Corner Café

July 9, 2010

Sweet Bun Dough (scalded-flour & sponge version)

Filed under: Basics,Breads & Quick Breads — SeaDragon @ 12:00 am
Tags: , , ,


Earlier this year, I came across another sweet bread/bun dough recipe which is a variation of the water-roux technique that I’ve been using for a few years now. Instead of the water-roux which needs to be cooked on the stove to 65°C, this other technique is to scald part of the flour with boiling hot water rather than cooking it.
The recipe is from a book called Magic Bread by Malaysian cookery author and Chef, Alex Goh. The recipe is quite unusual in that it calls for the scalded flour to be chilled in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours before being used. However no explanation was given as to the reason why the need for the 12-hour delay. I wonder if that is just the way the commercial operators do it by preparing the scalded flour the night before to make sure the flour is hydrated properly before being used the next morning, rather than a specific technical reason… (Update July 10, 2010: I finally found out the reason for the 12-hour chilling time for the scalded flour. Autolyse in bread making, invented by French baker Raymond Calvel, is a technique of mixing flour and water – not boiling water – then let it rest for at least 20 minutes, and up to an hour. This rest period helps to make the dough stronger and more extensible, i.e. better able to stretch without tearing. Breads made with autolysed dough are easier to form into shapes and have more volume and improved structure. On top of that, another French baker, Philippe Gosselin, introduced the technique of Overnight Cold Autolyse which produces a sweeter bread. If you google Gosselin baguettes or 12-hour autolyse, you should be able to find more detailed explanation. Alex Goh’s method here is just adding the extra step of scalding the flour then chill it for 12 hours for the 12-hour cold autolyse. However this raises another question, since the recipe is for sweet bread, meaning we are already adding a lot of sugar to the recipe, do we really need the cold autolyse? A normal room-temperature autolyse of 20-60 minutes should suffice, I would think…)
Anyway from discussions with forumers who had tried this recipe, they all raved about it. A few of them did not even follow the 12-hour rest for the scalded flour and their breads/buns still turned out well. So I made a mental note to try out the recipe to compare with the water-roux one.
After clearing some time over the weekend, I finally got to work on the recipe. As usual trying to be practical with my time, I thought since the scalded flour needs to be chilled for at least a few hours, I might as well make a sponge dough at the same time to improve the flavour of the dough. Since some of forumers chilled the scalded flour for as little as 1 hour with no disastrous consequences, I thought the proving time for my sponge dough which usually needed about 4 to 5 hours would be good enough for the scalded flour as well.
However being winter at the moment, my sponge dough proved very slowly in the cold room temperature. After 4 hours, I finally got tired of waiting and turned my oven on at the lowest setting and put the sponge dough in to hasten it. But alas, I overproved it slightly and it smelled like sourdough! Luckily that did not really matter as the buns would have more flavour because of that.
Originally the scalded flour part was to add 70g boiling water to 100g bread flour. However with that proportion, I was not able to hydrate all of the flour. The dough was very dry with a little flour still not incorporated. So I decided to add 5g more, but I tipped a little too much in ending up with using a total of 80g boiling water in the end. Then with the 300g of bread flour used for the main dough in the original recipe, I turned it into the sponge dough. In the end my final dough was a little on the wet side, and I added 2 tablespoons plain flour to the recipe to keep it manageable for kneading.
The result was very good and due to my overproving the sponge dough slightly, the buns were very aromatic and flavourful.
As to the comparison with the water-roux version, they were very similar as far as I can tell without both to compare with side by side. I would say to use this scalded-flour method if you could not be bothered with cooking the water-roux, but as I did wait for about 6 hours when my sponge dough was finally ready, I don’t know how different the results will be between one-hour rest (as some forumers did) for the scaled-flour, and the 12-hour rest specified by the original recipe. Obviously if you want to wait for 1 hour only, then the sponge dough cannot be used…

Makes approx. 16 buns

Scalded Flour:
100g bread flour
80ml boiling water, adjust as necessary

300g bread flour
180ml lukewarm water, adjust as necessary
1 1/2 teaspoons (4g) instant yeast
1 teaspoon caster sugar

100g plain (all-purpose) flour
75g caster sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon (3g) instant yeast
25g milk powder
1 egg

50g butter, chopped into small pieces
2 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour, extra
1. For the scalded flour, pour boiling hot water over flour and stir with chopsticks until combined into a slightly tacky dough. Cover and chill in the refrigerator. Start making the sponge dough.

The scalded flour dough, it should be tacky, not dry.

2. For the sponge dough, combine all ingredients and knead just enough to form into a dough. Round the dough into a ball. Cover and prove for about 4 hours, or until the surface of the dough flattens out and the structure inside is bubbly. The time recommended for proving is just approximate, it may takes less time in summer, or longer time in winter, so you need to check it occasionally.

