Marcus’ Chocolate-Raspberry Cake

chococake1One month ago, I was having a baby. But before there was a baby, there was supposed to be chocolate cake.

Our little munchkin wasn’t due until September 16th, but starting around the 37.5 week mark I was ready to have this baby. Even though I had an easy-peasy pregnancy, the discomfort of wearing a watermelon-sized heater 24/7 during the hottest part of the year was getting old, fast. I had a feeling he’d show up a little early; but as the due date drew closer with no signs of baby, I was preparing myself for a fashionably late arrival (as both David and I had been).

At my 39-week checkup, my doctor performed a sweep and stretch, which can help encourage labor naturally (I think it’s something like a 30% success rate). That night I had some spotting and a sudden onset of chills. We called the public health hotline, and the nurse recommended I go into labor and delivery (even though I wasn’t having any contractions). I was pretty sure it wasn’t the real thing, but just to be on the safe side we went in. Sure enough, I was checked out and sent home — the chills chalked up to the changing weather and/or hormones released by the sweep and stretch.

The next day was one of our busier Saturday mornings in awhile. David had a funeral to attend, and my Mom and I met some old friends for brunch. On our way home, we stopped by a new coffee place we’d been meaning to try, and then went in search of ingredients for dinner. David wanted to BBQ, and we also had planned to make a good-bye chocolate cake for a church friend who was moving back to Taiwan. Once we got home, David went to start the BBQ while my mom and I started mixing up the chocolate cake. Around 5pm, I stuck the cake layers in the oven, stood up, and my water broke. I’d secretly hoped my water breaking would be how I knew it was time to head to the hospital, but I didn’t think it would actually happen that way. I remember feeling startled and calling over to my mom, “Um, I think my water just broke…” while standing in an ever increasing pool of water.

From that point, everything happened relatively fast. We checked into L & D half an hour later, and within the next hour I went from no contractions to full on 60-90 second contractions a few minutes apart. People say “you’ll just know” when you get real contractions, and I know what they mean now. I asked for an epidural, but was told it would be an extra hour before I could get one because the anesthesiologist on call was in surgery. That hour was definitely the most pain I’ve experienced. Poor David had nail marks all over his arm to prove it. When the epidural finally came, it was such a relief (seriously, thank God for drugs). The nurse checked me shortly afterwards, and told me the happy news that I was fully dilated. She had me rest for an hour, and then we started pushing.

momo1Pushing lasted two hours. As we neared the end of the second hour, my contractions started weakening and I was exhausted. The nurses decided to give me a shot of Picotin to help things along — and 12 minutes later, at 12:47am on Sunday, September 13th, little Marcus burst into the world. Hearing him scream a few moments later was one of the most relieving and beautiful sounds I’ve heard. It’s been a fascinating, sometimes frustrating, exciting, exhausting, and extraordinary month getting to know our little man. We thank God that he’s healthy and generally good-natured (except when he’s hungry) and has a ton of people around him who love him. It is also a blessing having family near and far come help; otherwise I’d be a total zombie surviving on instant noodles and coffee.

chococake2Anyways, back to that chocolate cake — my mom finished baking it, but we were too late to make it into a goodbye cake for our friend. So, when we got home from the hospital, we made some buttercream and transformed it into a “Welcome Marcus” cake. I sure hope Marcus becomes a chocolate lover, because like it or not I’m probably going to make this chocolate-raspberry cake every year around his birthday just for kicks. The recipe is adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible, my Christmas present to myself last year. My main change was to make the buttercream with all dark chocolate instead of a mixture of milk and dark. I think it’s the perfect amount of sweetness paired with the raspberry sauce. (This is 2/3 of the original recipe, which was just enough to lightly frost the entire cake.) We also only made half the amount of raspberry sauce, but next time I’ll make the full amount because I wish I’d had more to slather on when serving — it’s soooooo good.

