I am always excited to bake and eat savory pastries and breads; if I could wake up to savory pastries every weekend, well, let’s say this, it would be pretty close to perfection. This recipe is a combination of techniques and flavors from different cultures. I’ve used the technique for the rose-shaped breads/pastries from Turkey called Gül Poğaça, filled it with a paste made from the delicious chilli crisp oil from Lao Gan Ma and cream cheese, and used the tangzhong technique that originally started in Japan in the form of the yukone (aka yudane) that later became popular over Asia by Taiwanese cookbook author Yvonne Chen in her book The 65 degree Celsius Bread Doctor Book (Note: this book is in Traditional Chinese and I could not find an English version) to make my dough soft and pillowy.
Eat these for breakfast or as a snack; they’re delicious when they come out warm straight out of the oven.
Making the roses are easy. I used the technique I learned from the Soframiz book by Anna Sortun, but my dough recipe is different. The rose is created by making 4 flaps that transform into petals. It’s one of the simplest techniques I’ve learned, giving spectacular results.Print
For the Dough
3 cups/420 g bread flour plus a little extra for rolling out the dough
1 cup/240 ml whole milk or 2% milk
1/4 cup/55 g unsalted butter, cubed and softened to room temperature, plus a little extra to grease the bowl
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1 large egg lightly whisked
1 1/2 tsp active dried yeast
For the Filling
6 oz/170 g cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 generous Tbsp of Lao Gan Ma chilli crisp sauce
2 to 3 scallions, ends trimmed and discarded, thinly sliced
For the Topping
1 large egg, lightly whisked
3 to 4 Tbsp sesame or nigella seeds
- Whisk 1/2 cup/120 ml milk with 1/2 cup/70 g flour in a medium saucepan until smooth. Using a whisk stir the mixture continuously over low heat till it thickens to form a paste or roux at about 149F/65C, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool till the mixture is no warmer than 110F/43C.
- Add the remaining 2 1/2 cups/350 g flour and yeast to the bowl of a stand mixer. Attach the dough blade and set the mixer to the lowest speed. Add the remaining 1/2 cup/120 ml milk, butter, sugar, salt, and the whisked egg. Using a silicone spatula, scrape out and transfer the roux to the bowl and mix over low speed for about 10 minutes till the dough comes together and takes on a smooth and supple texture. The dough will be elastic and spring back to shape when gently pressed with a finger. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for 30 seconds to shape the dough into a large ball. Grease a large bowl with a little butter. Place the dough in the bowl and cover the top with a lid or a damp clean kitchen towel and leave to rise and double in size, about 2 hours in a warm spot away from direct sunlight.
- Towards the last 10 minutes of the dough rising, prepare the cream cheese filling. In a small bowl, mix the cream cheese, chilli crisp sauce, and scallions together with a fork until combined.
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Divide the dough into 12 equal parts by weight and shape each into a small ball. Set the dough balls on a clean, dry, lightly floured spot on the kitchen counter and cover them with a clean and damp kitchen towel. Work with one ball of dough at a time. Roll the ball of dough out on a lightly floured surface to form a 5 in/12 cm disc. With a pair of kitchen scissors or a sharp paring knife, make 4 diagonal cuts, each about 1 1/2 in/4 cm, one in the North, one in the South, one in the West, and one in the East direction, towards the center of the circle. The cuts should not meet each other (see photos) and will create a small circular space in the center surrounded by the 4 flaps. Fill a bowl with a small amount of tap water. Scoop 1 generous Tbsp of the cream cheese filling and place it in the space at the center of the pastry. Lift one flap and fold it to partially encase the cream cheese filling; the top and opposite corners of the filling will be exposed. Repeat with the opposite flap of dough, followed by the third flap. Dampen the surface of the fourth flap, fold it over, tuck the tips under the base of the dough, and press gently to seal the tips. The pastry will look like a rose. Transfer to the prepared baking sheets. Keep the prepared dough about 2 in/5 cm apart. Cover with a clean damp kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minutes. If you end up with a little extra filling, drop it through the opening of the rose carefully without staining the exposed part of the pastry.
- While the dough rises, preheat the oven to 350F/180C. When the dough is ready to be baked, brush the surface of each bread with the whisked egg and then sprinkle the top with a generous pinch of nigella or sesame seeds. Place the sheet in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, turning the sheet halfway through during baking. If you decide to bake two trays at a time, keep two wire racks at mid-level, swap the sheets on the wire rack, and then rotate them halfway through baking, so they cook evenly. The bread will be done when the internal temperature reaches 200F/93C, and the tops are golden brown. Remove the sheet and transfer the buns to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. These buns are best eaten warm straight out of the oven but can be wrapped and stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. To warm, reheat them in an oven at 250F/120C.
- Do not substitute all-purpose flour for bread flour here.
- Use whole milk or 2% milk but never fat-free milk.
- The tangzhong method is a way to help retain the moisture in the dough as it bakes and produces a very light and pillowy bread. Milk (and sometimes water) is heated with a small quantity of flour to form a thick paste. At about 149F/65C, the starch present in the flour thickens on heating and binds the water to form a gel that is incorporated into the dough (This process is called Gelatinization – In The Flavor Equation, there is a table at the end of the book on Page 339 that lists the gelatinization temperatures of different starches and I discuss it in more depth in the book). Once the dough bakes, the water trapped in the gel is released to create a puffy texture. (Try these Perfect Cinnamon Rolls that use the same technique). Do you need to use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the roux? My short and quick answer is no. You can easily tell when the paste forms visually, but using a thermometer is no harm.
- In the recipe, I ask you to cool the roux down to 110F/43C. If the roux is too hot when added, it will kill the yeast.
- My preference is for the Lao Gan Ma brand of chilli crisp. I’ve tried a few other brands that don’t taste as good (I’m probably biased) compared to Lao Gan Ma. Stir the contents of the jar well before you scoop the sauce out; I also recommend draining some of the excess oil out; it’s tasty, but it can leak out of the buns. You will love reading Cathy Erway’s fascinating piece on The Cult of The Spicy Chile Crisp Is Real for Taste.
- If you own a pizza stone or baking steel, this is a good place to use it when baking. I bake one sheet at a time, but you can do both simultaneously, remember to swap the sheets on the wire rack and then rotate them halfway through baking, so they cook evenly.
- Use a damp kitchen towel to cover the dough at every rising stage to avoid the formation of dry skin on the surface and reduce moisture loss. I baked one batch that wasn’t covered with a damp cloth, and not only did they form a skin, but they were drier than those covered with a damp kitchen towel.
- For the folding of the buns, the final fold is very important. Wet the flap of the dough with a little water to help it glue firmly, and remember to tuck the tips firmly underneath the pastry, or they can pop out during rising and baking. It is also not the end of the world if they do pop out a little.