Have you been to a high-end Chinese bakery before? It goes like this:
An attendant in uniform greets you as you walk in. There is a very subtle sweet smell. Everything is kept behind polished glass, arranged neatly on gleaming smooth shelves. You won’t find a sugar overload here; subtle is key. When they say “No Sugar Added,” it legitimately means it’s not sugary at all (fun fact!). Almost everything toes the line between being bread and cake. Everything is soft, a delightfully pale yellow, and slightly sweet. It’s cute and quaint, and it’s almost disappointing to taste buds accustomed to more in-your-face pastries.
Well today, we’re exploring a particular Chinese bakery. In my house. It’s called “Cici & Oven Bakery.” Oven is my business partner.
Asian Sweet Bread With Mung Bean Filling
The mung bean filling is optional. As an Asian, I have a ready supply of mung beans in my kitchen, but you can leave them out and it’s still all good. Also, I like the technique of using a water roux. It’s basically a water-flour mixture that gives the buns springiness and softness (and it’s very easy to make).
Taste & Texture: In true Chinese fashion, these aren’t too sweet. You’ll definitely taste the sweetness in them, but it’s nowhere near overwhelming. The texture can only be described as “soft.” Learn that word, friends. Love it. Live it. Bake it.
For the Roux
- 2.5 tbsp all purpose flour. Love that wheaty flavor.
- 1/2 cup water. Aych too oh.
For the Bread
- 2.5 cups all purpose flour. Yum!
- 2/3 cup sugar. Eat the other 1/3 cup.
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast. It’s basically Instant Messaging 2.0.
- 1/2 teaspoon salt. One time I mistook salt for sugar. Story for another day.
- 1 large egg. Organic dinosaur eggs, preferably.
- 1/2 cup of buttermilk. You can make your own if you have vinegar and milk. It makes bread fluffy. Makes muffins delicate as a doily. I’ve tried; crumbled at the touch. Bad stuff.
- 3 tbsp butter, softened. Butter = magic.
Steps You Knead To Know:
1. Make the water roux. Mix together flour and water, heat it up gently until it coagulates into a custard-like paste. Set aside, let cool to room temperature.
2. Combine everything (including roux) into a bowl and mix. I cut to the chase on this blog, in case you haven’t noticed.
3. Knead for 15 minutes. Dear parents, I want a stand mixer. Sincerely, The Struggling Cici In The Kitchen.
4. Cover and let rise for 1.5-2 hours. The rising time is longer than most breads because the higher sugar content disrupts gluten formation, so you’re going to have to let it rise longer to compensate. More time to dance.
5. Meanwhile, make mung bean paste. It’s this recipe here. Just thicken it up by zapping it in the microwave for a couple minutes.
6. Take out the dough and shape. I like rolling the dough into a log because it helps give the dough some structure. I’ve tried just balling it up before, and it flattened out later on because it was just a glob of underdeveloped gluten.
7. Cover and let rise another 1.5-2 hours. Patience is a virtue.
8. Brush with egg wash. It’s just an egg beaten with 2 tbsp of water. I actually don’t have a brush, so I improvised with a wet napkin. It worked!
8. Bake at 325F, for about 15 minutes. Finally.
The Extra Mile:
Um, haven’t you had enough of baking for one day? Go watch Honey Boo Boo or something.
Ahhhh look at it. Look at it. Look at it. With your eyes. You’re in a Chinese bakery.