Sourdough Pumpkin Hokkaido Milk Bread with Salted Honey Maple Butter

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed my recent obsession with sourdough. My sourdough starter has been the most successful thing I’ve grown; somehow we’re going on two years and it hasn’t died on me yet! This summer I decided to focus on maintaining a strong starter so we could have fresh bread for the long Canadian winter ahead. It’s been a dangerously delicious hobby!

Although most of my efforts have been on artisan hearth breads with a crispy, crunchy crust I’ve also been experimenting with sandwich breads which are easier for my still-relatively-gummy little guy to handle. This sourdough Hokkaido milk bread formula I found on The Fresh Loaf has been popular in our house — it’s delicious for sandwiches, but also simply toasted with jam. Or plain, fresh out of the oven.

In the spirit of pumpkin spice season, I thought it would be fun to try making a pumpkin version. I’m quite happy with how it turned out — just the right festive color! The pumpkin, to be honest, is there more for color and moisture than flavor; I think you could probably add a tablespoon or two more puree, though it’ll depend on the water content of your puree (I used store-bought).

As it is, this is a delightfully soft sandwich bread with a mild sourdough tang. We enjoyed it with salted honey maple butter, but it also made a mean grilled cheese. I think it would also make lovely dinner rolls for a Thanksgiving meal!

A few notes:

  1. I know a lot of people don’t have sourdough starter around; check out this recipe which uses similar ingredients but no starter. I suspect you could probably take your favorite Hokkaido milk bread recipe and add about 1/2 a cup of pumpkin — maybe hold back a couple tablespoons of liquid to start.
  2. I knead this dough by hand, and it starts out very sticky (sourdough or not). It also takes a lot of time, patience, and practice. You will think that it is never going to become a workable dough, but it will. I use this enriched bread dough technique for kneading and it typically takes me 10-15 minutes (it took longer the first time). Avoid the urge to add more flour as this will make your loaf dense. Just keep at it; it’s a good stress reliever! 🙂
  3. This recipe takes a long time from start to finish — about a day and a half (most of it is waiting). Because the dough is enriched it proofs even slower than “regular” sourdough.
  4. I am providing this recipe in grams as that is how I measure my breads. The correct ratios are important so I highly encourage the use of a scale!!!
  5. This bread also makes great cinnamon rolls that stay soft for days. Directions are at the end.
  6. Bread baking is a skill that takes a lot of practice and I certainly am still at the beginning stages of my journey. But I am happy to try answering any questions you might have! And I’d love to hear if this recipe works out for you!

Sourdough Pumpkin Hokkaido Milk Bread

Adapted from The Fresh Loaf | Makes one 8.5″ x 4.5″ loaf

Levain Ingredients

  • 18 g mature sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 30 g milk
  • 56 g bread flour

Mix and ferment at room temp (73F) for 10-12 hours. When ready it should be puffy and domed and you should see large bubbles if you pull back the top.

Final dough ingredients

  • 276g bread or AP flour (I used half KAF bread flour and half AP flour for a balance of chewiness and volume)
  • 34g granulated sugar
  • 34g softened unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 5g fine grain sea salt
  • 110g whole milk, lukewarm
  • 100g pumpkin puree
  • 15g milk powder
  • Melted butter, for brushing
  • All of the levain


  1. Mix together all final dough ingredients except the salt and butter until just combined. Cover and autolyse (rest) for 30 minutes.
  2. Add salt, and knead dough until gluten is moderately developed. The dough will start out sticky and rough but should gradually come together and feel quite smooth and stretchy. Add butter in two batches, mixing the first completely before adding the second. Continue kneading until the gluten is very well developed and the dough passes the windowpane test as demonstrated here. The dough should be smooth and supple (and quite lovely to handle!). This will take quite some time, especially if done by hand. Consider it your arm workout for the day!
  3. Transfer to a clean bowl, cover, and bulk rise at room temp (73F) for 2 hours. The dough will be noticeably expanded, but not doubled. Fold, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
  4. The next day, take the dough out and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Divide it into 3 or 4 equal parts and lightly shape each into a ball. Rest for one hour, covered by lightly oiled plastic.
  5. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll each ball into an oval and roll up (like a jelly roll). Rest for 10 minutes. Roll each piece into an oval again, along the seam, and re-roll as tightly as possible. Transfer rolls to a loaf pan, seam sides down. Cover loosely with plastic and allow to rise about 6 hours at room temperature. The dough should be well risen, puffy, and fill the pan about 80%.
  6. About 1 hour before baking, preheat oven to 400F. After the dough has finished proofing, transfer to oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, rotating pan halfway through for even browning. If the loaf is browning too quickly, tent a piece of foil over the top to keep from burning. When the loaf is finished, immediately turn it onto a rack. Brush melted butter over the top and sides while the loaf is still warm. Allow to cool before slicing.