Marcus’ Chocolate-Raspberry Cake

Makes 1 4-layer, 8-inch cake | Adapted from The Cake Bible

Cake Ingredients:

  • 85 g / 3/4 c + 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch-processed)
  • 1 1/2 c boiling water
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla
  • 300 grams / 3 c sifted cake flour
  • 434 g / 2 c firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 227 g / 1 c unsalted butter, softened
  • Handful of fresh raspberries, for garnish (optional)

Method:

  1. Grease and line two 8-inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper, then grease again and flour. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together the cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Cool to room temperature.
  3. In another bowl lightly combine the eggs, 1/4 of the cocoa mixture, and vanilla.
  4. In a large mixing bowl combine the remaining dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and remaining cocoa mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake 30-40 minutes or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center.
  6. Let the cakes cool in the pans on racks for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and invert onto greased wire racks. To prevent splitting reinvert so that tops are up and cool completely. (Layers can be wrapped tightly with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for a couple of days, or frozen until needed.)

Dark Chocolate Buttercream Ingredients:

  • 454 g / 1 lb good quality dark chocolate
  • 227 g / 1/2 lb unsalted butter, softened

Method:

  1. Break the chocolate into squares and melt in a double boiler or in the microwave (stirred every 15 seconds). Stir until smooth, and cool until no longer warm to the touch.
  2. In a bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixture at medium speed and beat in the cooled chocolate until uniform in color.

Raspberry Sauce Ingredients:

  • 680 g / 24 ounces frozen unsweetened raspberries
  • 2 tsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 132 g / 2/3 c sugar, optional

Method:

  1. In a strainer suspended over a deep bowl thaw the raspberries completely. This will take several hours. Press the berries to force out all the juice. There should be 1 cup.
  2. In a saucepan boil the juice until reduced to 1/4 c. Pour into a lightly oiled heatproof cup.
  3. Puree the raspberries and use a find strainer to remove all the seeds. You should have 1 liquid cup puree. Stir in the raspberry syrup and lemon juice. To make a lightly sweetened sauce, measure again. There should be 1 1/3 liquid cups. If you have less, add less sugar. The correct amount of sugar is 1/2 the volume of the puree. (To 1 cup puree, add 1/2 c sugar.) Stir until sugar dissolves.

Assemble the cake:

  1. Level and divide each cake into 2 layers (for 4 layers total). Spread a thin layer of buttercream between each layer, followed by a layer of raspberry puree.
  2. Frost the entire cake with remaining buttercream. Garnish with fresh raspberries if desired, and serve with remaining raspberry sauce.

Fruit Crumb Bars

peachesOne of my favorite parts of summer is the bounty of fresh fruit. It’s so refreshing to have delicious and CHEAP berries and stone fruits readily available for snacking and baking.

We’ve gone fruit picking twice this summer: the first time for raspberries, and second for peaches. We went down to the Niagara region for our peaches, and managed to snag a respectable 7 pounds of peaches in the midst of a on-again-off-again thunderstorm.

Our raspberries were consumed pretty quickly, but we had a bounty of quickly ripening peaches that needed to be cooked, stat. So we made this peach and cherry bourbon pie.

lattice-pie

(Note: David helped me assemble this lattice. It’s definitely the most fancy decorative top I’ve attempted, and came after several much uglier and easier lattice tops. If this failed, my backup plan was to go for the “abstract stripe” look.)

crumbbarsAnyways, I had some leftover filling from the pie, so I decided to try out this recipe for crumb bars. The original recipe calls for blueberries (which I imagine would be delicious), but peaches and cherries were what I had. And they’re delicious here — as would be raspberries, nectarines, strawberry and rhubarb, etc. You just might need to slightly adjust the amount of sugar and cornstarch for the fruit portion depending on how sweet and juicy your fruits are (I used the upper end of the cornstarch and drained my very juicy peaches and cherries as well as I could).

