If you don’t know my baking style by now, I’ll have you know that I am generally very much a fuss-free baker. I don’t accessorize my baked goods much. If I could get away with not frosting a cake, I could – not having an electric mixer really makes the process a lot more labor-intensive. Therefore, my coconut cocktail buns had to deal without having a glossy egg wash too.
Chinese baked buns are generally glazed with an egg wash, and sometimes have a crusty shortening topping too. This one in particular actually has an interesting explanation to its nomenclature. The reason why it’s called a cocktail bun is because its filling was a way for bakers to use up old buns. They would create a blended “cocktail” of old buns, sugar and some shredded coconut and make it into a filling for new buns to sell the next day.
Here’s a cross-section of the bun. Bread is one of those things that’s easy to make but hard to perfect. My bread had a good sweet taste to it, but certainly lacked the fluffiness and “compressability” that bakery buns have. I don’t really know what I did wrong, but dense bread is typically attributed to too much flour and/or not enough kneading. The filling recipe I used also created a more chewy than creamy filling, so if you don’t like the mouth-feel of shredded coconut, feel free to give it a whirl in the food processor. (Which I don’t have! Alas, such is the plight of a college baker.)
1/3 cup white sugar
1 cup milk (I used skim and it turned out okay)
1/4 cup softened butter
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
1 cup all-purpose flour, or more if needed
Filling (makes enough for 7 buns – be creative with the last bun’s filling!)
1 1/3 cups (325 ml) coconut flakes (I used sweetened angel flake coconut and omitted the sugar)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (30 ml) hard margarine or butter, melted
1 large egg yolk
1. Place 1/3 cup sugar and milk in a small saucepan, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add 1/4 cup softened butter, and gently warm the mixture until the butter melts and the mixture is warm but not hot (no warmer than about 100 degrees F (40 degrees C). In a large bowl, stir together the yeast with 2 1/2 cups flour until well blended, and pour the milk mixture into the flour-yeast mixture. Stir in 1 beaten egg, and mix until the mixture forms a sticky, wet dough.
2. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface, and knead for about 10 minutes, gradually kneading in 1 cup of additional flour or as needed to make a smooth, elastic dough. Form the dough into a round ball, place into an oiled bowl, and turn the dough around in the bowl a few times to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with a cloth, and allow dough to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
3. Coconut Filling: Process coconut and sugar in blender or food processor until very fine. Turn into small bowl. Stir in margarine and egg yolk until paste-like consistency. Makes scant 2/3 cup (150 ml) filling.
4. Working on a floured surface, punch down the dough, and cut into 2 equal pieces. Cut each piece into 8 equal-sized pieces (16 pieces total). Form each piece into an oblong bun, and flatten the bun with a floured rolling pin. Scoop up about 1 tablespoon of filling with a spoon, and place in the center of a bun. Pull and pinch the edges of the dough together to enclose the filling in the bun. Repeat with all dough pieces, and place the filled buns, seam sides down, onto the prepared baking sheets. Cover the buns with a cloth, and allow to rise in a warm place 1 hour.
5. Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
6. Bake in the preheated oven until the buns are golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.
P.S. Feel free to freeze it once it has cooled to preserve the texture of the buns. Baked goods generally aren’t affected by freezing and really helps preventing bread from going stale.