Yes, Red Bean Bread is bread made with red beans. The ultimate prize. That who first thought of it. This is the original, the standard. In other words, the seasoned pro.
Maybe I’m going a bit far, but the red bean bun commands serious respect. In other words, the establishment. The reliable fallback when you’re not in the mood for some questionable onion, ham, and cheese concoction or when you’re sick of getting pineapple crumb topping on your shirt as you walk down the street.
Moreover, there are the milk bread loaves that are so incredibly light and fluffy because they are infused with wonderful swirls of delectable red bean bliss. Eating a slice of this is like celebrating with a delicious junk food version of cinnamon swirl bread in China.
THE TRUTH ABOUT RED BEAN PASTE
Many of you, when you think of red bean paste, undoubtedly picture a dark red sticky sweet paste like the kind you may find in a fried sesame ball or that you might get in plastic sachets at the grocery store. Doing this successfully at home is VERY challenging. Why? After being cooked, red beans turn a more purple hue. You’re out of luck unless you want to use some good ol’ red 40.
To make a paste that even somewhat resembles those mass-produced red bean pastes sold in stores, we found that frightening proportions of sugar and fat are required. However, we opted for a red bean paste that was closer to the natural variety. It’s a healthy alternative that tastes great and retains the distinctive red bean flavor.
Right, let’s get down to business here. This recipe is extremely complex at first glance. In reality, all it takes is a little bit of time. The procedures themselves are not particularly challenging. To perfect this dish, all you need is a sizable block of time and a laid-back Sunday.
The red bean paste can be produced in advance from the dried adzuki beans if that helps. To warm it up, simply put it in a saucepan and set the heat to low. But I think we’re all prepared to become experts at making red bean buns and red bean swirl bread, so let’s get to it!
FOR THE RED BEAN PASTE:
- 225g of dried adzuki beans
- ¾ cup of sugar
- 6 tablespoons of butter
FOR THE BREAD DOUGH:
- 250 ml milk (at room temperature)
- 1 large egg (at room temperature)
- 3 1/2 cups of bread flour
- 2/3 cup of heavy cream (at room temperature)
- 1/2 cup of cake flour
- 1/3 cup of sugar
- 1 tablespoon of active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
- Egg wash
- simple syrup
TO BEGIN, PREPARE THE RED BEAN PASTE BY BLENDING:
- The red beans should be washed and rinsed before being soaked. Keep the red beans in water overnight. Red beans and around 1 1/2 cups (355 ml) of the water should be placed in a medium (2 qt.) pot when you’re ready to begin cooking the paste. You should fill the pot until the water is just over the red beans by about 1/4 inch. Boil, then reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes. Beans should be cooked until softened all the way through, stirring periodically to prevent sticking. Generally, this should take 40 to 60 minutes, but it can be significantly longer or shorter depending on the beans’ maturity. If you want soft beans, make sure you buy fresh beans.
- Once the water has evaporated and the beans have thickened, remove the lid and continue cooking. Since we will be grinding the beans into a paste, we want them to be dry enough. Keep an eye on them because as the water evaporates, burning the beans becomes increasingly likely.
- Transfer the beans to a food processor once they have thickened. This bean mixture may need to be processed in stages, depending on the capacity of your machine. Do not stop processing until the mixture is completely uniform and smooth. This step can be skipped or adjusted to taste if you want a chunkier red bean paste. The paste should be returned to the cooking kettle.
- The paste should be heated over low heat. Mix in the sugar and allow it to dissolve. Finally, incorporate the butter. Butter makes for a more decadent paste. Vegetable oil can be substituted at this stage, although butter yields tastier results. Cook the paste, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot as needed to prevent burning and sticking, for an additional 20-30 minutes, or until it is thick enough to hold its shape.
- Note that the store-bought variety of red bean paste isn’t going to look anything like this because of the excessive amounts of sugar and oil used to achieve that dark, sticky consistency. The goal is to create a red bean paste with a flavor closer to that found in traditional Chinese bakeries. You can skip making your own red bean paste and just buy some from the supermarket instead.
- Remove from heat and allow cool for at least an hour.
ASSEMBLE THE BREAD DOUGH WITH MILK:
- While the red bean paste is simmering, you may get started on the milk bread dough. Throw all the ingredients for the dough (heavy cream, milk, egg, sugar, cake flour, bread flour, yeast, and salt) into a mixer and let it do its thing. Put the mixer on “stir” and attach the dough hook. For 15 minutes, let the mixer run while stopping it occasionally to press the dough together. If the dough is too sticky to handle because of the high humidity where you live, add more flour, 1/4 cup at a time. Water is necessary, but not to the point where the dough won’t release from the bowl’s sides or the dough hook. Kneading by hand instead of using a mixer will require an additional 5-10 minutes.
- The dough needs to be mixed for 15 minutes before it can go into the proving phase. Put the bowl in a warm area and cover it with a moist cloth for an hour. The dough can double in size.
PREPARE THE RED BEAN BREAD:
- Butter the inside and the sides of one standard loaf pan. Get a baking sheet ready by lining it with parchment paper.
- When the initial proofing time of one hour is up, return the dough to the mixer and beat for a further 5 minutes to eliminate any remaining air pockets. The dough should be turned out onto a floured board and cut in half. Divide the dough in two; save one half for a loaf of red bean swirl bread, and divide the other into eight pieces for individual red bean buns.
- Let’s begin with the buns, shall we? Now comes the exciting part. Red bean paste, about 2 teaspoons for each bun. In order to make a traditional red bean bun, simply form a ball with one piece of dough, flatten it with your hand, or roll it out to a thickness of half an inch, then fill it with the red bean filling. Wrap the red bean in dough and place it on the baking sheet seam side down.
- Just copy the examples and try your hand at some slightly more complex shapes. They can be rolled up like cinnamon buns and then given some decorative snips with a pair of scissors. To learn how to create the lovely swirl pictured here, please refer to this post.
- Now, please prepare the red bean swirl loaf. Form a rectangle using half of the dough. Maintaining a rectangle form, roll out to a thickness of little less than 3/4 of an inch using a floured rolling pin. Now, place a few generous dollops of red bean paste in the middle of the rectangle and spread it out, leaving a border of a few inches on all sides and one inch at the top and bottom. Spread the paste to a thickness of about 1/8 inch.
- Make a seam down the middle of the dough by folding over the long sides of the rectangle. To seal any gaps, pinch the sides together.
- Roll out the dough to smooth the seams and bring the rectangle back to a size similar to when you started. After that, fold the dough in thirds. Once again, roll it out into a rectangle. If the dough/board needs additional flour, add some.
- The dough should be folded in thirds again, but this time it should be rolled out just enough to press the layers together and to fill the length of the loaf pan.
- Create three equal pieces by slicing the dough in half lengthwise twice. Each pieces should be braided with stacked sides facing out. When baked, the design will be beautiful. Gently press the braided dough into a buttered loaf pan and pinch the ends together to seal.
- Allow the bread and buns to rise for another hour. Set the oven temperature up to 350 degrees F. Incorporate an egg wash into the dough once it has risen. In a separate oven, bake the buns for 18-20 minutes and the bread for 35-45. When the bread is done, take it out of the oven and coat it with sugar water to make it shiny, sweet, and colorful.
- If you don’t plan on devouring these immediately, refrigerate them and reheat them for 20 seconds in the microwave before serving. Toasted slices of the red bean swirl loaf with a pat of butter on top are a delicious treat.
- All you have to do to keep any leftover red bean paste fresh in the fridge is to place it in an airtight container. When you’re ready to bake another batch of these buns, simply reheat the paste in a small saucepan until it’s pliable again.