If you’ve ever visited an Asian bakery, you’d have noticed that the tables are predominantly covered with bread-y pastries.
Baked Red Bean Buns
Some are savory and others sweet. Most of the fillings are very common to Asians, like red bean paste, lotus paste, and custard for sweet buns or charsiew, curry chicken, pork/meat floss, and sausage for savory buns. I especially enjoy things that have red bean filling in it.
When I first got to San Jose, I would try out different Asian bakeries for their buns. Almost every bake shop that sold these lovely treats would charge between $0.75 to $1.50 for ONE! And most times, when I’d bite into one, the filling would be so little and most of the bun would just be bread. Very disappointing!
I Dread Baking Bread
For a long time, I avoided baking them myself. The main reason for this is that I have a dread of baking bread. I don’t know why…I just always thought I would fail dismally at baking bread. After one too many disappointing buys of these costly buns, I decided to just suck it in and try baking these treats myself.
I searched online and also looked on some food forums and even bought a book on Asian breads. Armed with as much information as I could, I bought all the ingredients and, psyching myself up to bake bread, I did it. My first time wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t the worst either. Seriously, people, I had a great dread for baking bread. I can’t explain to you how reluctant I was to do it.
And guess what, it wasn’t so bad! I don’t know why I was so fearful of bread-baking. Since then, I’ve actually baked a lot of different types of bread. I’m still a little scared of plunging into artisanal breads–foccacia, sourdoughs, ciabatta, french loaves, etc. But one day, I know I will get there.
And some cookbooks really did help me to understand bread. Peter Reinhart‘s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice inspired me with his beautiful pictures and wonderful introduction (still a little scary–the bread world sounds very precise and yet, sometimes unpredictable). Rose Levy Beranbaum‘s The Bread Bible was the best help for me! She gave such detailed and precise instructions that I felt confident that as long as I followed along, I would get it right.
But these books don’t talk about Asian breads. Asian breads tend to be soft, light and sweet. Something like Portuguese Sweet Bread but with fillings or fluffy dinner rolls. Alex Goh’s book on Asian breads helped a little to give me some understanding but the information is not as in depth or as precise as the first two books I mentioned.
Anyhow, if you’re like me and really scared of baking bread (for irrational reasons), let me encourage you: "If Ann can bake, ah, so can you!" (Ok, that was lame – I don’t even like being called Ann – but just couldn’t help myself! ^_^ )
Baked Red Bean Buns
Adapted from "World of Bread" by Alex Goh
480g Bread Flour
120g All Purpose Flour
20g Milk Powder (I substituted with Coffee Mate)
4 tsps Instant Yeast
300 ml Cold Water
1. Mix (A) till well blended.
I just stirred it around with a spoon.
2. Add (B) and knead on your mixer with hook attachment until it forms a dough. I add the egg and then turn the mixer on slow and drizzle the water in slowly as it is mixing.
3. Add (C) and continue to knead to form a smooth and elastic dough, about 10 minutes on my Kitchen Aid on 4 speed (with breaks when the motor got hot).
Dough is ready when you can "windowpane" it
4. Gather dough into a ball and place in a bowl that has been oiled. Flip dough around to oil the entire dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for about 50-60 minutes or till it doubles in size. If you are having trouble getting it to double, here’s a tip:
- Fill a small bowl with water and microwave on high for about 1 minute. Move bowl to corner and sit your dough in the hot steamy microwave (with the door closed, of course) for the resting time. That should do the trick!
5. Once dough has doubled, divide the dough into small balls (you should get between 18-24 pieces depending on how big or small you want your buns to be). Rest for 10 mins (normally by the time I’m done with the last ball, the first ball is ready for filling) and then fill with red bean paste (about 1-1.5 Tbsp per bun):flatten the balls, put the paste in the center and gather the dough around the paste and pinch to close.
Red Bean Filling in the Bun
Flip over and put the pinched part on the bottom of the parchment lined tray (make sure to space them a few inches apart).
6. Once all the buns are done, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it proof for another 50-60 minutes or until doubled in size.
Filled Red Bean Buns Proofing
7. About the last 10 mins of proofing, preheat the oven to 350 F. Beat one egg and brush the buns gently with eggwash. If you desire, sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds on the bun.
Sprinkling Sesame Seeds on Sausage Buns
(I ran out of red bean filling and used the leftover dough for sausage buns. Basically, you roll out each ball into a long rope. Twist the dough around a hotdog leaving only the ends peeking out. Leave it to proof like the rest.)
8. Bake in the oven for 12-15 mins or until golden brown on top.
Baked Red Bean Buns – Golden Brown and Delicious!
A few tips for this recipe:
- Use a scale (ok, not a tip but a directive–I’m still working on converting everyone!).
- It’s much easier if you have an electric mixer but you can do it by hand (just don’t ask me how, cuz I have not done it like that before). If you have an electric mixer (I use a Kitchen Aid with dough hook), it takes about 10 minutes of kneading on medium speed (speed 4-5) to get the right texture on the dough.
- Let your machine rest in the middle of kneading (it gets hot and I worry about overheating and killing my mixer).
- Don’t walk away from your mixer–bread doughs are tough and will cause your machine to "walk" right over your kitchen counter!
- Don’t let your dough rise too high (about 1 hour and double the size is best).
- Get the red bean filling from a Japanese grocery store (they sell the kinds that come in a plastic bag). Choose this type over the ones in a can because the canned ones have a metallic aftertaste that ruins the red bean flavor.
Japanese Azuki Bean Paste
- Don’t get too greedy with the filling. On my first attempt, I wanted to make up for those lame buns I got at the store and overfilled them. Balance is key (the bread is yummy too so overfilling just takes away from that).
Balanced, Baked Red Bean Buns