Anyhow, the beauty of this recipe, besides its flexibility in the fruit department, is how simple it is to whip up. I love making pies and crumbles and cakes, but sometimes you just want to make something that doesn’t involve rolling pins, fussy eggbeating, or floured surfaces. This is that kind of recipe.

Fruit Crumb Bars

Makes one 9″ x 13″ pan

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup (300 g) white sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 cups (375 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces), cut into pieces
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 4 cups fresh fruit, peeled and diced if needed (I used a mixture of peaches and cherries; any kind of berry would work well too)
  • 1-2 Tbsp cornstarch

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 inch pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.
  3. In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the fruit. Sprinkle the fuit mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the fruit layer.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 45-55 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Strawberry Yogurt Bread

strawberrybreadLately I’ve been working a lot of early morning shifts, so I wanted to make something I could easily pack for breakfast. Bonus points for something that could be created from the contents of our fridge (and pantry). My default is our House Banana Bread, but I didn’t have any bananas and thought it would be fun to make something seasonal. BTW, I’m so excited for berry season! (One of the best parts of summer, IMO.)

The result was this Strawberry Yogurt Bread. Since this was envisioned as a breakfast bread, my goal was for something not too sweet and reasonably healthy (minimal oil/butter, some whole grains). I’m quite happy with how this turned out, and three days later it’s almost finished…so that’s that! Next time, I might try walnuts or pecans in place of the nuts, or swapping out the strawberries for blueberries or whatever berry is lurking in the fridge. We had a partial tub of sour cream in the fridge, so that got added in — but if you don’t have that lying around, I think you could easily add another 1/4 cup of oil or replace with more yogurt. Yay flexible recipes!

Strawberry Yogurt Bread

Makes 1 9×5 loaf

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c plain Greek yogurt (I used fat free)
  • 1/4 c sour cream
  • 1/4 c vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1/4 c dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 c all purpose flour
  • 2/3 c whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 c strawberries, chopped
  • 1 handful sliced almonds

Topping:

  • 1 Tbsp. Turbinado Sugar
  • 1 strawberry, sliced

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • In a medium bowl, mix yogurt, sour cream, oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract until blended.
  • In a separate bowl add flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix together.
  • Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and slowly incorporate the yogurt mixture, being careful not to overmix.
  • Fold in strawberries and almonds.
  • Spoon batter into a greased and floured 9×5-inch loaf pan. The batter will be thick.
  • Arrange sliced strawberry on top, and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
  • Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack.

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler

cobblerOne of my favorite parts of spring is the opening of local farmer’s markets. We have two near our house, one of which started up a couple weeks ago. Last week rhubarb was for sale, and I bought some not quite knowing what I’d do with it. After perusing our fridge contents — part of a tub of sour cream, strawberries, butter, half a lemon — I settled on a cobbler with a sour cream biscuit topping. It was a lovely sweet-tart spring dessert, perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler

Serves 6-8

Topping Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces (I like to cut butter into pieces and freeze for about 1/2 an hour before making dough)
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sour cream

Filling Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups (about 1 1/2 pounds, untrimmed) rhubarb, in 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 3 1/2 cups (about 1 pound) strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca

Method

Preheat oven to 375°F. Whisk 1 1/2 cups flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter; using your fingertips, incorporate until only pea-size lumps remain. Gently mix in sour cream. Knead in bowl until a biscuit-like dough forms, 5-7 turns (do not overmix).

Stir together filling ingredients in a large bowl. Pour into an 9-inch pie dish or divide among six 6-ounce ramekins. Tear biscuit topping into quarter-size crumbles; scatter over fruit.

Bake cobbler until juices are thick and bubbling and topping is cooked through and deep golden brown, 20-25 minutes for ramekins or 45-50 minutes for pie dish. Let cool for at least 1 hour.

House Banana Bread

bananaConfession: I don’t like plain bananas. I don’t like the mealy texture in my mouth, especially when they’re overripe. But I don’t mind the taste of bananas, so I’m happy to indulge in smoothies containing bananas, banana “ice cream” (basically, a frozen banana pureed til it tastes like ice cream), and — of course — banana bread.

