Sea Salt Butter Rolls

July  2, 2023
4 Ratings
Photo by Jun
  • Prep time 1 hour
  • Cook time 2 hours 45 minutes
  • makes 16-18 rolls
Author Notes

I’ve never been as obsessed about a bread as I currently am with sea salt butter rolls. Also known as 塩パン (shio-pan) in Japanese or 소금빵 (sogeum-ppang) in Korean — both literally translating to “salt bread” — the bread takes the best characteristics of my favorite breads, and combines them into a singular, superior yeasted bun. From the crisp crust of a good French baguette, to the pillowy soft insides reminiscent of brioches or milk breads, even to a shape akin to the iconic rolls of a croissant, sea salt butter rolls have just about all the things I love about bread.

Making it is relatively straightforward. It starts off like a regular milk bread, with the dough comprising of flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and some form of enriched liquids (most commonly milk and water, with the optional eggs and butter). The dough then gets divided, shaped, and rolled out into a foot-long, tapered triangle. Next comes the key step — a log of butter is placed on one end of each dough, then gets rolled up into the dough like a cigar. Then as the bread bakes, its outer skin will harden and brown into a thin, crisp crust, and the log of butter within will melt and perfume the bread from the insides, making the bread exponentially more buttery and rich.

While the origins of the bread is said to be Japanese, over the pandemic, it rose in popularity in Korea, then across Asia. Thanks to the lockdowns, I ended up watching dozens of YouTube videos of Korean bakeries making sea salt butter rolls, dreaming of one day traveling to Soha Salt Pond and Peterpan 1978 in Seoul to indulge in these buttery buns. And last month, I finally did! And when I landed at Incheon airport, I bought the first ones I saw at a random bakery right at the terminal. And it was glorious. Crispy on the outside, soft and yielding on the insides, as perfect as a bread could be, and even more enjoyable than what all those videos promised.

And now that I’m back home though, after weeks of post-trip withdrawals and a few rounds of failed, not-nearly-as-buttery buns, I finally have a solid, home baker-friendly recipe for this best, buttery-est bread! —Jun

What You'll Need
  • 1 cup (240ml) whole milk
  • 3 teaspoons (12g) instant dry yeast
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) water
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons (30g) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (8g) kosher salt
  • 6 cups (720g) strong bread flour
  • 1/4 cup salted butter, cubed and softened
  • 2 1/4 cups salted butter, to fill the rolls
  • 1 tablespoon flaky sea salt, to garnish
  1. Heat the milk in a saucepan or a medium bowl in the microwave until just warm to touch (around 105°F (40°C)). Add the instant dry yeast to it, stir and leave it for 2-3 minutes to let the yeast activate. Then add the egg, water, granulated sugar, and salt to the milk and yeast, and whisk to combine. Transfer this into the bowl of a stand mixer, or a large bowl if kneading by hand. Then, add the bread flour and knead with a dough hook for 5 minutes until a rough dough forms (or 8-10 minutes if kneading by hand). Add the cubes of softened butter to it, and knead for 6-8 more minutes, until the dough is smooth. Shape the dough into a large ball, and leave it to proof in a large bowl or the countertop for 60 minutes while covered with a kitchen towel or cloth.
  2. While the dough is proofing, cut the block of butter into rectangular logs approximately 3 inches long and 1/2 inch wide and tall. Arrange the butter logs neatly on a small tray or plate, leaving a small gap in between each piece, and put the whole tray in the freezer.
  3. When the dough is proofed, punch it down, give it a few folds to combine evenly, and divide the dough into 2.6 oz. (75g) pieces. You should get 16-18 pieces this way. Roll all the dough pieces into round balls. Working with one dough at a time, shape each dough ball into a teardrop shape approximately 6 inches long. This can be done by rolling the dough just like how you would roll it into a log, then shifting the weight on your palms to one side so the dough tapers out into a sharp point. When done, cover the dough with a kitchen towel or cloth, and let them rest for 30 minutes.
  4. Using a rolling pin, flatten out each dough into a long triangle roughly 3 inches wide at the base and about 1.5 feet long. Put one log of the half-frozen butter on the wide end of the dough triangle, and give it one roll so all sides of the butter is wrapped in dough. Gently pinch the ends of the dough so the butter is completely sealed within, then continue rolling until the sharp end of the dough triangle, kind of like how croissants are rolled and made. Transfer this onto a lined baking tray, and repeat for the rest of the dough and butter, making sure that you leave at least a 3-inch gap in between each rolled dough on the tray. (You might need two trays for this.) When done, cover the buns with a kitchen towel or cloth, and let them proof for 90 minutes, until they are at least double their size.
  5. Heat an oven to 375°F (190°C) on convection.
  6. When the buns have proofed, spray some water on the dough until the surface of every piece is evenly wet and glossy. Then, sprinkle some flaky sea salt onto the top of each dough, and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, until they’re perfectly golden brown.
  7. When done, take the rolls out of the oven, and immediately brush the rolls with the melted butter that has pooled on the tray. Then, transfer the rolls onto a wire rack to cool down for 10 minutes, and dig in! They are best when they’re fresh out of the oven, but if you’re keeping it for the next day, store them in an airtight container, and reheat them in a toaster or oven for 3-5 minutes at 320°F (160°C) whenever you’re hungry for some.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Kylie
  • kuorgette
  • Dimitri

3 Reviews

Kylie May 9, 2024
Heavenly! Do make these, they are surprisingly easy and only take 4 hours which isn't a long time for bread! I always cook my rolls longer, they will not become dry but they will get more crispy and golden. Bake the rolls on a silver metal sheet lan with no parchment silpat for a deliciously crunchy bottom. For the final rest you only need to rest to rolls for 1 hour and trust me you won’t want to wait the full 1:30 for the final proof anyway you will be dying to eat them.
kuorgette January 2, 2024
I just discovered salt bread in Korea recently and have been craving it ever since. Followed this recipe to a t and it works for me! It was my first time making bread so I couldn’t believe how close they were to the ones I tried in Korea. Some tips: the dough is quite sticky so the rolling into teardrop shape was quite a pain.. learnt later to use baking paper on top and bottom of the dough while flattening it out. Also, the answer to get that crispy bottom is that there must be butter under each bun so that they get fried! Some of my buns didn’t have a pool of butter under them so I just moved the tray such that the butter gets to them (around 10min mark?). You’ll see the dough sizzling in the butter! I’ll definitely make this again but maybe half the portion size.
Dimitri October 24, 2023
Yes this was a pretty good recipe and method rollout. I was introduced to these recently when I went to Korea. I've made bread for many years and that helped when I made some adjustments to the recipe. I found the dough was a bit too dry when I first worked it according to the recipe (maybe I'm to blame) so I added some water (not allot) just to get if away from that falling apart dry dough. the method and instructions are a little more sensitive than most for example, after making 18 of them, unless it is for an event like having the while family over, you wont eat this all when they come out of the oven. reheating at 160degrees C for 6 minutes was helpful although I left them for 7 minutes and a bit because they were in the refrigerator and tried to replicate the crispy skin.