This is the same recipe as my Japanese milk bread with just a little less yeast shaped into a star with layers of brown sugar, cinnamon, and orange zest. It's easier than it looks, and even if it's not a perfect star (mine never are), it still tastes amazing! Just 160 mg sodium in the entire star-shaped loaf.
Servings: one 10-inch star shaped loaf
Sodium: 160 mg for the loaf
Time: 45 minutes active, 3 hours rising/baking time
Starter (Tangzhong) ingredients:
2 tablespoons (28 g) water
3 tablespoons (43 g) whole or 2% milk
2 tablespoons (14g) bread flour
298 g (2 1/2 cups) bread flour
1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
113 g (1/2 cup) whole or 2% milk
1 large egg
4 tablespoons (57 g) unsalted butter, melted
Filling ingredients: 4 tablespoons packed brown sugar, light or dark
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 tsp orange zest (from about 1 medium-large orange)
1 1/2 tablespoons soft butter (optional)
Eggwash - 1 whole egg plus 1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon powdered sugar for sprinkling on top
1) Make the tangzhong - combine all the tangzhong ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk until no lumps remain. Then transfer the saucepan to the stove and cook the mixture over low heat until thick, whisking frequently, about 2-5 minutes. Immediately pour the tangzhong out of the saucepan and into a small bowl and let cool to room temperature. See TIPS below for making this in the microwave.
2) Make the dough - once the tangzhong has cooled to room temperature, combine it with the dough ingredients in a large bowl and let rest, covered, for 20-25 minutes at room temperature. Here's the dough right after it's been mixed.
3) Knead the dough until a smooth, elastic dough forms. I knead by hand on a lightly oiled surface for about 10-15 minutes. At first the dough may stick to your hands but resist the urge to add more flour, just scrape the dough off your hands with a plastic dough scraper and keep going. It should get easier to knead as you go.
Here's the dough after 10 minutes of kneading.
4) Shape the dough into a ball and let it rest in a lightly greased bowl, covered, for about 50-90 minutes, until about doubled in volume. After the dough has finished rising, you can refrigerate the dough and continue with step 5 the next day. See TIPS below on how to do this.
5) Divide the dough into four pieces, and shape each into a round ball.
6) Make the cinnamon sugar filling by combining 4 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon orange zest (from about 1 medium-large orange). If using butter in the filing, melt until soft. I skip the butter in the filling because this dough already has 4 tablespoons of butter, and unless you add the full 1 1/2 tablespoons, you really don't taste any difference.
7) Use a rolling pin to roll each piece of dough out into about a 10 inch circle. The dough shrinks back a bit so roll it out a bit larger than 10 inches. If the dough shrinks back a lot, let it rest 10 minutes and then try rolling again. Spread 1/3 of the cinnamon sugar zest mix on top. Repeat with the remaining three balls of dough: roll each ball into a 10 inch circle, place it over the last layer, add 1/3 cinnamon sugar filling. You'll end up with 4 layers of dough, with 3 layers of filling.
You don't need perfect circles because you can stretch and correct the shape a bit in the next step. But if you want, you can always trim the edges of the dough for a nice circle.
8) Use a 2 - 2 1/2 inch circular dough cutter (or cup, bowl, etc) and make an imprint in the middle of the layered dough. Then cut 16 equal strips using a very sharp knife. To get even strips, it's easiest to start by cutting 4, then 8, then 16 equal strips. Make sure the dough is cut all the way through.
9) Grab two adjacent strips of dough and twist them away from each other. Do this for two rotations and then pinch the ends together to make a point. Pinch the dough really tight here. It's going to get puffy will come apart during baking if they're not pinched tightly. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 15 minutes. Sometimes my dough rises really fast in this last step (when it's really warm, for example) so I'll just let it rise for 10 minutes here. If you leave it too long it will lose its shape.
If you move a little slow in this step, the dough might start puffing up and the 16 pieces might start sticking to each other again. Just keep your knife handy and cut again whenever necessary.
10) Preheat oven to 350°F.
11) Make egg wash by combining 1 whole egg with 1 tablespoon water. Just before transferring to the oven, lightly brush the dough with the egg wash. You won't use it all, just brush a light layer all over the bread and then immediately transfer to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown, turning once in the middle of the bake time for even browning.
12) Cool on a wire rack and sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon powdered sugar.
-You can also make the tangzhong in the microwave. Combine all the tangzhong ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl and whisk until no lumps remain. Microwave for 10 seconds, then whisk quickly, and repeat 3-4 more times until the tangzhong is thick.
-This recipe is inspired by King Arthur Baking's Cinnamon Star Bread. I've tried that recipe without salt about 5-6 times with varying degrees of success. Then I tried it with my Japanese milk bread recipe (also based on a King Arther Baking recipe), and it worked a lot better and also tasted better. Sally's Bake Blog has a great video on how to shape the star, and that's where I learned to let the dough sit for just 10-15 minutes after shaping. In previous attempts, I let it sit 40-60 minutes and the dough just fell apart.
-When I'm planning to make these for breakfast/brunch, I like to make the dough at night and then bake them in the morning. After the dough has completed its first rise, gently deflate it and put it back in the bowl, covered, and refrigerate overnight. It will continue to rise a bit in the refrigerator, but at a much slower rate. In the morning, let the dough sit out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes (you want it to be back to room temperature) and then proceed with step 5, above.
-Use a scale to measure the ingredients whenever possible, especially flour. If you don't have a scale, King Arthur Baking has this great video on how to measure flour accurately.
-A note on kneading. Dough is tricky and there are so many variables that affect how your dough turns out. If you find the dough is too sticky to knead, flour your hands and work surface with 1 tablespoon of flour to knead it. The dough will get dryer and easier to handle as you continue kneading, so resist the urge to keep adding more flour or you'll end up with a very dry, dense bun. The dough is properly kneaded if it springs back after you poke it, and it doesn't tear when you pull on it. Here's another helpful video from King Arthur Baking.