My mom’s banana bread was a family favorite, and I thought her recipe would be the one I would end up using in my own home. While I still intend on making her version someday, I’ve found a new House Banana Bread that has quickly become a favorite for our little family. I like that it’s reasonably healthy (no trans-fats and some whole grains), not overly sweet, and adaptable depending on what you’ve got available in your kitchen. Examples of previous adaptations:

  • Dropped the oil to 1/4 c and added a couple spoonfuls of sour cream
  • Added a splash of bourbon
  • Made one batch vegan by simply replacing the egg with another ripe banana. (It worked beautifully — even non-vegan friends gobbled it up!)

An added bonus: everything is mixed in one bowl, and there’s no hand mixer (i.e. extra dishes to clean) needed!

House Banana Bread

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen | Makes one 9×5″ loaf

  • 3 large ripe-to-over-ripe bananas
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil
  • 1/3 cup (65 grams) light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves or all spice
  • 1 1/2 cups (180 grams) white whole-wheat flour (I usually use half all purpose, half whole wheat)
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) uncooked millet

Method:

Preheat your oven to 350°F and butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan. In the bottom of a large bowl, mash bananas with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon until virtually smooth but a few tiny lumps remain. Whisk in egg, then oil, brown sugar, syrup and vanilla extract. Sprinkle baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves over mixture and stir until combined. Sift in flour and stir until just combined, then stir in millet.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake until a tester comes out clean, about 40 to 50 minutes. Cool loaf in pan on rack.

Chinese Marble Cake

marblecakeMy sister-in-law introduced me to this lovely marble butter cake. I guess you can find this at some Chinese bakeries, although I’ve never personally come across it. This is basically a lightly sweetened pound cake, but with a finer texture (thanks to the icing sugar and milk). Perfect for dinner parties, coffee break, breakfast…ok, basically any time you just want a piece of cake!

This loaf comes together quickly and doubles easily; you could also split into mini loaf pans for Valentine’s Day gifts. Enjoy!

Chinese Marble Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks (220g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 7 oz (200g) plain flour/all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 7 oz (200g) fine or powdered sugar (confectioners sugar or icing sugar)
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease the a 8×5 cake pan and set aside.
  2. Sift together flour and the baking powder together. Add in salt and mix well. Set aside.
  3. Use an electronic beater to mix butter and sugar until well combined or pale yellow in color. Add in the first egg. Beat well after each addition of egg until creamy. Scrape down the sides and add in vanilla essence. Fold dry ingredients into the mixture and mix well. Finally, add in the milk.
  4. Divide the batter into two portions. Stir the cocoa powder into one portion and mix well. Transfer the plain batter into the greased baking pan. Shake it lightly to distribute evenly. Pour the cocoa batter in the middle of baking pan, and lightly swirl the cocoa batter in an “S” shapt with a butter knife. Do not overmix.
  5. Bake until golden brown and cooked, about 40 minutes. Insert a cake tester in the middle of the cake to test doneness. Remove from the oven and let cool on the wire rack for another 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and serve immediately.

Starbucks Oat Fudge Bars

fudgebar-stackFor the last couple of weeks, my husband has been raving about the Starbucks Oat Fudge Bars — these rich, chewy, chocolatey confections that are unique to Canadian Starbucks stores. There are a number of copycat recipes floating around, so I decided to try recreating these babies for myself. It’s super easy and quick — this comes together in less than an hour. I did cut down slightly on the sugar and swapped in dark chocolate to make them a little less sweet, but they are still decadent. If you’re feeding a crowd, feel free to double the ingredients and bake in a 9″x13″ pan. Enjoy with strong coffee or a glass of milk!

Ingredients
For the fudge layer

  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup butter

For the oat base

  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups oats

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper.
  2. