I love traditions. I love eating the same thing on my birthday every year, posing for the same photo with my brother every Christmas, and watching the same movie every year at the first hint of fall (so I can hear my favorite lines in movie history: “Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies”). It only makes sense that I make the same delicious treat to celebrate the first snow of the year…and several other snows and days of the year, if I’m being completely honest. Enter: Fluffy, Ultra Soft Sweet Vegan Star Bread. Or snow bread, as my husband and I call it. This bread is a crowdpleaser taste wise and looks wise. But here’s a secret: it’s not hard at all to put it together and make it look impressive and beautiful–and taste delicious.
What Makes This Vegan Star Bread Ultra Soft
The key to making this vegan star bread ultra soft and fluffy is using the tangzhong method. I know it sounds intimidating but, believe me, it is easy as pie. Essentially, you will heat a little bit of milk and a little bit of flour together to make a paste before adding it with the rest of the ingredients to make the dough. According to King Arthur Baking, this “pre-gelatinizes the starches in the flour, meaning they can absorb more water.” If you’re interested in the science of tangzhong, check out King Arthur Baking’s Introduction to Tangzhong. They also have an absolutely amazing guide to making any recipe softer using the tangzhong method. What it all comes down to is a soft dough, a good rise, and a long shelf life…which is everything I want in a sweet bread.
We’ve replaced an egg with a mashed banana, which keeps the bread moist and sweet without adding super banana-y flavor. Need to ripen your banana in a hurry? Check out Meu’s brilliant banana ripening method!
We also used vegan butter and almond milk to keep this recipe dairy free, but if all you have is dairy butter and milk on hand, that will work, too!
The beauty of this bread, besides its beautiful shape, is that it is completely versatile. The fluffy bread will pair with any number of fillings you have on hand. We used roasted strawberries, but you could also fill it with fruit preserves, chocolate chips, Nutella, nuts, a cinnamon sugar mixture…whatever you have on hand.
Making the Dough, Starting with the Tangzhong Paste
I am always a big proponent for measuring out all of your ingredients beforehand and having them out and ready to go. I think it is especially helpful for this recipe.
After you have your ingredients ready, the first step to making the vegan star bread is mixing the tangzhong paste. You will mix together a portion of the milk and a portion of the flour, whisk it until the lumps are gone, and then stir it over medium heat for just about one to three minutes. It will make a thick slurry. That’s it! That’s tangzhong! You’ll know it’s ready once it starts coming away from the bottom of the saucepan and looks like a thick paste or roux.
Next, you will transfer your paste to the bowl of a stand mixer (or other mixing bowl). Then, add the remaining ingredients to the bowl in the order they are listed. The order is specific because adding cold milk will help cool down the tangzhong paste. You’ll give all of that a mix with your dough hook, and then knead it for 7-9 minutes by machine or 10-12 by hand. The dough will be slightly sticky and mostly smooth.
The bread is ready for a rest at this point, which means you can take a rest, too. (Maybe watch a little bit of You’ve Got Mail? It’s really a movie for all seasons.) Once it doubles in size, it’s ready for filling!
Adding Your Filling
Trust me on this, if I can make this bread look like a star, you can, too. All it comes down to is some cutting and twisting. But first, we have to do some rolling of the dough. You’ll divide your risen dough into four even sections (either eyeballing or weighing is acceptable, in my opinion).
After that, we are rolling the sections into circles, approximately 10-11 inches wide. I have a tendency to roll out dough into blobs rather than circles, but Cook’s Illustrated has some advice that really helped me. If you get blobs, it’s not the end of the world, but your end result will look tidier if you have four even or evenish circles.
We’re basically building a dough/filling sandwich: Roll a circle, transfer it to your prepared baking sheet. Add some filling, spread it around to almost the edge. Roll another circle, place it on top of the filling. Add more filling, spread it around. Roll circle number 3, place it on top of the stack. Add more filling, spread it around. Roll your last circle, place it on top of the stack, and voila! Your dough/filling sandwich is complete. I like to pinch the edge of the circle together to help it all stay nice and tidy.
And friends, please do as I say, not as I do: Roll out your first dough circle and immediately transfer it to a prepared baking sheet. Don’t build your dough/filling sandwich on your countertop!
Shaping the Vegan Star Bread Dough
Now, it is time for the star to be born. Here’s the breakdown:
Place a 2.5-inch circle cutter (or similarly sized glass, jar, or even a measuring cup) in the middle of your dough/filling sandwich. Using a dough cutter or sharp knife, make 16 even cuts from the circle cutter to the edge of the dough. I start with cuts at 12 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock, and 9 o’clock, and then make the rest from there.
Next, it’s time to twist. Pick up the ends of two strips that are next to each other, holding one in each hand. Twist them out (away from each other) twice, then pinch the ends together. Keep doing that all the way around the bread. It’s looking beautiful already!
After another rest, your vegan star bread will have risen slightly and is nowready to bake.
It will become beautifully golden brown in the oven, and the star shape will fill out even more. Brushing your baked bread with vegan or dairy butter and dusting with powdered sugar will make your bread extra soft, sweet, and gorgeous.
A Few Notes:
- In case you think this looks outside of your comfort zone, I’m here for your pep talk: You’ve got this! I know this because you’re awesome and because it’s really not as hard as it looks. Really. This is completely doable and a lot of fun to make.
- I have always had good results with the rise using Cook’s Illustrated guide to turning your oven into a proof box.
- When transferring your dough circle to the baking sheet, I like to use a rolling pin. Roll the circle so it’s laying over the pin, then roll it off on the baking sheet.
- Because this is a sticky dough, it helps to flour your knife or dough cutter when you’re making the 16 cuts.