First, do you see how wonderful the interior is from the above pull? That’s the beauty of challah made in the style of milk bread.
The bread design for these was inspired by rainbow seed bird feeders via Darci Miller. Lily and I made one of the bird feeders last year and she had so much fun sprinkling the nuts. Just about as much fun as she did sprinkling the seeds on this dough!
Of course you could make these into balls and bake them on a tray and have a perfectly good milk bread bun, but where’s the fun in that? These are a labor of love, it takes some time to roll out each strand and sprinkle the strands one at a time with the toppings but oh, the cuteness! We’re taking the side dish cutometer to level 100 here.
How to make Milk Breads
If you’ve made my milk bread babka before, this will be a very familiar dough. I use a Japanese method which involves cooking liquid together with some of the flour to create a paste called a tangzhong. This stops some of the gluten from forming in the dough so you get a very soft bread.
Once the paste is made you’ll only need to prove the yeast. Everything goes into the bowl together and it kneads for about 10 minutes. I like to do the first rise overnight in the fridge as it makes the dough easier to work with but you can also do it at room temp for a shorter period.
How to shape Milk Bread into Personal Rainbows
Once the dough has had its first rise it’ll be time to shape. Divided into eight portions, this makes breads that are about eight inches wide and six inches tall. You’ll divide each of those eight into five smaller portions; using a bench scraper to cut it into five pieces that are descending in size. The goal is to have five strands, each decreasing in size, to shape into arcs. The longest will be the top arc, the shortest will be the bottom. The pics below will help you.
Toppings for Rainbow Seed Milk Bread
You’ll want a variety of seeds or small nuts for a rainbow effect. Look for 5 different seeds of varying colors and arrange them how you like, I have a suggested list below. You could also do without the toppings altogether and just shape rainbows.
Btw, the little strands you cut off once you even out the bottom of the rainbows can make the cutest little clouds!
Rainbow Seed Milk Bread
Super soft and fluffy milk breads shaped into personal sized rainbows and decorated with a variety of seeds for color.
Make the roux by combining the milk and flour in a small pot. Whisk frequently for about 5 minutes, until it thickens and becomes a paste. Once it’s done you can set it in the bottom of your stand mixer while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Pour the warm water into a bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it. Sprinkle the sugar on top of the yeast. Whisk it with a fork gently so that the yeast is covered. Set aside for a few minutes to prove.
Over the thickened roux, add the remaining dough ingredients (eggs, oil, flour, salt, and sugar). Pour the yeast in as well and fit the stand mixer with a dough hook. Turn the mixer on low and move it slowly to medium. Let it knead the dough for about 10 minutes, scraping down if there is flour caught on the sides.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn it a few times to cover the dough with oil. Cover it with plastic wrap and set in the fridge overnight or at room temperature for a few hours. It should double in size.
When you are ready to begin shaping, prepare two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Flour a countertop and turn the chilled dough onto it. Divide the dough into eight large pieces (if you have a scale you can weigh them so they are equal). You’ll work with one piece at a time so cover the remaining dough with a tea towel to prevent it from drying out.
Divide the ball into five smaller pieces of decreasing size
the largest will form the top arc and the smallest the bottom arc of the rainbow. Using two hands and beginning with the largest piece, roll each piece into a log that’s about ½ inch thick (the longest should be about 12 inches long). Curve it so it forms an arc or upside down U and place it on the parchment paper. With the second largest rope, tuck it underneath the first. Keep going until all 5 strands are in and you have a rainbow. If any strands are too long, cut them off with a bench scraper or knife so you have clean edges.
Repeat with remaining seven dough portions. You’ll be able to fit four rainbows on each pan. Set them in the oven (while it’s off) to rise for about an hour or so until they are puffy.
Remove them from the oven and turn the oven to preheat to 375 F. Have your toppings nearby and begin by brushing the rainbows with the egg wash and sprinkling the seeds in color order of a rainbow. The egg wash dries quickly so brush only one rainbow strand at a time and then sprinkle the seeds. Little hands are wonderful helpers here!
Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden on the top and bottom.