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Soft Sourdough Buns

Pillowy, pull apart, soft sourdough buns. My fav for smash burger sliders.

soft sourdough buns, pull apart buns

During my stage in St-Helena CA, one of my daily tasks was to thaw out “pannalay” dough and bake it into soft little bread rolls that were served alongside seared abalone to sop up the scrumptious juices. I had to coordinate the quantity I baked with the cooks from the garde manger to make sure there were enough portions for service (no one minded when there was some leftover after service, allowing me to gain some popularity with whomever I shared with.) Every single day, it was pannalay this, and pannalay that! I had become well-acquainted with the dough, but yet, it still remained a mystery to me. Being fresh out of pastry school and eager to learn, I mentally filed it away alongside the million other things I was absorbing in the 3-Michelin star restaurant. After about a month, we ran out of portions, and I was happy to be assigned the task of making a new batch from scratch. When I saw the recipe, I discovered that the dough used milk instead of water. I had a hilarious epiphany as I finally recognized the classic bread I had been making: pain au lait !! (the Americans were just doing their best to pronounce it.) Being the token French-speaking cook, I felt it was my duty to correct their pronunciation. Try as I may, they didn’t believe that pain had a silent “n”, and I, the French Canadian pâtissière, was ignored! “Learn to shut up” was also mentally filed away.

Bread made with milk is soft, pillowy, and has a fine crumb. I personally love the texture and complex flavour of a sourdough country loaf, but sometimes my family demands “good ol’ white bread”. I was inspired by the popular “pannalay” to make a sourdough version for any meal that demands light and fluffy bread (like dinner rolls or smash burger sliders.)

smash burger slider, sourdough hamburger bun

Yield: approximately 16 buns


115g sourdough starter*

230g lukewarm water

300g unbleached all-purpose flour

10g sea salt

25g raw granulated sugar

30g milk powder

45g potato flour

10g instant yeast

85g butter, room temperature


  1. In a stand mixer with a dough hook, add all the ingredients, except for the butter.

  2. Mix on low until everything is combined**

  3. Once you’re satisfied with the hydration level, increase the speed and mix until you have a successful windowpane test***

  4. Reduce the speed to low and add small pieces of butter, waiting for each one to be incorporated before adding the next piece.

  5. Cover the bowl and let it bulk rise for 1-2hrs or until doubled in size.

  6. You can either put the dough in the fridge overnight or continue to portion and shape the buns.

  7. Portion the buns to approximately 50g using a bench scraper and scale.

  8. To form the buns fold 50g piece in half onto itself twice and then ball by cupping the dough in your palm and rolling it on the workbench in a circular motion.

  9. Place balls onto a lined baking sheet, leaving about 1-2cm of space between each piece.

  10. Cover with a second baking sheet upside down and let proof until doubled in size- all the buns should be touching.

  11. Lightly brush with egg wash.

  12. If making burger slider buns, adding sesame seeds is a nice touch.

  13. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes

*Want to make this recipe but don't have a sourdough starter? Head to this post to learn how to make it from scratch!

**Pro-tip #1! At this point, you should judge if the dough looks too wet or dry and adjust with a bit of flour or water, accordingly. Every flour behaves differently, depending on the time of year and your location, so it’s good practice to always check after the initial mix.

*** Pro-tip #2! Windowpane test verifies if the gluten has been sufficiently developed. To do this, grab a piece of dough (roughly the size of a golf ball) and roll it into a ball. Then gently flatten and start to pull evenly around the edges. My chef at school said “you should be able to stretch the dough and be able to read a newspaper through it” without it tearing. If it tears, keep kneading the dough.

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