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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Baked Red Bean Buns

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

baked red bean and char siu bao

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.

The Apprentice

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
110g sugar
10g salt
20g Milk Powder (I substituted with Coffee Mate)
4 tsps Instant Yeast

1 Egg
300 ml Cold Water

60g Butter


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

Dough is ready when you can

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

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

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

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!

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

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

Balanced and baked red bean buns


Cheers, Annie

This post was entered in the Weekend Herb Blogging roundup, created by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen and hosted by Susan at the Well Seasoned Cook.

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Hungry for more Asian baked breads? Click below:

Red Bean Buns

Char Siu Pillow Puffs

"Rotiboy" butter buns

Baked char siu bao


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judyfoodie said...

OMG I've been wanting to make these for ages. I too have a serious dread of bread making, heck baking period, so I understand. Yours came out really nice. Congrats!

maybelle's mom said...

wonderful how to pictures. I was thinking about making some for book club, but couldn't quite figure out now, I can.

Anonymous said...

congratulations!! You pull it off beautifully. They look so good ... I think you can sell them for $2 each ;)

Unknown said...

Wow these looks awesome and so perfect...I have never tried my hand at baking breads...but looking at your bread I am tempted to try :-)

Pam said...

Yum. These look delicious!

Giff said...

I dread baking, luckily am married to someone who enjoys it. These look really tasty :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Annie! Great job, they are Beautiful buns! Likewise, I find bakery bought buns and bread are tad pricier than baking them at home. I am hoping I'd come around baking some in the very near future. I love all Chinese buns as well as the Japanese style "Anpan" with red bean paste that's so soft, melt in your mouth sort. Would love to see it if you happen to have a recipe for it.

Anonymous said...

Well that just make me hungry... :)

Anonymous said...

I love Chinese bread! I haven't found a good recipe for it yet, and can't wait to try out this one. :)

Manger La Ville said...

Honestly, I go to Asian bakeries and think how do they do it. They turn out so light and sweet. I always thought it was magic (joke.) But kinda, now I know...I am a little scared to attempt it, but I am very proud of you.

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@Judyfoodie - thanks! The more you do it, the easier it gets.

@Maybelle's Mom - thanks, and good luck making them. I'm sure everyone will be wowed.

@Noobcook - thanks! I don't think we'd be comfortable charging so much.

@usha - thanks! let the temptation take control ;-)

@pam - thanks

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@Giff - I'm with you on that. I'm more of a griller / barbecuer than a baker.

@audbelle - check out the anpan link at the bottom of the post.

@alexander - we aim to please ;-)

@Regina - I'm sure you'll make something great of it!

@Manger la ville - I hope you do try it out!

Jenster said...

You have nice buns. (Sorry, couldn't help myself!) Seriously, they look delicious and even nicer than some of the ones you see at Chinese bakeries.

Thanks for the tip on using bagged red bean paste instead of canned -- I wouldn't have thought about the flavor of tin from the latter source.

Tastes of Home said...

hi there, these look really good, my baking skills are not that great either hehe..but will definitely try this out, you make them look so easy :) and thanks for the tip on using bagged red bean paste. I remember in Malaysia a loooong time ago, that they used beans that were black in colour for tha baos and those are much more fragrant than red beans..can't find those anymore :( according to the sellers, those bean paste require too much work?

Ramya Vijaykumar said...

To be very honest I dread baking I always avoid baking... My mom is a great baker she gave me a recipe for a simple cake I would dare bake it but after reading your post I wish I try it sooner or later and ofcourse your breads too.. Its definitely on my must do list...

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@Jenster - thanks, Annie thinks so too ;-)

@taste of home - well, if we can't find the black sugar paste, I guess we'll have to just make our own...

@ramya - baking is science first. Just follow the recipes from a book like The Bread Bible and you'll be on your way.

Mel said...

In Kuching, there's a bakery that sells yummy buns with fresh coconut filling. Its really good when you eat it hot. Hmm... I'm gonna see if I can try making it. Thanks for the inspiration!

Susan said...

Gawd, I feel a dim sum attack coming on. Somehow, my protein shake just didn't cut it this morning.

Thanks for sharing your great recipe with WHB!

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@Mel - I've never been to Sarawak before. Someday...

@Susan - thanks for hosting! You have a great blog; wonderful pictures!

Anonymous said...

I love filled red bean filled buns. Might try your recipe for coconut filled buns.
You make it look so easy :)

K and S said...

thanks for linking us as one of your other sources :)

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@Jude - coconut bean buns sounds tasty. We just made some with kaya yesterday...