Salted Honey Maple Butter


  • 1/4 cup softened, unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp of honey and/or maple syrup (I used about a tbsp of each)
  • Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon


Using a handheld mixer, whip butter and honey/maple syrup together until combined. Gently stir in a generous pinch of flaky sea salt (such as Maldon). Serve at room temperature, sprinkled with more flaky sea salt.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls Variation:

Prepare bread through step 4, except don’t divide the dough when you take it out of the fridge. After the hour rest, on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle about 12″ x 16″. Spread the surface with a couple tablespoons of melted butter, followed by a generous amount of cinnamon sugar (I like a 1/4 c sugar to 2 tsp cinnamon ratio). Roll up tightly, cut into 9 pieces, and place in a 8″ x 8″ square pan. Continue with proofing as above; bake at 400F for about 25 min. I spread some maple cream cheese frosting on the top when they were still a little warm, which made the frosting a bit melty (which is how we like it). If you prefer more of a frosting, wait until the rolls are completely cool.

Pork Floss Twist Variation:

This version is inspired by a popular Chinese bakery item – pork floss buns. I decided to roll and twist it like a babka because it’s pretty; plus it’s faster than making individual rolls.

pork floss babka


  • 1 recipe sourdough pumpkin Hokkaido milk bread, prepared through the first rise (you can roll it directly from the fridge; no need to rest for an hour at room temp)
  • 3 T mayo (preferably kewpie)
  • 1/4 c pork floss
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 3 T toasted sesame seeds, white or black or a mix of the two
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water or milk, for egg wash
  • 1 T sugar dissolved in 1 T hot water, for the sugar glaze
  • Additional pork floss, scallions (green parts), and sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)


  1. Grease and line a 9×5 loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang of at least 2 inches on the long sides (for easy removal later).
  2. On a lightly floured surface (I prefer a Silpat), roll out the dough into a rectangle roughly 10 x 12 in. Spread the mayo evenly over the surface, leaving about a 1/2 inch border on all sides. Sprinkle on the sesame seeds followed by the pork floss and scallions. Turn the dough so a short end is facing you. Brush the opposite end with water, and gently but tightly roll up like a jelly roll. Once rolled up, roll gently back and forth a few times to seal. Transfer the log to the fridge or freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up (optional, but recommended).
  3. If desired, trim about 1/2 an inch off each end (I don’t bother because I don’t mind if the ends don’t have filling; but if you do, trim them). Using a bench scraper or sharp knife, cut the dough in half lengthwise. Place the two sides next to each other, cut side up. Gently pinch the tops together and twist the two together, keeping the cut sides up. Transfer twist to the prepared pan. (See here for a some helpful pictures.)
  4. Cover with plastic and proof for about 6 hours at room temperature. When ready, the dough should look very puffy and have risen to the top of the loaf pan.
  5. When the loaf is nearly finished rising, preheat the oven to 400F and prepare the egg wash. Just before baking, brush the surface lightly with egg wash and sprinkle additional sesame seeds over the surface.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes at 400F, then turn the oven down to 375F, rotate the pan, and bake for about 15 more minutes or until the loaf is well browned and registers at least 195F in the center. If the loaf is browning quickly, tent with foil. (I cover mine for the last 10 minutes or so.)
  7. Immediately after taking the loaf out, brush all over with the sugar glaze. Sprinkle on more pork floss and scallions, if desired. Cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

20 thoughts on “Sourdough Pumpkin Hokkaido Milk Bread with Salted Honey Maple Butter

    1. Thank you so much, Karen! I just checked out your website — yum! I’ll have to try some of your bread recipes.

  1. Hi Ruth! I saw the rolls in your Instagram feed and HAD to make them for my Dad’s birthday brunch. I had to play with the proofing and hydration due to timing and my starter’s hydration, but they turned out amazingly. What a beautiful, delicious recipe. Thank you for sharing!

