Enter any Chinese style bakery and you’ll find baked Chinese buns filled with a sweet, fragrant coconut mixture. There are two parts to this recipe: the milk dough, and the coconut filling. This is a recipe that my Mom learned in a Hong Kong based cooking school, and that we’ve simplified for the American style kitchen.
In 1976, we immigrated to the United States and landed in Nebraska. Growing up Chinese in the Midwest was no easy feat, especially for my Mom. We were just one of two Asian families in the entire city and she had to learn to navigate daily life with just a dictionary and a list of everyday phrases on paper (we didn’t have Google Translate back then.)
Video for Chinese Sweet Baked Buns
Chinese Sweet Basic Dough Recipe
For the Chinese Sweet Dough recipe, you’ll need:
- white granulated sugar
- active dry yeast
- powdered dry milk
- softened butter
- bread flour
- egg wash
This dough is a simple dough, mix and knead until smooth. Let rise for 1 hour in a warm spot (or until doubled in size). While the dough rises, it’s a good time to make the filling. The Sweet Coconut Filling recipe is below.
Forming the Chinese Sweet Coconut Buns
Once the dough has risen, and the filling is ready, it’s time to divide the dough and form the buns. The recipe will make 32 buns in total, so with a scale, measure out 1 ounce pieces of dough and form into tight, round balls, tucking the edges under. Keep all the dough covered to prevent drying out.
Once all the dough has been measured and formed into balls, start back with the first ball you formed. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough — you can make the buns either oval, or round.
When we made these buns, Mom wanted a version with sweet coconut filling, and another with savory ground beef filling (recipe coming soon!). We differentiated the two by the SHAPE of the buns….the oval were the sweet coconut filling, and the round buns contained the ground beef mixture.
How to Get Shiny Tops
Whisk 2 eggs with 2 tablespoons of water for an egg wash. Brush onto the tops of the buns. I sprinkle sesame seeds on top as well.
Bake 375F for 20 minutes.
See More of My Mom’s Recipes
Chinese Baked Buns
Chinese Sweet Bun Dough
- 2 cups warm water
- 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup powdered dry milk
- 1/2 cup softened butter
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 1/2 cups bread flour
- 2 eggs + 2 tablespoons water for the egg wash
- 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 6 ounces softened butter
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup desiccated unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1/2 cup powdered dry milk
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Make your bun dough:
- Add the water, sugar and yeast to the mixing bowl and let sit for 5 minutes, until the mixture is foamy. Turn on the mixer on low speed and add in the powdered dry milk, softened butter, eggs, and salt. Let mix for 2 minutes. Add in about half of the flour. Add the rest of the flour as needed to form a slightly sticky dough. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes.
- Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let rise at room temperature for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Make the Sweet Coconut Filling
- In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients until well combined. You may need to use your hands to lightly mix and "knead." Shape into 16 oval-shaped balls. Cover until ready to use.
Shape the buns
- Turn the dough out of the bowl to a lightly floured surface. Roll into a long log, and divide dough into 32 equal portions, about 1 ounce each. Form each piece into a tight round ball, tucking the edges under and pinching the seam closed. Place seam side down. Keep all pieces covered as you go.
- Beginning with the first ball you made (use the balls in order), use a small rolling pin to roll out the balls to 4-5" round (or oval, if making oval shaped). Place spoonful of desired filling on top, and pinch/pleat to close. Place bun on a parchment lined cookie sheet, and cover. Let rise for 20 minutes in a warm spot.
Bake the Buns
- Heat oven to 375F. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water.
- Brush each bun with the egg wash. Repeat so each bun has double layer. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Bake 20 minutes, until buns are golden brown. Let cool on wire rack.