These classic Japanese milk bread rolls are perfectly rich and fluffy inside and brushed in an incredible honey sage butter. — recipe includes overnight and freezing options!
I’m SO excited to share this little hidden bread gem with you today! Milk bread rolls have been on my baking bucket list for years now and we’re finally making it happen!
Of course, since this is me we’re talking about, I couldn’t just do a classic version. Obviously I had to go off the beaten path a little bit and add my own flair.
In the direction of honey sage butter and lots of it. Indescribably good.
Whether you’re looking for a last-minute bread side for your holiday festivities later this week, or just wanting to experiment with a new bread, these rolls are just a good game plan.
Also a good game plan if you wanna make a a meal solely out of rolls (I must recommend)
These Milk Bread Rolls feature…
- A rich, buttery flavor from two kinds of milk
- An incredibly light and fluffy texture
- A perfectly golden exterior
- Sweet, herby honey sage butter both in the rolls and brushed on top
Making the Milk Bread Rolls
(scroll to the bottom of the post for the full recipe!)
This Asian method of bread starters is a key step for achieving a pillowy-soft texture in these rolls!
If you want more background on this technique, King Arthur Flour goes over the ins and outs of tangzhong starters in great detail.
To make the starter, whisk together 3 tablespoons water, 3 tablespoons whole milk, and 2 tablespoons bread flour in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
We’re going to cook the tangzhong 3-5 minutes over medium heat until the mixture is thickened and smooth.
Scrape the starter into a small bowl and now we’re going to let it cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
Honey Sage Butter
Melt 6 tablespoons butter, then carefully lay 6-8 medium sage leaves (or 10-12 small leaves) in hot butter.
Flip the sage leaves occasionally until they’re crispy, then drain on paper towels.
Once the crispy sage is cool enough to handle, finely mince then add back to melted butter with 3 tablespoons honey.
Again, like the starter we’re going to let the butter mixture cool to room temperature (we do this so the high heat doesn’t kill the yeast when you add it to the dough)
You can make the dough in a stand mixer or by hand in a mixing bowl (I include instructions for both)
Dissolve yeast in warm whole milk (no higher than 110F) and let stand until the yeast is foamy.
Mix in the cooled starter, dry milk powder, a room-temperature egg, 4 tablespoons cooled honey sage butter, salt, and bread flour.
Once the dough comes together, either use your mixer to knead it or if you’re making the dough by hand, turn it onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and you can stretch it without it tearing.
Rising + Baking
Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm environment in your kitchen (I do the top of my fridge!)
The first rise for these rolls should take around 90 minutes. You want the dough doubled in size.
Punch risen dough down and divide into 10 even portions. Roll each portion into a smooth ball and arrange in a 9-inch cake pan.
Now, let the rolls rise a second time (around 30-45 minutes) until doubled in size.
Bake the rolls 20-25 minutes at 375F until they are a deep golden brown. Remove them from the oven and immediately brush with reserved 2 tablespoons honey sage butter.
Prepare the dough through step 2 in recipe below. Place bread dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let ferment overnight in fridge or up to 12 hours.
When ready to bake, remove bread dough from fridge and let it sit at room temperature 30 minutes. Shape and bake rolls as directed.
Cool rolls completely after baking. (if possible, freeze the same day as baking to preserve freshness)
Cover and seal rolls and freeze up to 2 months. Thaw rolls and reheat before serving.
Y’all, the texture of these rolls is something out of a DREAM! Honestly the softest, melt-in-your-mouth fluffy rolls I’ve made to date.
It’s honestly the honey sage butter that changes the game in these rolls. Herby, sweet, buttery…could you ask much more??
The sky’s the limit for how you want to enjoy these rolls! We love making little sliders out of them (think Hawaiian bread rolls) and serving them alongside hearty stews, roast chicken dinners, etc.
Also eating them straight from the pan definitely applies here. You just can’t not!
A few other keeper yeast breads I think you’ll love!
Milk Bread Rolls with Honey Sage Butter
- 3 tablespoons water
- 3 tablespoons whole milk
- 2 tablespoons bread flour
Honey Sage Butter
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6-8 medium sage leaves
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 package (1/4 oz) active dry yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)
- 1/2 cup warm whole milk (110-115F)
- 2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2-1/2 to 3 cups bread flour
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine all starter ingredients. Whisk occasionally over medium heat until mixture is smooth and thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer starter to a small bowl and allow to cool to room temperature (about 30 minutes)
Honey Sage Butter
- In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add sage leaves and fry 1-2 minutes, flipping once until sage leaves are crispy. Drain sage leaves on paper towels then finely chop. Add minced sage and honey to melted butter. Place 2 tablespoons in a small bowl and place remaining 4 tablespoons in a separate bowl to cool.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook OR a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk. Let stand 5 minutes until foamy. Mix in cooled starter, dry milk powder, egg, 4 tablespoons cooled sage honey butter, salt, and 2-1/2 cups flour.
- Mix dough on medium speed (or by hand with a wooden spoon) until a soft dough forms (if dough seems too sticky, add additional flour by the tablespoon) If using mixer, knead dough on medium speed 5-8 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. If kneading by hand, turn dough onto a floured surface and knead 5-8 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic.
- Place dough in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise 1-1/2 hours until dough is doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 375F and grease a round 9-inch round cake pan. Punch risen dough down and divide into 10 even pieces. Roll each portion into a ball and place in prepared cake pan. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rise 30 minutes until rolls are doubled in size.
- Bake rolls at 375F 20-25 minutes until rolls are a deep golden brown and rolls register 190F on a kitchen thermometer. Place pan on a wire cooling rack and immediately brush rolls with remaining sage honey butter. Allow rolls to cool 10 minutes before removing from pan. Serve rolls warm and enjoy!