Sponge dough just after mixing and ready to prove.

The proven sponge dough, surface has flattened out.

The successful bubbly structure inside the sponge dough.

3. When the sponge dough is ready, remove the scalded flour dough from the refrigerator. Add all the main dough ingredients, except the butter and extra flour, to the sponge dough together with the scalded flour dough. Knead until smooth and elastic. Adding the extra flour, a tablespoon at a time, if the dough is too wet, or if it is too dry, add a little water. For more detailed description on the kneading process, see the post on Japanese-Style Sweet Bun Dough.
4. Knead in butter until incorporated. Form the dough into a round ball and rest for 15 minutes.
5. Divide the dough into 16 equal portions. Form each into balls and let rest for 10 minutes.
6. Shape and fill the buns according to recipe. Place all finished buns on a greased baking sheet, lightly cover with cling film, and let rise until double in size (about 1 hour in warm weather, longer in winter months).

Finished buns ready to prove.

Proven buns double in size.

7. Bake in preheated 190°C oven for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.



Taste: Soft, fluffy and light with a slight chewiness in texture
Consume: Equally good served warm or at room temperature
Storage: Can be kept for up to a week in airtight container in the refrigerator, re-heat in the oven or microwave before serving
Recipe Reference(s): Basic Sweet Bread Dough recipe by Alex Goh


  1. Hi Sea Dragon, the buns look soft and fluffy. I read from another blog raving about this method as well 🙂

    Comment by Jess @ Bakericious — July 9, 2010 @ 1:32 am | Reply

    • Thanks. Yes quite a lot of bloggers liked this scalded flour version too.

      Comment by SeaDragon — July 13, 2010 @ 5:53 pm | Reply

  2. SD,
    your buns, as ever look amazing! :0)

    I have an Alex Goh book but have yet to try his recipes – thanks for giving me the motivation to try! Especially as chinese buns here cost me £1.00 (GBP) a piece yesterday!

    Comment by Lynne — July 9, 2010 @ 2:12 am | Reply

  3. SD,

    Now you are motivating me. I have been sleeping on this recipe for months! bcoz of that 12 hours rest time, I just simply can’t time it right.

    Thanks mate!

    Comment by Edith — July 9, 2010 @ 10:35 am | Reply

    • You should try it too. The time is not that crucial, as long as you rest it for at least 1 hour.

      Comment by SeaDragon — July 13, 2010 @ 5:56 pm | Reply

  4. Love the texture of your bread. Mine is dense and doughie…

    Comment by Ling's Passion — July 9, 2010 @ 7:43 pm | Reply

    • Thanks. If yours are dense and doughie, the problems are most probably the kneading and proving process.

      Comment by SeaDragon — July 13, 2010 @ 5:58 pm | Reply

  5. Hi Sea Dragon, I follow your blog religiously and is very impressed by your recipes. Thank you for the clear instructions and the photos, indeed very helpful.

    I wonder if this method is similar to croissants – I tried out the croissant recipe on Poh’s Kitchen and it sounds quite similar – proofing overnight and in the fridge too!

    Comment by cuppapoint — July 10, 2010 @ 10:00 pm | Reply

    • Thanks. Those croissnants were cold retarded if I remembered correctly, a different process as it involved yeasted dough. This one is chilling scalded flour, no yeast is added yet. BTW, how did they turned out, good?

      Comment by SeaDragon — July 13, 2010 @ 6:05 pm | Reply

  6. Not too bad actually! Except that I may have rolled them up a little too tightly – but snatched up pretty quickly anyhow so I guess a good sign 🙂

    Comment by cuppapoint — July 14, 2010 @ 6:58 pm | Reply

  7. Hi,
    I’m new to bread baking and truly appreciated for any help and advice you can give me. I have a few questions and hope you can help me with. Here’s question 1. Would it be possible to make, shape the dough and freeze for later baking? Question 2. Can this recipes be use for Challah Bread and what’re the changes that I can make for it to taste more buttery and eggy such as Challah Bread? Please help! Thanks.

    Comment by Gia — July 22, 2010 @ 5:08 am | Reply

    • 1. Not too sure about freezing the dough, but you can try chilling the dough for the first proof overnight, then finish shaping and bake the next day. But I have not try it myself.
      2. As far as I know Challah is more similar to Brioche which has loads more butter and eggs in the recipe, so completely different to this recipe.

      Comment by SeaDragon — July 23, 2010 @ 7:53 am | Reply

  8. Your posts are always insightful and educational. Truly a learning resource for all of us. Thank you for sharing your findings and observations. I love how you showed the step-by-step process and the beautiful final product. 🙂

    Comment by Ju (The Little Teochew) — July 25, 2010 @ 6:02 pm | Reply

  9. Hey, thank you so much for sharing with us! I’ve gotta say this is truly an insightful and informative post! Love it! When the opportunity comes, I’ll give it a shot! I love making bread … and eat it!