    1. That’s so great to hear, Kelly! Thank you for trying the recipe. I’m thrilled it worked with your adjustments and turned out for your dad’s birthday!

  2. Hello there 🙂 Have you ever tried using a bit more sourdough starter in the levain to speed things up a little? The timing here might not work to my upcoming schedule, so I’m just wondering if it’s possible to accelerate the process by a few hours. Thanks!

    1. Hi Jessie,
      I haven’t tried it with more levain — my concern is that it could add too much of a sour flavor to this type of bread. What I will often do is make the levain first thing in the morning, mix the dough as soon as it’s ready (~5-6 hours if your starter is active), let it rise for a couple hours then refrigerate. I’ll shape it right before bed and let it rise overnight (somewhere not too hot), then bake first thing in the morning. If you do try it with more starter let me know how it turns out!

      1. Hi Ruth, thanks for your recommendation. My starter was a little temperamental last night and didn’t react as actively as it usually does. I’ve also never used milk in my levain before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. After a night of proofing, the dough still seems rather slack and very wet, so it’s a little worrying… Hope it’ll be ready for shaping tonight though!

        1. Hope it goes well for you! The dough definitely needs a very thorough kneading and should be able to form a strong windowpane — did that happen for you? It usually takes me 10-12 minutes with a Kitchenaid, more by hand.

          1. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen for me. I started off with a machine and later hand folded it around 6 or 7 times after first proof. The dough was way too slack to work with and it didn’t rise very much in volume even after a 22 hour second proof in the fridge, I wonder if it has to do with my pumpkin being extremely sweet and juicy vs. the low absorption of my flour. I still baked it and it came out pretty nice though! Might tweak my liquid % and give it more testing another time. Thanks!!

  3. Hi Ruth,
    Thanks so much for providing this recipe. I’m trying it out this weekend. If I wanted to hold the shaped loaf overnight in the fridge to bake the next day (so 3 days total to complete the recipe vs 2 as written), what would you recommend? I’d assume not to let it proof for a full 6 hrs before popping it in the fridge. Should I do 1 or 2 hours at (cool) room temp then put in the fridge? Or straight to the fridge after shaping and then proofing a few hours at room temp the next day? Or do you think I wouldn’t need to room temp proof at all? (I’ve made cinnamon buns this way, over 3 days, no room temp proofing and baked straight from the fridge, and they puffed up beautifully in the oven.)
    Thank you so much in advance!!

    1. Hi Jean! I haven’t tried cold proofing this dough myself. I’d probably give it a couple hours at room temp before sticking it in the fridge, and seeing how much it rises overnight. Then if need be let it rise at room temp a bit longer the next day. I have held the bulk proofed dough in the fridge as long as 24 hours and it was fine, so that’s another option as well. Hope that helps!

      1. Thanks, Ruth! Reporting back that the 3-day approach worked wonderfully! I ended up proofing the loaf about 2 hours at room temp before sticking it in the fridge overnight (it rose a bit more during this time). The next day, I let it sit out for about an hour while I was baking something else, during which time it got slightly puffier–I think it would’ve been fine to bake straight from the fridge too, which I may try next time. It rose beautifully in the oven. The bread had a great, light and crisp crust, and the interior was amazing soft, fluffy, and shreddable. A beautiful color inside from the pumpkin. Thanks again for the recipe and for your help! I’ll definitely be making this again.

        1. Hi Jean! Thank you so much for reporting back! I’m so happy to hear it worked out and it’s great to know the recipe works with other timings as well.

  4. This is an awesome recipe! I tried it and the result was outstanding!!! Thank you very much!! I’ll try a veggie version of the pork twist!!! It is a very beautiful idea!!

  5. Hi Ruth, do you still have the link to the enriched dough kneading technique you referenced in your post? The link takes me to the Epicurious search screen, so not sure if it’s still available. Thank you!

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