Buff Bear Bread Is Fluffy, Buttery, and, Yes, Totally Ripped. Here’s How to Make It.

published Mar 3, 2021
Buff Bear Bread

Buff Bear Bread blends the best two parts of the internet: the cute and the weird. Here's a step-by-step guide to making your own, which uses a milk bread base.

Makes2 loaves

Prep3 hours

Cook25 minutes

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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

Buff bear bread blends the best two parts of the internet: the cute and the frivolous. Bear bread has been around for a long time, but this swoll version became popularized in 2020 by Japanese bread artist Ran, who goes by @konel_bread on Instagram. To learn more about its origins and the many (adorable) spin-offs, check out my story here. When you’re ready to bake your own, read on.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

Making buff bear bread dough isn’t hard — you basically follow the recipe for Japanese Milk Bread until the very end, when it’s time to shape the muscles. You’ll need a digital scale to accurately measure each of the 17 pieces (hey, buff bear has a lot of abs), and although everyone’s dough will vary a bit in weight, if you keep to the general ratios in the recipe below, your bear will look great.

If you’re looking to give your bear some weights, try giving it a sausage to hold. Berkshire sausages are commonly used in Japanese cuisine and give a rich, smoky taste (you can buy them online or at a Japanese grocery store), but hot dogs can be easily swapped in their place. As for the face, there are two ways you can decorate, the first of which is using nori sheets. A Bento nori press makes quick work of bringing the bear to life, but if you’re in a pinch, you can easily cut out a face with scissors. Piping on a little bit of chocolate is also a great option that will create strong, distinctive features.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

Like a regular loaf of milk bread, buff bear bread is fluffy and buttery. Right before it’s baked, it gets brushed with egg wash to give the outside a rich brown color and a sheen reminiscent of glistening posing oil. What more could you want from your body-building bear?

Buff Bear Bread

Buff Bear Bread blends the best two parts of the internet: the cute and the weird. Here's a step-by-step guide to making your own, which uses a milk bread base.

Prep time 3 hours

Cook time 25 minutes

Makes 2 loaves

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter, plus more for coating the bowl and pan

  • 1/4 cup

    plus 2 tablespoons water

  • 2 1/2 cups

    plus 2 tablespoons bread flour, divided, plus more for kneading

  • 1/2 cup

    whole milk

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    active dry yeast

  • 2 tablespoons

    granulated sugar

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1/3 cup

    heavy cream

  • 2

    large eggs, divided

  • 4

    berkshire sausages (optional)

  • 1/4 sheet

    nori, cut into two faces (or 1 tablespoon melted white and milk chocolate)

Instructions

Make the dough:

  1. Place 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a small bowl and let sit out at room temperature to soften while you prepare the dough.

  2. Place 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons of the bread flour in a small saucepan and whisk until smooth. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until the mixture becomes thick and paste-like, 1 to 2 minutes. Immediately scrape into a large bowl and let cool to room temperature.

  3. Place 1/2 cup whole milk in a small microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup. Microwave on high until warm but not hot (about 100°F), 20 to 30 seconds. Sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast over the milk, stir to dissolve, and set aside until small bubbles form around the edge of the bowl, 5 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 2 1/2 cups bread flour, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, and 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt together in a medium bowl.

  4. Add the yeast mixture, 1/3 cup heavy cream, and 1 of the large eggs to the cooled flour paste and whisk until smooth. Add the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms.

  5. Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until a rough ball of dough forms, 2 to 3 minutes. If the dough is too sticky, knead in 1 tablespoon flour at a time until it comes together. Add the softened butter and knead until the dough is completely smooth, 3 to 4 minutes, adding more flour if needed to prevent sticking.

  6. Coat a large bowl with butter, then transfer the dough into it. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Meanwhile, line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, then coat the parchment and sides of the pan lightly with butter.

  7. Punch down the dough and transfer it onto a work surface. Divide the dough into 2 pieces with a bench scraper or knife (each about 380 grams). Set aside one piece and cover with plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.

Form the parts:

  1. To make one bear, portion out the first piece of dough into 17 pieces (2 ears, 1 head, 2 chest, 2 arms, 6 abs, 2 stomach sides, and 2 legs). For the head, portion out 90 grams. Shape into a ball by pulling any loose sides together and pinching closed. Place smooth-side up on the work surface, cup your hand loosely over the top, and rotate your hand in a circular motion to smooth the top and further blend the pinched bottom. Gently press down and stretch into the desired shape. Set aside and loosely cover with plastic wrap.

  2. Repeat the process with the following weights: 6 grams for each ear, 35 grams for each chest, 36 grams for each arm, 9 grams for each ab (6 total), 11 grams for each stomach side, and 23 grams for each leg. After shaping each ball, carefully stretch into the desired shape.

Assemble the bears:

  1. Assemble the first bear on one side of the baking sheet, gently applying pressure and lightly pinching to connect each piece, but not pressing so hard that each section loses its distinctive shape or lines. If using sausages, wedge them carefully between the bottom of the arms and sides, pinch the dough together to secure. Loosely cover in plastic wrap. Repeat making the second bear.

  2. Let rise in a warm place for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Crack the remaining egg into a small bowl and whisk until no streaks remain.

Bake the bears:

  1. Uncover the bears and gently adjust any sides to create your desired shape. Brush the beaten egg onto the dough, but leave a small circle on the head unbrushed for the mouth. If using nori, brush one side of the seaweed face with egg wash and place it on the head. It will adhere to the dough fully once cooked.

  2. Bake until the top is golden-brown and shiny, about 23 to 27 minutes. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. If you are decorating with melted chocolate, let cool to room temperature before piping the face.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be wrapped and stored at room temperature for up to 1 week.