Soboro bread is a popular sweet bread found in Korean bakeries (“soboro” is actually a Japanese term that refers to minced things—like ground meats or this crumbly topping). Rounds of pillowy, milk-based dough get topped with a crunchy, not-too-sweet peanutty brown-sugar streusel. I’ve eaten these, along with a cold glass of milk, for breakfast almost every day for my entire life.
But my absolute favorite soboro bread also comes filled with a sweetened red bean paste. (These are, surprisingly, quite hard to find; I’ve only stumbled upon one Korean bakery that has both the soboro bread peanut streusel topping and the sweetened red bean filling. It’s always one or the other, for some odd reason.) In recreating these bakery-approved fluffy, tender loaves at home, I employed the simple, traditional technique used in most Asian yeasted bread recipes: tangzhong.
The tangzhong method calls for a portion of the flour and water to get whisked and cooked together before being added to the rest of the dough. This forces the flour to absorb even more liquid than is typical, which means a greater potential for steam. More steam means more lift and more moisture—which means tender, pull-apart loaves that are so light, they seem to dissolve on your tongue.
The peanut streusel—consisting of an uber-chunky peanut butter (I like the texture that an organic, super chunky peanut butter provides, but any chunky one will do!), sugar, egg yolk, and cornstarch—comes together easily while the dough rises. The cornstarch is key for a lighter, crisper topping that shatters upon first bite. To adhere this utterly delicious (but utterly impossible to work with) topping to the bread, I again turn to cornstarch—this time in the form of a slurry. The streusel adheres to the surface better with the help of a slurry than an egg wash.
Now you could go ahead and bake these unfilled, as-is. But, the red-bean filling comes together simply (as in, crack open a can, scoop, and fill) and makes for a big payoff. I like Morinaga Ogura An because the beans are still left somewhat whole. But pick whatever brand and texture you like.
Enjoy the breads warm, or at room temperature, with a mug of hot coffee or glass of cold milk. Stored in an airtight container on the counter, they will keep for up to 3 days—if they last you that long. —Catherine Yoo
- Prep time 2 hours 15 minutes
- Cook time 30 minutes
- Makes 12 buns
(1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon) water
(2 1/4 cups plus 2 1/2 tablespoons) bread flour, divided
(1/2 cup) warm milk (100 to 110°F)
(4 tablespoons) sugar
(1 teaspoon) kosher salt
(3 teaspoons) active dry yeast
(2 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing
- Peanut streusel
(1/3 cup) salted butter, at room temperature
(4 tablespoons) chunky peanut butter
(1/3 cup) brown sugar
large egg yolk
(1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
(1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
(1 teaspoon) baking powder
(1 tablespoon) cornstarch
(1 tablespoon) dark corn syrup
(1 cup) water, room temperature
(1 tablespoon) cornstarch
1 (14.3-ounce can) sweetened, mashed red beans
- Whisk the water and 2 1/2 tablespoons bread flour together, in a microwave-safe bowl, until no lumps remain. Microwave the tangzhong for 1 minute, in 30-second intervals, or until the mixture is a thick slurry.
- Add the tangzhong and warm milk to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until just combined, then add the egg and whisk until homogenous. Swap the whisk attachment for the dough hook, and add the remaining bread flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Mix the dough on medium-speed until smooth and barely sticking to the bottom of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Add the butter, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Once the butter is incorporated, knead another 5 minutes on medium speed.
- Lightly grease a medium bowl with butter. Once the dough is fully mixed—the dough should still be slightly sticky to the touch—form it into a ball, and place in the oiled bowl. Cover with a large plate or kitchen towel and let rest in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, make the peanut streusel: Change the dough hook for the paddle attachment, and cream the butter and peanut butter on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla, and mix until just incorporated, then the all-purpose flour, baking powder, cornstarch, salt, and syrup. Mix just until the dough starts to clump, forming crumbly bits around the size of peas. (Clump the streusel with your hands to form clusters of varying sizes). Cover and set aside at room temperature until ready to top the buns.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and whisk together the remaining cup of water with the cornstarch in a small bowl until smooth. Set the prepared sheets and slurry aside.
- Divide the rested dough into 12 balls (each weighing 50 grams). Working with one portion at a time, stretch the ball into 3-inch circle. Spoon 2 tablespoons (about 35 grams) of red bean paste into the center, and pinch the dough around the filling until entirely enclosed. Flip and roll the ball, seam-side-down, around on the work surface to seal the dough around the filling. Be careful not to stretch the dough too tightly around the filling, or it will leak.
- Dip the smooth side of the filled bun into the cornstarch slurry and place onto a lined sheet (6 filled buns, spaced at least 2 1/2 inches apart, should fit on each sheet, so plan accordingly). Press 2 tablespoons of the peanut streusel onto the wetted bun, flattening it slightly to a 3-inch disc. Repeat with the remaining dough, filling, and topping. Loosely cover both trays with a kitchen towel, and let the buns rise in a warm place until doubled again in size, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375°F,
- Bake the buns until golden brown, rotating halfway, about 12-14 minutes total. Cool the soboro-ppang on a rack for 10 minutes before digging into. Enjoy warm or at room temperature, with a cup of coffee or a glass of cold milk! The buns can be stored in an airtight container on the counter for up to 3 days.