In a medium-large bowl, whisk together ¼ cup warm water, yeast and a large pinch of the sugar. Set aside for 10 minutes (see note).
While waiting, cut parchment into 24 squares about 3-inch (7 cin size.
Whisk in the remaining ¾ cup water, sugar, salt and the milk until dissolved.
Using a large wooden spoon, stir in the flour cup by cup until it forms a sticky dough that starts to pull away from the bowl (see note).
Turn dough out onto a floured work surface.
Knead the dough for 5 minutes by hand or 1-2 minutes using a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add small amounts of flour to help the dough become elastic.
Form dough into a ball and place in a large oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until double in size, about 90 minutes.
Punch down the dough and transfer back to floured work surface.
Add baking powder to center of dough and fold in outer edges of the dough to seal.
Knead dough for several minutes more until baking powder is incorporated.
Return dough to the oiled bowl loosely covered and let rest 10 minutes.