Chinese Coconut Buns

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Fluffy and delicious Chinese Coconut Buns, just like from the Chinese bakery, except they are better! Recipe with step-by-step photos.


For the Dough

For the Coconut Filling

For the Decorative Topping

For the Egg Wash

To Decorate


You will need approx. 3.5 hours to make the Chinese Coconut Buns

To Make the Dough

  1. Measure the flour, sugar, salt and yeast into the bowl of an electric stand mixer.
  2. Lightly mix the ingredients together using the dough hook.
  3. Add the egg to the bowl.
  4. Slowly pour in the warm milk, and continue mixing until everything comes together into a rough dough.
  5. Add the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Once the butter has been fully incorporated into the dough, add the next tablespoon of butter.
  6. Once all of the butter has been added, continue kneading the dough on medium speed for about 15 to 20 minutes.
  7. The dough is ready when it is soft and smooth, and no longer sticks to the side of the bowl. The dough will be somewhat sticky from the butter and egg.

For the First Proofing Session

  1. Lightly oil a large mixing bowl.
  2. Place the dough inside the bowl.
  3. Cover the dough with a clean tea towel, plastic wrap, or a reusable bowl cover.
  4. Leave the dough somewhere warm for 1 to 1.5 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size (see Kitchen Notes below).
  5. During this time, make the Coconut Filling.

To Make the Coconut Filling

  1. Just before the dough is ready, make the filling.
  2. Place all of the ingredients into the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment (alternatively, you can do this by hand with a wooden spoon).
  3. Beat the ingredients together until everything is well combined.
  4. Portion the filling into 16 equal pieces. If you have some kitchen scales, weigh the filling and then divide this number by 16. This will be the weight of each piece of filling.
  5. Roll each piece of filling into a log about 8 cm/3 inches long.

To Portion the Dough

  1. Line a 40 x 30 cm/16 x 12 inch sheet pan with baking paper.
  2. Once the dough has doubled in size, gently remove the dough from the bowl.
  3. Pat the dough into a round shape.
  4. Portion the dough into 16 equal pieces. If you have some kitchen scales, weigh the dough and then divide this number by 16. This will be the weight of each bun dough.
  5. Roll each piece of dough into a round ball. I do this by pulling the edges of the dough together into a tight ball.
  6. Arrange the balls of dough on the sheet pan.
  7. Set the balls of dough aside to rest for about 10 minutes, until they are slightly puffy.

To Assemble the Chinese Coconut Buns

  1. Line a second 40 x 30 cm/16 x 12 inch sheet pan with baking paper.
  2. Gently roll out a piece of dough with a small rolling pin, until you have a slightly oval shape, about 12 cm/5 inches in length.
  3. Place a piece of filling in the middle of the dough.
  4. Encase the filling inside the dough by pinching together the edges of the dough, and shaping the dough into a nice oval shape.
  5. Place the assembled bun onto the sheet pan with the seam-side down.
  6. Repeat the above steps with the remaining pieces of dough.
  7. If you wish to create individual buns, space the pieces of dough a good 5 cm/2 inches apart. This is the more traditional way to bake the Chinese Coconut Buns.
  8. If you wish to create adjoining buns, place the pieces of dough closer together (about 1 cm/1/2 inch apart). I find that baking the buns closer together creates buns with more height, and with a softer and fluffier interior.

For the Second Proofing Session

  1. Place the pan somewhere warm for about 30 minutes, or until the buns have risen and puffed up slightly.
  2. During this time, make the egg wash and topping.

To Make the Decorative Topping

  1. Beat all of the ingredients together until you have a thick, but soft, paste.
  2. Transfer the paste to a small piping bag.
  3. Cut a small piece off the end of the piping bag.

To Bake the Chinese Coconut Buns

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F (without fan) with a metal baking tray on the middle shelf.
  2. Gently brush each bun with some egg wash.
  3. Pipe a line of the topping across the top and bottom of each bun.
  4. Sprinkle some sesame seeds in the middle of each bun.
  5. Place the pan of buns on the preheated baking tray.
  6. Bake the buns for 15 to 20 minutes.
  7. Check the buns at about 10 minutes, and if they are browning too quickly, cover them with a loose sheet of foil for the rest of the baking time.
  8. The buns are cooked if an internal thermometer reads 85°C/185°F.
  9. Gently remove the buns to a wire rack, and leave them to cool completely.

Kitchen Notes

For Swiss Readers:
* I use Zopfmehl (or farine pour tresse) when making bread and enriched dough.
* For cake flour, I use this Backmehl from Betty Bossi which you can buy at Coop.

* Please note that there is a difference between instant yeast (also called instant dried yeast or fast-action dried yeast) and dried yeast (also called active dry yeast). If you are not sure what type of yeast you have, please check the packaging for instructions on how to use the yeast.
* With instant yeast, you can add it directly to the flour mixture without having to activate it first.
* With dried yeast, you will need to activate it first (usually in some warm liquid).

Dough needs a warm environment for the yeast to activate and cause the dough to rise. If you don’t have a warm place in your home, try one of the following ideas:
* In the oven with the oven light switched on (works only for some ovens).
* In the oven with a tray of boiling water on the bottom shelf.
* In the oven or a steamer oven at a low temperature of about 25-40°C (77-104°F).

You can make the dough ahead of time, e.g. the night before. Simply make the dough as per the instructions. Once the dough has had its first proof (i.e. it has doubled in size), cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for up to 12 hours. The dough will continue to rise a bit in the fridge, so make sure your bowl is large enough. Once you are ready, continue with the rest of the recipe. However, because the dough will be somewhat cold from the fridge, the second proof (after you have shaped the buns) might take a bit longer (maybe an extra 5-10 minutes). On the flip side, because the dough is colder and firmer, it will be easier to work with. The dough will also have a nicer flavour and texture from the overnight proof in the fridge.

The recipe for the coconut filling and decorative topping are adapted from The Woks of Life.

All recipes on this website state temperatures for a regular oven (i.e. a conventional oven without fan). If you have a convection oven with a fan, please consult the manufacturer’s handbook on how to adjust the temperature and baking time accordingly.

To convert from cups to grams, and vice-versa, please see this handy Conversion Chart for Basic Ingredients.