Sambal Ikan Bilis Buns (Spicy Paste Anchovies Buns) - Old Dough Method

by - July 20, 2017

Sambal Ikan Bilis Buns

Sambal Ikan Bilis Buns

This Sambal Ikan Bilis Buns reminded me of childhood time.  I used to buy Sambal Ikan Bilis Buns from my school's canteen.  Old dough method produce very soft and aromatic bread.  It goes so well with Sambal Ikan Bilis.

I used pâte fermentée (pre-fermented dough in French) or sometimes called "old dough" to make this soft and flavourful bread.  Traditionally, bread makers take a portion of the bread dough made and save it overnight for next day baking.  I made it from scratch since I did not have any ready old dough. With this method, the bread is more flavourful and aromatic due to the higher acidity and fermentation gasses produced during the slow fermentation.

Please click on Bread Making Method to understand more details.

It is advisable to read the General Notes before baking.


For kneading, please regard the timing provided as an indication only. It is only meant as a guide.  Timing may differ depending on the brand of flour and electric mixer used. The protein content may vary from one brand of flour to another.

Some have experienced the dough breaking during the second proofing.  If that happens it is due to over kneading.  Please stop the machine and check your dough during the final cycle of kneading to ensure that you don't over knead. Every machine is different and there is always a chance of over-kneading when using a machine. You may need to adjust this timing and stop as soon as you reach the window pane stage.

The right flour plays a very important role in bread making.  Usually bread flour content around 11.5 - 13.5% protein, while high gluten flour is around 13.5 - 14.5%.  All purpose flour content less protein around 9 - 11%.  To achieve fluffy, soft and light bread, I used Japan High Gluten Flour in most of my bread baking.  Sources from here and here.

The liquid measurement given is also a guide.  It is advisable to always reserve some liquid and not add it all in one go.  This would give you the opportunity to adjust if necessary. If dough is too dry, add the reserve liquid one tablespoon at a time until the right consistency.  This is because each flour absorbs water and hydrates differently. 

Please note that the proofing timing may also vary depending on your climate and environment. The humidity and temperature at your place will influence how dough rises.  
If you are unable to judge by just looking at the dough, you can do the finger poke test:
  1. First Proofing:
    • Lightly flour or oil your finger or knuckle, gently poke in the centre of the dough then remove your finger.  If it bounces back immediately without any indentation then it needs more time.
    • If the indentation stays and it doesn’t bounce back or if the dough collapses, then the it is over proved.  
    • If it bounces back just a little, then the dough is ready to be punched down and shaping.
  2. Second Proofing:
    • Lightly press the side of the proved dough with your finger.  If it bounces back immediately without any indentation, it means the dough is under proved and needs more time before baking.
    • If the indentation stays and it doesn’t bounce back, it means it has been over proved.
    • If the indentation slowly bounces back and leave a small indentation, it is ready to bake. 
    • There will be a final burst of rising once the bread is placed to bake in the oven and it is called oven spring. 
If your bread collapses or gets wrinkled on top after removing from oven, it could be because your dough over proved during the second proofing. Please proof your the buns until 90% of the size.

Do also note that the baking temperature and timing provided are what works for my oven and should also be regarded as a guide only. Every oven behaves a little differently, so please adjust accordingly for your oven.

If you have any questions regarding this recipe or any other post, please leave me a comment in the “LEAVE A COMMENT” link and I will reply you as soon as possible.

Recipe - Sambal Ikan Bilis Buns 

Yields:  10 Buns



100 g dried anchovies, washed and drained
2 medium onion, cut half and sliced thinly
1 tsp of lime juice
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste
Cooking oil (enough to fry the paste ingredients)

Paste Ingredients (to be finely ground) -
80g (8) shallots, peeled
2 cloves garlic
1 lemongrass
1” fresh ginger
3 red chillies
1 tbsp of chilli boh (dried chilli paste)


Old Dough:
125g bread flour (I used Japan High Gluten Flour)
½ tsp instant yeast
½ tsp sugar
Pinch of salt
80g water

Main Dough: 
300g bread flour (I used Japan High Gluten Flour)
1 tsp instant yeast
3 tbsp (30g) brown sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
40g whisked egg (from 1 large egg & balance for egg wash)
30g butter or coconut oil
135g fresh milk

Egg wash:  balance of whisked egg (10g) + 1 tsp water

Utensil:   2 baking trays


Sambal Ikan Bilis:
  1. Coated Ikan Bilis with very little oil and fry with Air Fryer until crispy and golden brown (160C for 10 to 15 mins). Set aside.
  2. Heat cooking oil in a wok, add paste ingredients and chilli boh. Stir fry till fragrant.
  3. Add sliced onions and some water, cook until soft.
  4. Add in fried Ikan Bilis, then add in lime juice,  some water and add salt and sugar to taste.
  5. Simmer in low heat and cook until liquid is reduced. Add more water if too dry.  Anyway, we do not want too much liquid as it will be hard to wrap.
  6.  Remove from wok and keep aside.
For the Old Dough:
  1. Combine water, yeast and sugar in a mixing bowl.  Then mix in bread flour and knead with your hand for few minutes until smooth.  Roll into a ball and place in a greased bowl.  Cover with cling film and let it prove for 1 hour in a warm and dark place. 
  2. After 1 hour, place into the refrigerator and use the next day at least after 8 hours or up to 16 hours. 30 minutes before using, take out the sponge dough from refrigerator to return to room temperature.
For the main dough:
  1. Line the baking trays with parchment paper.
  2. Put all ingredients (start with salt, flour, yeast, sugar, butter, egg, fresh milk, and old dough) into the bowl of stand mixer. Using the dough hook on a stand mixer, knead until the dough comes together, become elastic and tacky but not sticky. Tacky dough behaves sort of like a Post-it note, sticking to a surface but peeling off easily. It takes around 12 - 15 minutes at medium speed.  If the dough is too dry, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time. 
  3. Let the dough rise in a warm place for 60 minutes or until double in size in a large greased bowl, covered with cling film or kitchen towel.
  4. Punch down the dough to release the air.  Transfer the dough to a clean floured surface then divide into 10 equal portions. Shape each dough into a ball. Flatten the dough and roll into a flat circle. Spoon in 1 tablespoon of sambal ikan bilis in the centre, wrap and seal. Shape the bun into an oval shape. Place the buns onto the prepared baking pan, about 2 inch apart.  Let it rise for another 50 minutes or until double in size.
  5. 15 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 180C - 190C.
  6. Brush with egg wash and top with some ikan bilis.  Bake at preheated oven for 15 – 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
  7. Remove bun from oven and let them cool on rack.

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