    I feel so bad for not being able to drop by and leave you a few words here … Too busy … But then, I’ve gotta acknowledge that since my first days of baking, you’ve been an inspiration and a guru of mine! I owe you a lot! Serious! OK, I promise … I’ll check your blog more often beginning now. (Work life and college life are different, man! LOL!)

    Thank you so much! Thank you! =)

    Keep it up!

    Comment by Pei-Lin — July 27, 2010 @ 3:07 am | Reply

    • You’re welcome. I know exactly how you feel. I’m in the same position, nowadays no time to browse other peoples’ blogs anymore 😦

      Comment by SeaDragon — August 1, 2010 @ 4:33 pm | Reply

  10. Hi,

    Thank you for sharing your bread recipe.
    I tried making the bun last week and proofing was alright.
    But when I baked the dough, it took less than 10 minutes and I took the buns out because top already browned.
    The bun is soft but not light and fluffy. It is quite heavy and some part still a bit wet.
    I did not baked long enough??
    Please kindly advice.

    Comment by Carolyn — August 3, 2010 @ 7:09 pm | Reply

    • Sounds more like proving problem if the buns were heavy. Did the dough at least doubled in size before you baked it? Time given for proving in the recipe is approximate only, you have to adjust according to room temperature etc. Also if the buns browned too quickly that means the oven temperature is too high, try checking your oven temperature using an oven thermometer.

      Comment by SeaDragon — August 13, 2010 @ 6:18 pm | Reply

  11. Hi, I have been following your blog almost 2 years and find it very informative! I love baking, especially chinese bread and have an amazing collection of books but I am still always finding out new methods! Have you come across the “old dough” method? That one is good too. I have been religiously trying out your bread recipes, most turn out great as I already have some experience in baking so your recipes do work! Keep up with the blogging.


    Comment by kim — August 27, 2010 @ 7:05 am | Reply

    • Thanks. No I haven’t try the old dough method.

      Comment by SeaDragon — September 6, 2010 @ 5:44 pm | Reply

  12. Hi SeaDragon,
    Sorry for this off-topic question, but would you be interested in buying some chinese cookbooks? If so, just click on the link in my name for further details. Thanks.

    Comment by Fei — August 30, 2010 @ 5:50 pm | Reply

    • Thanks but I’m trying not to buy any more Chinese cookbooks, unless I can browse through them first. I found many are not worth buying 😦

      Comment by SeaDragon — September 6, 2010 @ 5:51 pm | Reply

      • You’re welcome to browse through them first before making your decision. No pressure to buy. Feel free to contact me if interested.

        Comment by Fei — September 15, 2010 @ 5:55 pm | Reply

        • Thanks, I will think about it but have no plan to buy more cookbooks at the moment.

          Comment by SeaDragon — September 15, 2010 @ 8:07 pm | Reply

  13. Haha, silly me forgot to add the website. Done 🙂

    Comment by Fei — August 30, 2010 @ 5:51 pm | Reply

  14. these buns look so yummy….i am quite a bread addict 🙂

    Comment by bookjunkie — September 2, 2010 @ 10:46 pm | Reply

  15. Hi Seadragon

    I just made a sausage cheese bread using Alex Goh’s sweet dough recipe( placed it in fridge for 12 hrs). I am not sure whether I am achieving the right texture when kneading, though the buns were quite good. Can I ask you, how long does it take to achieve the elastic dough texture if I used machine-kneading vs hand-kneading. I tried to pull the dough but it was so wet and sticky, so I don’t think I ever achieved the elastic texture, even after kneading using a cakemixer for 10min.

    Any advice would be much appreciated, thanks alot !

    Miss B

    Comment by Everybody Eats Well in Flanders — September 13, 2010 @ 8:34 am | Reply

    • I don’t have a bread maker, so I have no idea how long to knead using machine. I knead all my breads manually by hands and I can adjust the water everytime. You must adjust the water as different brands of flour all have different water absorption level. If you find it too wet, try reducing the water next time.

      Comment by SeaDragon — September 15, 2010 @ 7:53 pm | Reply

  16. Hi SD, thanks for ur advice. I’ll take note & adjust the water the next time 🙂

    Comment by Everybody Eats Well in Flanders — September 15, 2010 @ 8:18 pm | Reply

  17. Hi SeaDragon,

    Thanks for posting all these wonderful recipes, tips and suggestions in your blog. This is an awesome blog. I am just figuring out what is happening to my bread (using the water roux) as it gets hard after the next day. Am dying to try this version also but am trying to get the water roux version right first though.

