dough forms— 3 minutes. Add in the butter and knead on medium-low speed for about 10 minutes or until you have a smooth dough. Stop the mixer and shape the dough into a smooth ball.

  4. Butter a large bowl lightly and transfer the ball of dough to it. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm space for 45 minutes-1 hour or until the dough has tripled in size.

  5. Once tripled in size, deflate the dough by punching it down with your hands. Divide the dough into 12 even portions. Shape each piece of dough into a ball and place on a baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper and dusted with flour. Cover the balls of dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.

  6. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll each ball into a circle that is about 6 inches in diameter. Place about ¼ cup of ham & cheese filling into the center of the circle. Wrap the outer edges of the dough up and over the ham & cheese filling, meeting in the middle. Seal the dough tightly by pinching it together. Flip the dough ball right side up and place on a new baking sheet lined with parchment paper and cover with plastic wrap as you go. Repeat with remaining balls of dough.

  7. Once you have formed all of the buns cover with plastic wrap and rest for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350℉.

  8. Once buns have about doubled in size, brush them lightly with the egg wash and sprinkle the tops with sesame seeds.

  9. Bake the buns for 20-25 minutes or until they are evenly golden brown all around.

  10. While the buns are baking, add the ¼ cup water and ¼ cup sugar to a small saucepan and cook over medium-low heat just until the sugar is fully dissolved. Set aside.

  11. Once the buns are done baking, remove them from the oven and immediately brush them lightly with the sugar syrup. Let cool for at least 20 minutes and then enjoy!