Steamed Coconut Buns

It feels like a really long time since I made anything sweet. I cut back on sugar big-time for Lent, and so just made bread for six weeks (I’m not complaining!) but then as soon as I could make something sweet, my oven broke. Talk about bad timing. It’s now been broke for around 3 weeks, and although I’ve only been having a little nibble of chocolate on the weekends, I’ve been desperate to whip up a cake, or even some scones or fruit bread. Luckily for me, I’d signed up for a Chinese baking course with Bread Ahead a few months ago that just happened to have a recipe for steamed coconut buns in. Finally, something sweet I can make without the oven! I couldn’t wait.

Photo by cottonbro on

I’ve used my bamboo steamer only once before when I made bao buns last year. These coconut buns would be made similarly, but I was really curious to see how it would all come together. We were set to make a soft dough with a little coconut in, and then a sweet, coconut, crème pâtisserie to go inside. This was going to be interesting.

I’ve made a crème pâtisserie (similar to a thick custard) using milk before during my puff school course (something I’ve still not finished), but today we were using coconut milk to give the soft filling a nice coconutty hit. To accentuate this we infused the milk with toasted coconut before combining it with egg yolks and heating until it thickened up. I have to say, it smelled absolutely incredible! I couldn’t wait to taste it.

The soft dough was very similar to the bao recipe and was just slightly sweetened. I think the recipe for these sweet dumplings could be really versatile, and could quite easily be converted into a savoury one. Anyway, that’s more adventures for another time. This dough was silky smooth and pillowy soft and was an absolute pleasure to touch and prod. I love getting my hands stuck into dough anyway, but especially when it feels so lovely! After slightly flattening a small round of dough, I put a tablespoon of the cooled crème pâtisserie in and tried to seal the bottom tightly without knocking all the air out of the dough. I ended up with eight small buns, and really enjoyed the shaping, I was just hoping they were sealed tight enough – I didn’t fancy cleaning the leaking filling out of the steamer.

They stayed together!

The whole time I was making these, the house smelled amazing. Although they didn’t take too long to steam (about 15 minutes in total) the smell had whetted my taste buds, and I was desperate to try one. Thankfully, they didn’t disappoint! They were subtly sweet, thankfully I didn’t get a big hit of sugar after trying one, and they had a lovely delicate taste of coconut. It definitely wasn’t a punchy flavour, but it was unmistakeably coconut.

Whilst I’m not sure that I’ll make these again, as the texture was perhaps a little too soft for my pallet to eat too many, I’m really happy I tried them as a one-off. They satisfied my sweet dessert cravings and were a surprising and welcome new adventure in my steamer.

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