    Keep up the good work, mate!!!

    Comment by Quiet_Baker — September 26, 2010 @ 12:58 pm | Reply

  18. Hello Sea Dragon,
    Thank you for your informative posts. You have answered many questions I have always had. Please allow me to share some information you might find interesting.
    According to Whole Grain Breads by Peter Reinhart, a wonderful teacher and writer of bread making among other subjects, scalding and preparing a “soup seed” can have the following effects on flour depending on how hot the mixture gets: 1) gelates starches (this tenderizes and moisturizes the final product, sometimes too well, resulting in a gummy loaf); 2) denature beta-amylase (the enzyme that would turn dough to mush by breaking down double sucrose molecules to maltose) 3) keeps the alpha-amylase enzyme intact to hydrolyze starches into simpler sugars for sweeter, better tasting product (the sugars become available to feed yeast and any residual is enjoyed by the taster). Scalds, soup seed, and mashes (what he prepares for whole grain breads by whisking whole wheat flour into 165F/74C water for final temperature of 150F/65C and holding it at that temperature for 3 hours) is a way for the baker to manipulate enzymatic action for a better tasting product. Peter Reinhart seems more focused on flavor than he does on texture, moistness, and keeping qualities. He has noted that many of his testers have reported excessive gumminess in breads prepared with mashes.
    Autolyse is another method that enables the baker to manipulate enzymatic action but can often employ cold temperatures. The baker mixes either a portion or all of the ingredients for the dough just until moistened and then rests the dough either at room temperature or in the refrigerator for anywhere between 30 minutes up to three days. During the rest period, the proteins and starches in the flour hydrate more fully and the enzymes present in the flour start hydrolyzing the starches into simpler sugars. If at room temperature or warm water is used, the yeast may also begin its work, imbuing the dough with the flavors of yeast metabolism. Autolyse is used for preparing pre-ferments (biga, old-dough/pate fermentee, polish) that when mixed into new ingredients, instantly age the dough so that the resulting bread has more flavor. When autolyse is employed for shorter periods at room temperature, it is mostly for the hydrating the proteins and starches so that mixing may be accomplished with less effort. Peter Reinhart offers a better explanation of the use of autolyse for delaying fermentation in his earlier book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.
    It seems the main difference between autolyse and preparing scalds or soup seed is the manipulation of temperature on extremes of the spectrum. Autolyse does its magic using cold temperatures and long rest period while scald/soup seed takes advantage of higher temperatures and shorter rest periods. It seems that products employing autolyse benefits lean breads whereas scalds can benefit the entire spectrum. Peter Reinhart maintains that enriched breads do not benefit as much from autolyse because the character of these breads are defined by the sugar, fats, eggs, and dairy that we include. Lean bread made of nothing more than flour, water, yeast, and salt need time for the enzymes to express the inherent goodness of the grain. But long-held traditions exist for enriched breads to employ delayed fermentation, too.
    I appreciate that you update your posts as more truths reveal themselves to you. This information may help us to take advantage of the results of manipulating time and temperature when mixing bread dough but exactly how it works remains a mystery. In your writing, you note that the bread can be kept in the refrigerator for one week. Can you tell me how the product behaves when stored at room temperature? When does the bread start to harden? One commenter’s bread staled on the second day. Any idea why the soup seed method conditions the dough?

    Comment by May — February 25, 2012 @ 8:41 am | Reply

    • Wow, thanks so much for your comment which is so informative. That also answered my question of whether there is any benefit of long autolyse for enriched dough. It seems it is not that necessary after all.

      As for your questions, this post was written more than a year ago that it is hard to recall. As far as I can remember, they were good, staying soft, for at least two or three days at room temperature, because I would have make a remark about them if they had turned hard very quickly… This heavily depends on whether you have kneaded and proved the dough well, if not the result is as that commenter (have to remember that some of the commenters are first time bread makers or at least new to bread making) found out did not stay soft for long.

      The soup seed (this is a new term for me), if I’m not mistaken, is to ‘cook’ a dough to a temperature of 65C? If that is the case, it is similar to the Japanese sweet Bun Dough recipe here in my blog, where it is basically used to gelatinize the starch in the flour (point number 1 as you have posted from Reinhart) .

      Comment by SeaDragon — February 25, 2012 @ 4:37 pm | Reply

  19. I personally wanted to share this blog post, Room Darkening Shades “Sweet Bun
    Dough (scalded-flour & sponge version) | Corner Café”
    together with my buddies on facebook or twitter.

    I reallyjust simply wanted to disperse ur superb publishing!
    Many thanks, Osvaldo

    Comment by Kelly — March 19, 2013 @ 5:20 pm | Reply

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