The bread starter will help give your milk bread the lovely fluffy cloud like texture inside, you can make this just before you begin to make your dough. Pop the flour, milk and water into a saucepan over a medium heat. Whisk together to create a smooth paste, continue to heat and whisk until your mixture begins to thicken and reaches around 65°C. Scrape into a glass bowl and leave to cool slightly.
Pop your flour, sugar and yeast into a large bowl or bowl or a free standing mixer and mix together.
Heat your milk to around 40-45°C, it should feel slightly warm touch – it is easiest to do this in the microwave for about 30-40 seconds. Add the egg, melted butter and Vanilla Extract and whisk together to combine.
Pour into the flour mixture and add your cooled starter. Bring the dough together, either using a free standing mixer fitted with a dough hook on a low speed, or using a spatula.
Once your dough is combined turn up your mixer speed to medium and knead your dough for about 8-10 minutes until it stops sticking to the sides of the bowl. To test your dough is kneaded, stretch a small piece of dough and it should stretch thin enough to see light through and not snap, if it snaps then continue to knead for longer. If you are kneading by hand, you might need to knead the dough for 5 or so minutes longer.
Once you have a lovely smooth elastic dough, pop in a large oiled bowl and cover, leave to proof for about 1 – 1 ½ hours or until doubled in size.
Once your dough has doubled in size, pour out onto a surface dusted with flour. Briefly knead to knock out any air bubbles and then divide your dough into 8 equal pieces.
Roll each pieces of dough to approx. ¼ inch thickness and then fold into thirds. Tightly roll up the dough with the folds in the dough folding inwards so the outside of your dough is smooth. Next roll into a ball pinching the joins in the dough at the base, this helps to create a layered dough texture when your bread bakes.
Pop your ball of dough into an oiled 9 inches spring form cake tin, you should have 7 balls of dough around the edge and 1 in the middle. Cover and leave for about 20-30 minutes until puffed up, to test your dough is ready to bake make a small indent in the side of the dough with your finger and it should very slowly spring back still leaving a small indent.
About 10 minutes before baking pre-heat your oven to 180°C/160°C/Gas mark 4. Briefly whisk together the egg and milk to make the glaze and brush over your dough. Pop in the oven for about 30-35 minutes until golden brown on top and when tapped the bread sounds hallow. If your bread is browning too quickly, cover with foil and pop back in the oven to continue to bake.
Whilst your bread is baking, make the sugar syrup, pop the water and sugar into a saucepan over a low heat, stir until the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat to medium and leave to simmer for 3 minutes without stirring. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Once your bread is baked, brush over the sugar syrup and leave to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes and then pop onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
Your milk bread in now ready to tear and share!