As I’m typing this post out, I’m munching on my third Tangzhong Coconut Milk Hot Cross Buns. Eek. I just can’t stop eating them. They are so soft, so fragrant, and honestly irresistible. I was all set to eat my greek yogurt with a grapefruit for breakfast, but then I baked these and, well… I stuffed my face, is what.
Hot cross buns. An Easter classic. I did my research when developing this recipe – it’s made in so many different ways. It almost felt like the dumplings of the western world. Different families have different ways of making them. The cross can be a flour/water paste that bakes into the buns and serves only as a way to mark the cross. Or, it can be the icing on top, providing a sweeter note than the other method. Some recipes call for a marmalade glaze, others just the standard egg wash. It’s made using currants or raisins, or other delicious things mixed in. It’s spiced, but could be any number of spices. Now, all you hot cross snobs will probably scoff at my version of these buns: tangzhong coconut milk hot cross buns!!!! It’s dairy-free because I used coconut water, coconut milk, and coconut oil in place of water, whole milk, and butter. It adds a subtle coconut taste, and there is the added benefit of inhaling the fragrant coconut smell as you knead the oil into the dough.
Just warning you: there are so many photos you’ll probably get bored halfway through :). Feel free to scroll all the way down for the recipe!
I made these twice. After reading Michelle’s post on blogging, I started to think about my own blog. I realized that when I first started it, it wasn’t as sincere as I’d like it to be. My writing was sloppy and more to fill space than anything. So, I rewrote my “About” page to more clearly define my intentions for starting this blog in the first place. I also decided I want to be more transparent in my food blogging process. More process photos (which I’ve heard really helped people with my scallion-bun recipe! Thanks for the feedback, lovely readers!), more stories about the failures and behind-the-scenes. This also means that some of my posts will be even more photo heavy. I’m not going to promise detailed process shots for every post, but I am falling more in love with them.
Tangzhong 汤种. I’ve known about this method for a long time – when I still lived in the bay area, I was spoiled. There were Chinese bakeries at every corner and soft fluffy bread available at any moment. I loved these breads so much. I discovered they were made using the tangzhong method. It’s a “water roux” made of water and high protein flour to form a thick, pudding-like substance. The soft, fluffy texture of these breads is attributed tangzhong. It’s also supposed to yield a longer shelf life. All you have to do is stick it in the microwave for a 5-10 seconds, and it’ll be as fluffy and soft as new. It’s really about time I tried it.
I decided to read for several hours and study the tangzhong method of making hokkaido milk bread. I spent a lot of time on Christine’s milk bread recipe, which seems to be the inspiration for many other milk bread recipes, Mandy of Ladys and Pups has a tangzhong-free milk bread, Cynthia of Two Red Bowls has a lovely step-by-step depiction of how to make hokkaido milk bread, and Cooking of Joy has great insight into it as well. Cynthia heats up the tangzhong on the stove, whereas Joy of Cooking of Joy heats it up in the microwave. Mandy doesn’t include a tangzhong method, but her description of the proofing process and gorgeous photos of fluffy bread helped me figure out what the process was. I decided to use the stovetop method, because I’m a micro-manager and I want to be able to keep an eye on what is happening. I ended up adapting this recipe mainly from Christine’s. Thank you girls for the inspiration!
After you knead the oil into the dough, you will actually feel the dough get more silky and soft. Both times i made this, I absolutely loved this part.
I don’t actually like raisins, but if I had to choose, I’d use golden raisins. They are sweet and actually works well in these buns! After you incorporate these, it’s time for the overnight or 2 hour rise. Then, punch the dough down and form into smooth balls.
After the rise, there are two brushing steps. 1) egg wash. then bake.
2) brush with marmalade glaze for the sheen and taste.
Then, the cross of course. Pipe on the glaze, people!
I mentioned that I made these twice. The first time, it tasted great but I used the flour/paste method. I didn’t really like it (admittedly, I probably had bad technique heh), so I made it again. They turned out SO MUCH BETTER. I also adjusted the sugar amount, oil, spices, to give it a deeper, sweeter taste. Yum. This is what it looked like the first time:
It also gave me the chance to really refine my tangzhong technique. I always try to make things at least twice, simply for this reason: to work out the kinks and make a good quality recipe
- I highly recommend you weigh out the ingredients. I have approximate cups measurements as well, but it is much more accurate to weight the ingredients out. Contact me if you want them in cups.
- Don’t overheat the tangzhong. It gets thick very quickly. Once it does, I’d turn off the heat and then just keep whisking with residual heat from the stove.
- Prepare all measurements out before hand. That way, you can just move – mixing, whisking, kneading.
- After overnight rise, if your dough feels hard, don’t worry. Just let it sit and come a bit down to room temperature. You can even start kneading it more to get it more elastic. The second rise will bring it completely to room temperature
- For the second rise, I let it rise in a warm place. I heat the oven to 200F, then shut it off. By the time it’s ready to rise, it’ll have cooled off considerably, but it will still be warmer than room temperature. My kitchen is also quite cool, so use your own preference.
RECIPE: Tangzhong Coconut Milk Hot Cross Buns
Tangzhong (makes 2 batches)
50 g bread flour (1/3)
1 cup coconut water
350g bread flour
½ cup coconut milk
1 egg, beaten
30g coconut oil
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
2 tsp active dry yeast
120g tangzhong (half of the tangzhong above)
½ cup raisins
1| Mix flour in water and whisk until smooth. Cook over medium-low heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, ensuring it doesn’t burn.
2| Continue to heat until mixture becomes thick. When you swirl the wooden spoon around the pan, you should be able to see very visibly the echoes of that swirl. Once those lines appear, remove from heat. Transfer to a clean bowl. Take a piece of plastic wrap and gently press it against the surface of the tangzhong. Let cool.
3| Heat milk to lukewarm. Stir in yeast and proof for 5-10 minutes. You should see a thick layer of foam.
4| Sift together bread flour, salt, sugar, and spices in a large bowl. Set aside.
5| Whisk together tangzhong and beaten egg. Add in yeast mixture (foamy by now) to this.
6| Make a well at the center of the dry ingredients and add in wet mixture. Stir with chopsticks (or wooden spoon, I just prefer chopsticks!) until it becomes a shaggy mess.
7| Knead in the bowl until dough forms a workable ball. Turn onto a floured surface. Add in 1 tbsp of coconut oil at a time and knead the oil into the dough. Knead for another 5 minutes, incorporating raisins in two batches, until it is soft, smooth, and elastic. It really should be super silky and smooth. You will be able to physically feel the change from sticky/rough to silky smooth and soft.
8| Place in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit overnight in the fridge (up to 24 hours) – or, just at room temperature for 2 hours. It should be more than double its size.
9| Turn it out and punch dough down (isn’t this fun?). Divide into 12 equal portions. Work the edges down so that the top is smooth and sphere-like. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart and let rise for another 30 minutes. (I do it in turned off oven from 200F)
10| Preheat oven to 375. After second rise, Whisk together egg and a splash of water and brush thinly across the surface. Bake 12-14 minutes, until golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make glaze and icing.
1/4 cup of orange/apricot marmalade or jam
1 tbsp water
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp water or milk
1/4 tsp marmalade
*with this, you can use any icing you prefer. If it’s not thick enough, add more powdered sugar gradually
11| Heat up marmalade in a small saucepan with water until it is a workable glaze.
12| Brush onto tops of hot cross buns. let set for another 10 minutes.
13| Whisk icing ingredients together. Spoon into a piping or plastic bag, and cut the tip off. Pipe across surface of hot cross buns.