@KandS - doitashimashite!

Anonymous said...

Well done, you! Bread baking isn't that scary and your red bean buns came out beautifully.

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@Angela - thank you!

Anonymous said...

I'm still in the fearful "dont want to try baking" stage. I guess I just have to read more... Congratulations on overcoming your "dread." :)

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@Ning - as long as you stick to the recipe, you'll be fine!

Kalyn Denny said...

Great post, and I am very impressed that you made these yourself. I had this type of bun when I went to China and they were delicious. Love the step-by-step directions and photos.

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@kalyn - thanks! where in China did you visit?

Lara Ehrlich said...

Hi there! Thanks for the comment on my blog. I love your posts and your photos. And this one is particularly wonderful. I studied abroad in Japan for about a month when I was 16 and have been dreaming about these red bean buns for the last 11 years! They're so wonderful--I'm definitely going to try your recipe. Have you had the fish-shaped waffles stuffed with red bean paste? I have never seen those in the US and I would love to try one again someday... Thanks for the great recipe :-)

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@LNE - let us know how they turn out for you.

Re: the red bean-filled fish - do you mean taiyaki? I haven't had them myself but there is a place here in the Bay Area that makes them, called Sweet Bream:

JoanieLSpeak said...

Oh my dear sweet lord. I have been scouring the interwebs looking for a recipe for these baked red bean buns. Finally I found it! I made a batch of these just minutes ago and they are just as delicious as the ones i purchase in Chinatown (at a buck fifty a pop).

These are to die for. I did have to use canned red beans (because i didn't want to wait until tomorrow to make the paste myself) but I have never noticed a metallic taste in the kind I get so I was lucky there.

I also want to note something. Don't convert this recipe to the US measuring system. I did the first time and had to trash my dough wad because of this. Chalk it up to being to lazy to pull out my easy to use digital scale. D'oh! After that though, it was smooth sailing. I would say this recipe is easy as pie, but I think it is actually easier.

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@Joanie - Thanks for the feedback! Hope to see a red bean bun in one of your bentos soon!

Anonymous said...

what are the measurements in cups? I dont have a scale but i'd love to try this recipe... :(

Anonymous said...

What do you mean when you subsituted the milk powder with coffee mate?

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@Candace - You can always Google up a measurement converter. But really, I highly recommend getting a digital scale that can toggle between metric and imperial measurements.

@Anonymous - just that. Instead of using dried milk powder, we used the Coffee Mate brand non-dairy creamer.

Anonymous said...

is it ok if i make the dough a day ahead or will it just continue to rise and cause a problem??

Anonymous said...

I tried this recipe and it was great!! I'll use it from now on.

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@Anonymous - you could try to retard the rise by putting the dough in the fridge. We've not tried that for this dough before, so we cannot guarantee the results.

@Candace - great! I'm glad you like it.

verelcielo said...

Hi Annie,
Thanks for the recipe! Trying this one out today.

Also, beautiful pictures... could you please tell me the type/model of camera used?

Thanks, and aloha from Hawai'i!

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@Angelica - I'd say that most of the pics were taken on the older Canon Powershot A710IS, while the rest were taken on the newer Canon Rebel XT. Can you tell which is which?

Anonymous said...

can you convert the measurements to like cups and teaspoons? please

joey said...

So happy to find ur recipe. Gonna try t bread dough wit char siew... Been craving for baked Char siew bun since my dim sum visit in miami.. Question though.. Butter.. Do I add room temp butter or melted butter at the last step? Sorry if t question seem lame. Thks for t recipe !!

junjunjojo said...

Like you, have had a bread/pastry baking fear for years...completely irrational, but there nontheless. You got over it, and those pictures are forcing me to get over it.
Quick question please, the window pane...not sure what that means or how to do it or what I should be looking for.
P.S. Love your site and really appreciate the way you answer all the questions.
Thanks in advance,

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@joey--you use room temp butter.

@junith--window pane effect is when your dough has developed enough gluten that when you pull it, it will stretch thin without breaking and the thin sheet will be so transparent that you can look through it. In this kind of bread, it's a little harder to get a very strong window pane but you should be able to stretch it to a reasonably thin window. When it gets to that stage, your dough is ready. If you make this often enough, you will recognize when your dough is ready without even having to do the window pane test. Hope that helps.

Unknown said...

U'R SO COOL! Thanks for the recipe! I love these and I will try to make it.

Tia said...

i just tried making this and it was great! thanks!!!