Recipe: Animal Buns

Written by Gina Chong in the March 2020 Issue

Animal Bun Pastries

Imagine setting aside an afternoon with your kids to bring these little critters to life as a fun activity. From drawing the animals to choosing the filling, there are plenty of ways to get creative with these. My recipe calls for a common Asian dessert filling: sweet red bean paste. It may sound odd, but I’ve never met a soul who didn’t like it, and it can be found at most Asian markets. 

Makes 15

  • 2-1/2 cups bread flour + 3 Tbsp for roux
  • 1/2 cup water + 2 Tbsp
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 4 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg 
  • 1/2 cup milk + extra for wash
  • 1 package sweet red bean filling
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder

Directions:

1) For roux: In a small saucepan over med-low heat, combine 3 tbsp bread flour and 1/2 c water. Whisk until it thickens. Set aside.

2) Whisk together 1/2 c milk and egg, then pour into a bread mixer*. Add roux, butter, remaining bread flour, sugar and salt. Use finger to make a small divot in the flour and pour the yeast into it so it’s not touching wet ingredients. Set bread mixer to dough setting and let it run.

3) Place red bean filling package in fridge to firm. Prep a cookie sheet with a silicone mat. Once dough is ready, plop onto a clean surface dusted with flour. Divide into 16 pieces and roll to 1/4 in. thick. Set one aside for animal features. Dust a small prep bowl and place one piece of dough inside. Place a scoop of sweet red bean filling in the middle and pinch closed. Place seam-down on pan. Repeat for all dough.

4) For animal features**: with remaining dough, cut triangles for cat ears and roll balls for bear/pig ears. For bear mouth/pig nose I cut circles using a large pastry tip. Dampen the pieces with a bit of water and gently adhere them to buns. Cover buns with tea towel, let rise 30-60 min.

5) Heat oven to 335F. Pour a few tbsp milk into a small bowl. Brush milk onto buns. In separate bowl, combine cocoa powder and slightly less than 2 tbsp water to create a paste. Pour into a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip (or fill the corner of a sandwich bag then make a small snip in the corner). Pipe eyes, whiskers, etc. onto buns. Bake 15 minutes.

*If no bread mixer: skip step 2 and instead, combine remaining flour and water, roux, yeast, sugar, butter, salt, egg, and 1/2 c milk, and knead 10-15 min. Let rise in warm, dry place for 1 hour, punch down, then rise again for 30 minutes.

**Find more example photos on my blog, www.ginachongblog.com/2016/05/02/animal-buns 

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