Many years ago Mr Colonial Cravings and I spent a few weeks backpacking around Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. At the end of our trip we visited Hong Kong for a couple of days. Hong Kong is not a cheap place to visit so tacking it onto the end of a trip, when there was very little room left in our budget, may not have been our best idea. It did, however, mean that we had to seek out cheap but filling food to sustain ourselves whilst sightseeing.
These coconut buns and a cup of green tea constituted our breakfast each morning. And what a breakfast it was, the buns were so big that we only needed one between the two of us! The style of bread is wonderfully soft and rich, it’s like brioche version 2.0.
Part of what makes it so moist is the tang zhong. This is a simple roux mixture but a genius way of getting extra moisture into the dough.
To make the tang zhong simply whisk together 50g of bread flour and 200ml of cold water in a small saucepan. Place this over a low to medium heat and stir continuously until you have thick paste, like a roux. Allow to cool before using.
400g strong white bread flour
pinch of salt
2 tsp instant yeast (1 sachet)
120g tang zhong
140g coconut milk
40g butter (melted)
80g dessicated unsweetened coconut
pinch of salt
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and whisk in the salt, sugar and yeast. In a separate jug whisk together the melted butter, coconut milk, egg and cooled tang zhong. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the liquid mixture. Combine to form a soft dough and knead until it is smooth and springy, you can do this with an electric mixer but to be honest the dough is so nice to work with that it’s very therapeutic to do it by hand.
Wash and dry the bowl to make it lovely and warm and then lightly oil it (use something flavourless.) Wipe a large piece of cling-film around the bowl to oil that too. Pop the dough into the bowl and loosely cover it with the cling-film and then leave it somewhere draught-free to rise for about 45 minutes. After this first rise you can uncover the dough and gently knock the air out of it with your fists. Re-cover it and leave it for another 45 minutes.
Blitz all the ingredients for the filling together in a food processor so that you have a dry-looking paste.
Stretch and pull the dough out into a rectangle. You want the long edges to be at least twice as long as the short edges, ideally about 18 inches long. Spread the filling evenly across the surface and then roll up the dough, starting at the long edge closest to you. Cut the dough into 18 even pieces. Arrange these in groups of three on to lightly greased baking trays. Cover once more and leave to rise for another 45 minutes or so, until they have plumped up nicely. Pre-heat the oven 170°c.
Finally brush with egg wash if you want to glaze them (I didn’t) and bake for 25 minutes. They should become golden with a soft crust when they are baked. Leave them on a wire rack to cool a bit before devouring. These freeze really well so you can always have some on hand.