Monday, 2 December 2013

Coco-nuts for those buns

Coconut "cocktail" bun

The French. They are invincible in the pastry realm, no one can contend – no other country, let alone a lowly blogger such as myself. As much as I love this classic recipe, it’s an honest, humble and simple bun. My disclaimer for this is that it isn’t French pastry couture, but it is, for me, a true representative of Hong Kong bakeries. The iced bun’s Chinese cousin let’s call it. The cocktail bun is synonymous with the 1950’s, when it was first created as a ‘cocktail’ mixture out of day old, ground up buns with coconut and sugar in order to not waste food which was still perfectly edible.
The sweet and pillowy white bread base is filled with a butter and coconut soft centre – even if you aren’t a coconut enthusiast, it’s only a very delicate and subtle taste and definitely worth a try. Bakeries in Hong Kong are filled with a lot of sweet breads and pastries like this – it’s a far cry from the ones we’re used to in London.
Normally, I’m not a fan of Chinatown, with the exception of the groceries stores and two restaurants off the main strip. However, if I’m near, it’s almost obligatory to stock up on a cocktail bun from ‘Kowloon’ bakery and café. Bonus if you catch the buns as they come out the oven.
I first made this as a challenge to myself, hungover as hell one Sunday afternoon. Determined not to waste the day, I wanted to do something productive (where I could *ahem* reap the rewards afterwards). From adapting a few recipes here and there, this is what came of it. Make sure to block out a whole chunk of time for this – as although it’s not difficult, you do need to keep an eye on it.

500g Strong bread flour, sifted
1 packet of fast acting dry yeast (7g)
50g Caster Sugar
15g Milk powder
1 Egg
250ml warm water
50g room temperature butter

170g butter
50g Dry Milk Powder
60g Caster Sugar
70g Desiccated Coconut
‘Mexican Topping’
Mexican Topping (piped lines)
recipe from Corner Café
30g softened butter  
10g caster sugar, sifted
20g plain flour, sifted
1 beaten egg for glaze
Note: You can get dried milk powder from most stores – I used Marvel Semi skimmed.

Dough mixture: Whisk the egg and sugar until a pale yellow colour. Add to a bowl which has the flour, milk powder, yeast and water. With a dough hook, or your hands, mix until everything is well incorporated. Once this is done, add the butter and mix well into the dough.
Knead hard for about 15 minutes and place in an oil bowl and cover. Leave this to proof for an hour in a warm place. I usually switch the pilot light on my oven and stick it in there.
Filling: Mix the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add milk powder and coconut and set aside in the fridge. (this makes a sinfully delicious topping for pancakes or toast FYI)
After about an hour the dough should have doubled in size. Take it out and punch out the air in the dough. Split the dough into 50g balls. With each portion, roll out flat to about 1 inch in thickness and the length of the palm of your hand. 

Roll up the cold filling into a sausage shape and neatly roll the dough around it and tuck the ends in so none of the filling will escape.
Place these on a lined baking tray ready for a 2nd proofing. This time, add a large bowl of water to the bottom of the oven and place the buns onto a rack above it. Heat at 40 degrees for 10 minutes, and the buns will expand and start to touch each other. Whilst in the oven, mix together the ingredients for the topping and place in a sandwich bag – snip the bottom off and you’re ready for some piping.
Take the buns out the oven and glaze over with the beaten egg. Pipe a line across the top and bottom of the bun and return to the oven, this time at 180 degrees for 10-12 minutes (or until golden brown on top)


  1. These look delicious. Living near Chinatown in New York I've sampled quite a few coconut buns. (A few too many...) I've never even thought to make my own. I can't wait to try your recipe! Thank you, Grace!

    Sam (

    1. Thanks Sam! I've literally just finished making your wonderful cranberry marshmallow recipe (will instagram and tag the pics) Can't wait to swap a few more recipes with you, love your writing.