Time Required: 4 hours

Pesto Chicken/Jackfruit Milk Buns

Soft, fluffy, delicious milk bread buns filled with a pesto chicken/jackfruit filling.

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Notes:

This recipe has a lot of steps, but it's fairly foolproof once you get a feel for it. And trust me, it's 100% worth the effort.

You can also substitute the pesto filling for loads of other types of fillings (bbq beef/pork/jackfruit is particularly good). Just aim for a savory filling that holds together fairly well but is not too wet.

Pesto Chicken/Jackfruit Milk Buns

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 cup + 4 tbsp whole milk
  • 3 ¼ cup + 3 tbsp bread flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp instant yeast
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) melted unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ~2 tbsp flaky sea salt
  • 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken breast
  • ⅓ cup pesto (ideally homemade)
  • 1 cup low moisture part skim shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Steps

  1. Make the starter:
    1. Combine the 3 tbsp water with 3 tbsp of the whole milk and 3 tbsp of the bread flour in a small nonstick pot. Stir constantly over low heat until a loose paste just forms. Transfer the mixture immediately to a small bowl and cover it with plastic wrap, pressing it onto the surface of the mixture, then place the bowl in the fridge for 1 hour (or until cooled to at or below room temperature).
  2. Make the dough:
    1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the remaining 3 ¼ cups of bread flour, the sugar, the salt, and the yeast.
    2. In a large measuring cup, microwave 1 cup of the whole milk for 1 minute (until warm to the touch but not scalding). Stir in the melted butter, 1 egg, and the chilled starter from the fridge.
    3. Affix the dough hook attachment to your stand mixer and begin mixing the flour mixture on low, then slowly pour in the milk mixture.
    4. Turn the mixer speed up to medium and let it knead the dough for 10-20 minutes, or until the dough forms a smooth, cohesive ball, pulls away from the sides of the bowl, and passes the windowpane test. If the dough is not showing any signs of pulling away from the sides of the bowl after 10 minutes, add more bread flour 1 tbsp at a time, giving at least a minute between each addition to see if it begins to pull away. You want to add as little flour as possible; this should be a very hydrated dough.
    5. Lightly grease a large bowl and your hands with oil, then form the dough into a smooth, taut ball and place it in the oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 to 1.5 hours, until doubled.
  3. While the dough rises, make the filling:
    1. Add the shredded chicken and the pesto to a medium bowl and toss to coat evenly.
    2. In a separate bowl, add the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses and stir to combine.
  4. Grease a 9"x9" square baking pan with butter and line it with parchment paper.
  5. Punch down the dough completely and divide into 9 equal pieces. I recommend weighing the full dough and dividing by 9 to determine the weight each piece should be, then weighing them as I go to make sure they're even.
  6. Fill each of the 9 pieces as follows:
    1. Flatten it into a rough circle, then press and stretch the edges out thinner, leaving a thicker mound of dough in the center. Press a small divet into the center of that mound.
    2. Place a large pinch of the cheese mixture into the center divet, then top it with roughly 2 tbsp of the pesto chicken filling, then top that with another large pinch of the cheese mixture.
    3. Pull two opposite edges of the dough circle into the middle over the filling and pinch them together, then work your way around the remaining edges on each side and pinch them into the center seam. Pinch and twist the edges together to seal completely, smoothing out as many large seams as you can.
    4. Flip the sealed bun over so the seam side is on the bottom and place it in the baking pan. As you place buns into the pan, arrange them in an evenly-spaced 3x3 grid, touching but not crowding each other.
  7. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the buns rise in a warm place until puffed up but not quite doubled, roughly 30 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350°F.
  8. Mix the remaining egg and the remaining 1 tbsp milk in a small bowl.
  9. Remove the plastic wrap from the pan. Brush the buns somewhat generously with the egg and milk mixture and sprinkle the top of each bun with a pinch of sea salt.
  10. Bake the buns for 30-40 minutes, or until the tops are a deep golden brown and the buns measure at least 200°F internally (in the center of the bread itself, not the filling). If the tops are browning too much before the interior is fully cooked, you can cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil to prevent the tops from burning while you bake them the rest of the way.
  11. Remove the pan from the oven and let the buns cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove as one unit and let cool on a wire rack until just warm to the touch (no longer actively hot).
  12. To serve, pull a bun apart from the others and enjoy while it's still warm.
  13. Leave any leftovers still attached to each other and store them in the fridge, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for up to 5 days. To reheat, tear off a bun, wrap it in aluminum foil, and bake it at 375°F for 15 minutes, or until it reaches your desired warmth.
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