This might damage my foodie credit, but I’ve never seen the appeal of crusty breads. Loaf of sourdough so crusty that it seems designed to scrape off the top layer of your mouth? Pass. No, to me, bread heaven is made of giant mounds of fluffy, pillowy milk bread, the type that sighs softly when you bite into it. Layer in sweet ribbons of condensed milk, and you get this bread.
A little backstory: I first stumbled across this recipe on the now-defunct blog Mimi Bakery House. I remember the instructions being hard to follow, but the results were so good I didn’t care. Month after month, I came back to the recipe, and like all good relationships, I assumed it would always be there for me. When all of a sudden the blog shut down, I have to admit I panicked a little. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find the original. Thankfully, several other blogs had adapted the original recipe, confusing instructions and all. I hope you’ll find this one less confusing and well worth the trouble.
BREAD(adapted from Nasi Lemak Lover)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with the paddle attachment, combine the bread flour, sea salt, sugar, and yeast. Mix on low speed to combine, then add the milk, condensed milk, and butter. Mix again until the dough comes together.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula. Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium-low speed until the dough is smooth, elastic, and springs back when pressed with a finger. Once the gluten is sufficiently developed, the dough should pass the windowpane test. The time this takes will vary depending on your particular mixer and dough. If you’re unsure, start by mixing for 8 minutes, then continue in 5-minute increments as needed.
- Scoop the dough out from the bowl and knead on the countertop a few times to form a smooth ball. Add a few drops of neutral oil, such as vegetable or canola, to the bottom of the bowl and place the dough ball back inside. Rotate the ball so it’s thinly coated with oil all over, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Both the oil and the wrap help prevent the dough from drying out.
- With the heat off, adjust a rack to the middle of your oven. Place a cake or loaf pan in the bottom of the oven and pour in 3 cups of boiling water. Next, place the bowl with the dough on the middle rack. Proof for 30-60 minutes, until the dough is roughly doubled in size. (The boiling water both warms the oven and adds humidity, which creates the ideal conditions for yeast activity.)
- Once the dough is proofed, remove the dough bowl from the oven, leaving the pan. Take out the dough, lightly flour your countertop, and gently stretch it into an 8”x12” rectangle. The dough should be soft and supple, stretching to fit the shape relatively easily. Don’t worry if the dough is a bit uneven in thickness–it’ll all work out in the oven.
- Cut the dough into four 2”x12” strips with a bench scraper or chef’s knife. Mix the filling ingredients in a small bowl with a spoon, then gently spoon half of the filling onto one strip. Top with another strip, like a long sandwich. Repeat with the remaining two strips, so you have two dough sandwiches. Cut each sandwich into 8 pieces, so you have 16 total.
- Grease the chiffon cake pan with baking spray or butter, then array the 16 mini-sandwiches around the pan, overlapping slightly. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and return to the middle rack of the oven to proof for another 20-30 minutes, or until doubled in size again.
- Remove both the chiffon and the loaf pan from the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F (or 325°F with convection). Brush the bread with the egg wash and top with sliced almonds. Once the oven is fully preheated, bake for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown on top.
- Transfer the pan to a rack and allow to cool to room temperature. Using a knife, loosen the bread from the edges of the pan. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve.
- No tube pan?: If you don’t have a chiffon or other tube pan, you can fake the ring shape by using a cake or springform pan with a muffin liner in the middle. The exact dimensions don’t matter too much–the bread won’t be as tall in a 8 or 9” pan, but it’ll still be delicious. If you don’t care about the shape, a 6” springform or loaf pan will work nicely, too.
- No stand mixer? If you plan to do a lot of baking, I really recommend getting one, especially for a sticky dough like this. But if you insist on kneading by hand, when the directions say to use the dough hook, knead on a countertop for 20-30 minutes, until your dough passes the windowpane test.
- Bread identity crisis: If you, too, opened your bag of bread flour only to find tiny bugs inside (the horror!), you can swap in all-purpose flour. The texture will be a bit less chewy and more cakey, but no less delicious.