I’ve always wondered why they called these cocktail buns, when nothing about it, looks like a cocktail. So, inquiring minds went on a Google search. Apparently in the 1950’s, in Hong Kong, there was a bakery that couldn’t resist the wastefulness of disposing unsold but perfectly edible buns. So they grounded up these day old buns, added a little sugar and coconut and just wrapped it with a fresh bread dough. It’s name was from comparing to the bartender’s exotic mixture of alcoholic liquors, formulating a “cocktail”. Which in Chinese, it was literally translated to a “chicken-tail bun”. Fast forward to the more modern life, we just make them with a buttery filling mixed with coconut, to make it just as tasty.
Ingredients for water roux:
1/3 cup bread flour
1 cup milk
In a small bowl, mix the bread flour and milk until there are no lumps. I poured it through a sieve and into the saucepan over medium heat. The mixture will gradually thicken. Once you notice some “lines” appearing in the mixture for every stir you make with the spoon, it’s done. Remove from heat.
Transfer the roux to a clean bowl. Cover with a cling wrap sticking onto the surface of tangzhong to prevent a hard film from formed on the mixture. Let cool. The roux can be used immediately once it cools down to room temperature.
Ingredients for buns:
2/3 cup milk, warmed
1 egg, whisked
2/3 cup water roux
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp whole milk powder
3 cup bread flour
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast or 22 grams of fresh yeast
1 1/2 tbsp butter, melted
Ingredients for filling:
3/4 cup butter, softened at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup cake flour
4 tbsp milk powder
1 cup unsweetened fine shredded coconut
Ingredients for topping:
1/3 cup cake flour
3 tbsp butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, whisked (with a splash of milk, optional)
In a medium bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk to activate. Set aside. If you’re using fresh yeast, combine it with the dry ingredients.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, and milk powder (and fresh yeast). OR once the yeast is active and bubbly, add egg and tangzhong and stir to combine.
Make a well in the middle of your dry ingredients. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the well of the dry ingredients, incorporating with a spatula or wooden spoon. Dough will be sticky at first DO NOT ADD MORE FLOUR. Once it is completely combined, add the melted butter. Knead on a clean surface, until dough becomes smooth and soft, yet pliable (approximately 8 – 10 minutes). It should no longer be sticking to the surface that you were kneading on.
Grease the dough and cover with cling wrap or a linen towel and set aside in a warm area until doubled in size (approximately 40 minutes). While dough is proofing, make filling and topping.
Combine the butter and sugar well. Sift in in milk powder, cake flour, and coconut. Mix to combine. Then form filling mixture into a long tube. Divide into 12 equal portions. Have it rest in the fridge while you continue with making the topping.
Mix the softened butter with sugar well. Sift in the cake flour and combine well. Transfer into a small piping bag.
Transfer proofed dough to a clean floured surface. Gently deflate and divide the dough into 12 equal portions. Form into ball shapes. Cover with cling wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.
Press out each portion of the dough into an oval shape. Place a portion of filling in the middle of the oval lengthwise. Fold the bottom third up over the filling, then fold the top third down over the other layers (like a letter). Pinch seam closed. Turn bun over and tuck the ends underneath, pinching to seal.
Transfer bun to a parchment lined baking tray with seam facing down. Repeat this step with the remaining dough portions and fillings. Cover with a plastic wrap and let them proof for about 45 to 60 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Lightly brush whisked egg on the surface of each dough. Snip off a small corner or the piping bag of the filling and without a tip, pipe two lines of topping and sprinkle some sesame seeds. Baked for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. About 5 minutes before finished, remove from oven and brush tops carefully with sugar glaze, if desired. Return to oven. Remove from the oven and brush on a second coat of sugar glaze. Let cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!