It’s my turn to pick the recipe for the Bread Baking Babes to bake. I chose Korean Cream Cheese Garlic Buns, adapted from this recipe. As I mentioned before, I’ve been interested in Korean food for a while now. At some point after the pandemic, I discovered Korean television drama or films. Though rarely a true cultural representation, dramas/ films can give you somewhat of an insight.
So I understand urban Koreans (on television anyways) love beer and soju (local alcohol made from rice or sweet potato); ramen/ ramyeon; all things pork, noodles and rice; Korean beef; kimchi; gimbap (Korean version of Sushi); tteokbokki; bibimbap; jjigae (stew), Korean fried chicken, and a host of street food.
They also enjoy bread and pastries, which though not traditionally Korean have become uniquely theirs. Like most Asian breads, Korean style breads are very soft, springy and often sweet. Korean Cream Cheese Garlic Buns which started as street food is one of them. They’re also known as Six-sided Cream Garlic Buns.
The Korean Cream Cheese Garlic Bun is nothing like the Western style Garlic Bread. Rather, it is a very soft bun that is divided into six equal segments or “leaves/ petals”. Dough is first baked into round buns. These are partially divided into six segments, and filled with a lightly sweetened cream cheese. They’re then dunked into custardy, lightly sweet and savoury garlic butter mixture. A second stint in the oven turns them lightly crunchy on the outside.
It may seem difficult to wrap one’s mind around a savoury, buttery and garlicky bread that’s a slightly sweet too. It did make me want to try it out, though. One has to eat this bun to understand how good it actually is.
Korean Cream Cheese Garlic Buns are said to have originated in Gangneung city in Gangwon-do Province. The Korean Cream Cheese Garlic Bun or Yukjjok (six-leaf) Garlic Bread is the signature bread at the Pain Famille bakery in Gangneung. Gangnam, Seoul’s fashionable district, supposedly made it popular and it can be found on a lot of cafés there. You can find this bun divided into eight “leaves” also and sometimes transversely cut little loaves.
The buns are easy enough to make, and this recipe makes six medium sized ones. You can double the recipe and keep the extra buns for burgers, sandwiches, soup, etc. The recipe below uses eggs, but I made mine without eggs and used egg-free mayo. I just left the eggs out, and my Korean Cream Cheese Garlic Buns turned out perfect. All dairy products here can be substituted with non-dairy ones if that’s how you want to go.
I also don’t get cream cheese easily here so I make a usable substitute at home. I blen equal portions of fresh paneer (milk cheese – curdle simmering milk with lime juice and strain well), 25% fat cream and thick yogurt.
These buns are meant to be reasonably sweet and savoury in taste. I personally don’t like bread in general to be sweet. So I reduced the sugar in the bread and the cream cheese a bit. I would suggest you adjust the sugar to your preference if you find the recipe to sweet.
The Panko bread crumbs as a topping are optional. They do however add a really nice light crunch. I didn’t have bread or bread crumbs so I used plain pound cake crumbs instead. That worked out really well too! You can bake the buns on one day and fill them with cream cheese, dunk them in garlic butter and bake them the next day. This makes quick work of making these buns and also serving them fresh out of the oven on demand.
Korean Cream Cheese Garlic Buns
For the Buns:
- 125 ml 1/2 cup milk at room temperature
- 2 1/2 tbsp sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose or bread flour
- 1/8 cup milk powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, soft at room temperature
- Egg wash (optional) I use milk
For the Sweet Cream Cheese:
- 1 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2 1/2 tbsp powdered/ icing sugar
- 1/8 cup heavy cream I use 25% fat cream
For the Sweet-Savoury Garlic Butter
- 120 gm salted butter
- 8 to 10 cloves garlic minced or crushed into paste
- 1/8 cup mayonnaise
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped parsley or dried
For the Topping:
- Panko style breadcrumbs
For the Bread:
- You can do this by hand or with a stand mixer. Your final dough should be soft, smooth and elastic enough to pass the “window-pane test” - where you stretch a small piece of dough and it doesn’t break easily allowing light to shine through it.
- Put all the ingredients for the buns except the butter, into the bowl of your mixer (or large mixing bowl if you’re kneading by hand). Mix till combined. Add the butter and knead. Add more milk, if required, and knead well.
- Check to see if it the dough passes the window-pane test. Shape the into a smooth ball. Place in a lightly-oiled bowl and loosely cover it. Let it rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours in a warm place till almost double in volume.
- Gently deflate the dough to get rid of all the air. Knead with your hands for another 3-5 minutes. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Shape each into a smooth round ball. Place them on a lightly greased or parchment lined baking tray. Cover loosely and let them rise for 30 to 40 minutes.
- Brush with milk or egg wash. Bake them at 180C or 350F for 18-20 minutes until golden brown. Let them cool on a rack completely.
For the Sweetened Cream Cheese:
- In a large bowl, whisk or blend the cream cheese and sugar together. Whisk in the cream till smooth. Refrigerate if not using immediately. Fill into a piping bag with plain nozzle. Set aside till required.
For the Sweet-Savoury Garlic Butter:
- Melt the butter in a medium bowl. Whisk in the crushed garlic/ paste, mayonnaise, and honey. Adjust to taste. Whisk in the egg and parsley till smooth. Keepa aside
Make the Cream Cheese Garlic Buns:
- Slice each bun bread roll into 6 equal sections, making sure not to cut all the way through the bottom. Think of the bun opening out into a flower with six “petals/ leaves”.
- Pipe a reasonable amount of the sweet cream cheese mixture in between the sections of the bun.
- Carefully hold the bun cut side down and dunk into the sweet-savoury garlic butter without the cream cheese falling out. Turn bread roll upside down and make sure the bun is completely and well coated. Drain excess back into your garlic butter bowl.
- Place the coated bun on a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with the other buns. Sprinkle the tops with Panko bread crumbs. Pipe a largish blob on the middle of the buns where the ends of the slices of the buns meet.
- Bake them at 165C (330F) for about 15 minutes till the top feels crisp and the bread crumbs a light golden brown. Serve warm.
The Bread Baking Babes are –