These soft and sweet butter coconut buns are super easy to make with my step-by-step pictorial to guide you! This is the only sweet bun dough recipe you’ll need. Fill with your favourite sweet and savoury fillings. Double or triple to make a large batch for any picnic or tea party!
Last weekend, I posted these on Instagram, and as promised, I’m following up with the recipe for these truly delicious, pillow-soft, sweet bread buns with melt-in-your-mouth, butter coconut filling! I’m super excited to share this no-fail, master bun dough recipe, which is essentially the exact recipe I learnt to work with in my course training, courtesy of culinary school.
Naturally, we trained to work with, and process large batches of dough for commercial production, but I’ve scaled down the recipe here to yield the typical quantities home bakers are likely to work with. Yayyy! For you, and for me too. Because, I’m a home baker at heart. Because we’re a family of two on most days, so there’s only SO much hubs and I can eat. Because we live in Singapore, where it’s warm and humid, and bread can go stale very quicky, so I like to make just enough for two to three days, tops. But most of all, because this is so easy to make (no need to bake ahead and freeze, though you could always do so), why not enjoy these buns as fresh as they come, in a couple of hours!
You can use this soft bun dough recipe to wrap just about any sweet or savoury filling that can hold its shape or form at room temperature. I’ve used this with my favourite bun fillings which include red bean paste, coconut jam (kaya), cranberry cream cheese , egg tuna mayo, curry potato chicken, spiced chilli sardines, and char siu (roast pork). This recipe can be easily doubled, tripled, quadrupled to make large batches for a large picnic party, for instance.
Though I’ve made these as pull-apart buns (what can I say, I get a little high from the thrill of teasing apart these golden puffy pillows of deliciousness!) you can always make these as individual buns, and in any shape you like. Just be sure to space each bun at least 3 to 4 inches apart from each other, to give them ample room to rise and expand.
So, let’s get through this process together, easy-peasy – I promise!
This method of bread making is known as direct method, and basically, it’s a shorter and quicker process, which is what we busy home bakers can really appreciate, right? Really, all it means is that the dough comes together in one step. We knead all the dry and wet ingredients together (except the salt, more on that in a bit…), until it forms a rough dough. Fats (butter, margarine, shortening, etc.) are incorporated last until we get a smooth, elastic and perfectly developed dough that’s ready for shaping, filling, proofing, and finally, baking.
As I mentioned earlier, adding the salt later is also known as the delayed salt method or autolyse (you can find out more about it here). Without getting into the technical aspects of dough development, it’s a very simple way to improve your bread making. This method is more crucial when making artisan bread, so if you forgot and accidentally added it in right at the start, don’t panic! Your buns will survive and will still be wonderful!
So, get your apron on! Let’s begin…
Step 1. Make the butter coconut filling, and let it chill in the refrigerator to firm up.
Step 2. Add the dry ingredients together in a mixer bowl. Do not add salt (but if you did, hey, it’s okay!). Stir with a whisk to combine well.
Step 3. Add in the wet ingredients. Do not add butter. Start the mixer fitted with a dough hook, on low speed for one minute to allow the ingredients to come together.
Increase mixer speed to medium-high, and continue to knead until the all the loose and dry ingredients are picked up by the rough dough and incorporated. The sides of the bowl should start to come clean. Just wait and watch the self-cleaning miracle! I love this part, isn’t it captivating? This process will usually take a few minutes, and is technically known as pickup stage.
Step 4. Once the dough reaches pickup stage, add the salt and butter.
Be patient with this step, as it may take anywhere from 5 to 7 minutes of kneading at medium-high speed, depending on the speed of your mixer. The rough dough is going to become messy, gooey and sticky as it works to incorporate the butter, but at the end of this process, it’ll have transformed into the loveliest, smoothest, shiniest dough! It’ll feel like baby skin to the touch – yes, folks, we want to get as tactile as we can with dough – touch it, feel it.. love it💕.
Step 5. Do the ‘Windowpane Test’. Once the sides of the bowl come clean, and the dough feels smooth and highly elastic, it’s time to stop kneading and do the ‘Windowpane Test’ to check if the dough has been kneaded enough.
First, lightly grease your fingers and palms on both hands with some clean oil. Lop off a small portion of dough, roughly the size of a ping pong ball. Hold the dough between your two thumbs on the top, and your other fingers underneath. Gently tease and stretch the dough until you get a thin, translucent membrane (see photo above). If it tears before you can get there, it means the gluten (protein in the flour) isn’t developed enough. If this happens, stick the dough back with the rest in the mixer, and knead for another 2 to 3 minutes, before doing the test again. Keep repeating until you get the ‘windowpane’.
Step 6. With greased hands (the dough will be quite sticky at this stage), gather the dough into a ball. Cover loosely with cling wrap, and let dough ferment for 15 minutes.
Step 6. Weigh the dough, and divide by 12 to get the weight of dough for each bun (it should roughly fall between 58 to 60 gm each). Divide into 12 portions. Shape into balls and let rest for 10 minutes.
Step 7. On a lightly dusted worktop (I use flour as sparingly as possible to avoid drying out the dough further), flip over the ball so that the smooth side is underneath, and the rough side faces you. Flatten with your fingers into a round disc. Scoop 30 gm of filling – I use a mini cookie scoop so that the fillings hold together firmly and are evenly rounded.
Place the filling in the centre of the dough. Wrap the filling by bringing the edges of the dough towards the centre with your fingertips. Gently pull the dough from all around the sides, to cover the filling evenly and smooth out the sides. Pinch and twist the ends with your fingertips to seal. Place on paper-lined baking tray, sealed side down, spacing about 1-inch apart for pull-apart buns, or 3 to 4 inches apart for individually-shaped buns.
Step 8. Let proof for an hour, covered with a tea cloth, or until doubled in size. The buns are proofed enough once they feel soft, almost like a down-filled pillow, to the touch, and if you gently press a finger on its side, it leaves an indentation. Note that proofing time may vary, depending on your environment.
Meanwhile, this would be when you can start to preheat oven to 200°C (390°F).
Step 9. Gently brush the top and sides of each bun with egg wash, with emphasis on gently. At this point, the buns are puffy and pillow-y, and need to be handled gently. Sprinkle sesame seeds to your desire. Bake at 200°C (390°F) for 15 to 20 mins, or until a deep golden brown.
When the buns are just out of the oven and warm, they will be very soft, and the butter coconut filling will be like ‘lava’ when you bite into one!
As I imagine how one of my favourite Sesame Street personalities, Grover, might holler while flailing his arms excitedly in the air, “ENJOY, EVERYBODEEEEEEEE!!!”