Wool roll breads entered the viral food scene earlier this year thanks to their super Instagrammable aesthetic. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a yeasted white bread studded with a sweet or savoury filling, cut and arranged to bake up and resemble a pleasingly plump roll of wool or yarn. This version combines both sweet and savoury elements with a sublime honey scallion butter filling (because I’m truly all about that sweet-savoury combo!). The dough is made using the tangzhong method, a Chinese yeasted bread technique popularized by its use in Japanese milk breads that yields the lightest, fluffiest texture everyone goes mad for.
This recipe is a standard milk bread recipe which can be formed into a regular loaf of bread in a 9 ½” x 4 ½” loaf pan, too. But hey, what would be the fun in pulling out an ordinary loaf of bread when you can pull out this show-stopping wool roll bread with a little more effort?
Love Sonia’s wool bread? Try her corn mochi cake next!
Tangzhong Roux Starter
Rise time: 1-3 hours. For bread recipes like this, weigh ingredients on a kitchen scale for better accuracy and results.
Make tangzhong roux starter by whisking the flour and water in a small pot over medium heat for about 4 minutes or until thickened to the consistency of pudding. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
For the yeast mixture, activate the yeast by warming the milk in the microwave for 20 seconds to a lukewarm temperature (around 110°F). Whisk sugar into the milk to dissolve. Sprinkle yeast in, whisking quickly to minimize clumps. Bloom for 10 minutes or until frothy.
Make the dough by adding bread flour, sugar and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with dough hook. Mix dry ingredients well. Once tangzhong is cooled and yeast is activated, add those along with the egg. Turn mixer on low speed and mix for 5 minutes. Add butter in 4 portions, allowing each to incorporate, waiting 10 seconds in between before adding the next. Turn mixer to medium speed and knead for 10 minutes or until it pulls away from the bowl, forming a dough that is smooth, stretchy and fairly tacky. Tug and stretch a piece of dough using your fingers to confirm it can stretch and hold a thin film. Shape dough into a ball and place in greased bowl. Cover with kitchen towel or cling wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 40-60 minutes or up to 2 hours depending on ambient temperature and climate. You may proof at room temperature or inside a turned-off oven with the light turned on to speed it along, especially in colder months.
Meanwhile, make the filling by mixing butter, honey, scallions and salt in a medium-sized bowl with a spatula. Spread mixture onto a piece of cling wrap. Use spatula to form it into a 5” x 3” rectangle. Wrap and chill in freezer to harden. This makes it easier to fill the dough later.
Shortly before dough has doubled in size, grease a 9” round pan with butter and line with parchment. Set oven rack to center or just below, making sure there is sufficient clearance for bread to rise during baking. Place a large sheet pan on a lower rack or directly beneath the loaf pan to catch any drippings or filling that may burst through while baking. Preheat oven to 350°F.
Once dough has doubled in size, punch it down with a fist and turn onto lightly floured surface. Pat with hands to flatten and pop any air bubbles. Cut dough into 5 equal pieces (if using a kitchen scale, each piece should weigh about 140 g). Shape pieces into balls, cover and rest for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut chilled scallion filling into 5 equal pieces.
Then, using a rolling pin, roll each ball into a loosely rectangular shape, about 9” x 4”. Lightly mark midway point of the rectangle with a horizontal line by pressing down gently (not cutting through) using a dough scraper or back of a long knife. Make lengthwise cuts below the demarcation into thin “wool strands”. I like to very lightly dust the area first before making the cuts so the dough doesn’t stick to the knife blade. Place a piece of scallion filling on the uncut portion of the rectangle and roll to form a cylinder with the wool strands showing on the outside. Repeat with remaining 4 pieces of dough and filling. Arrange in pan right up against the outer edges. The center will fill in one the dough rises.
Cover and let it rise again until it has doubled in size, filling up the pan and rising well above the top of the pan, again between 40-60 minutes or more depending on ambient temperature. Brush the top gently with milk and bake for about 35 minutes. Tent with foil if the top is getting darker than you like. You can check doneness by lifting the bread out of the pan and inserting a skewer from the side into the center — it should emerge dry. If you have an instant thermometer, the internal temperature of the bread should be between 190°F-205°F. Place pan on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Then remove bread and place directly on wire rack to finish cooling. Bread can be eaten warm or sliced after it fully cools. Store in an airtight container or zip-top bag out of direct sunlight for a couple of days.