Coconut buns, often known as “cocktail buns,” are a popular bakery item in Hong Kong and other cities’ Chinatowns. It’s a sweet, thick coconut filling sandwiched between two slices of the buttery milk bread that’s common throughout Asia.
Too often, the filling bakes into a large blob in the middle of the bun. To ensure that every bite contains both bread and filling, I usually rip off little pieces of bread before biting into the sandwich. This got us wondering, though: what if resources were distributed fairly from the start?
To that end, we devised the Hong Kong Coconut Buns. When baked, they look like a swirl of tender bread and delicious coconut; how visually appealing! The preparation is also shockingly simple.
Alternatively, you can try our more conventional recipe for Chinese Coconut Cocktail Buns, which is equally delicious. Whether you like your filling centered in your bun or strewn about the bun is entirely up to you!
- 1 large egg
- 3 1/2 cups of bread flour
- 1 cup of room temperature milk
- 2/3 cup of room temperature heavy cream
- 1/3 cup of sugar
- 1/2 cup of cake flour
- 1 tablespoon of active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 ¼ cups of sweetened coconut flakes
- 1/3 cup of sugar
- 1/4 cup of non-fat or regular milk powder
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 2 1/2 tablespoons of milk
- 2 tablespoons of melted butter
REST OF THE BUNS:
- 1 beaten egg
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- Heavy cream, milk, egg, sugar, bread flour, cake flour, yeast, and salt should be added to the bowl of a stand mixer. The dough can be brought together by mixing it on the lowest setting of a stand mixer. 15 minutes of kneading at a low pace. If necessary, pause the mixer and use a rubber spatula to bring the dough together.
- Although the dough may appear slightly sticky, it should not adhere to the sides of the mixer (sticking to the bottom of the mixer is ok). Sticky dough is a sign that you’re working in a humid environment; if this is the case, add flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.
- Form a ball using the dough and cover the bowl with a wet dishcloth or overturned plate. The dough has to prove for 75-90 minutes in a warm place before it doubles in size.
- Filling mixing can begin while that is in progress. Mix the milk, egg yolks, sugar, salt, melted butter, and milk with the coconut in a medium bowl. Put aside for the time being.
- Once the first proof is complete, knead for an additional five minutes to knock the remaining air out. Then, divide the dough in half after dropping it onto a floured surface and shaping it into a ball. The dough should be sliced in half, then cut into quarters. This will give you 12 pieces of dough.
- In order to form the buns, take a small amount of dough and flatten it out after you have kneaded it into a ball. Form a rectangle of 5 centimeters by 10 centimeters.
- Press the filling into the dough and spread it evenly around the rectangle, leaving a half-inch border on both sides.
- Make a cigar out of the dough by rolling it in the long direction. Leave the top end of the cigar attached after cutting it in half lengthwise so that it resembles a pair of long pants. Put a twist in the two pieces, roll them into a spiral, and tuck the ends under the bread.
- Line baking sheet with parchment. To bake the buns, you’ll need two baking sheets and three buns per sheet.
- The buns need an hour to “proof,” during which time they should be covered with a moist towel and allowed to rise. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees and center a rack.
- After the buns have risen, brush them with the beaten egg and bake at 350 degrees for 22 to 26 minutes. After baking, brush the warm buns with the sugar syrup.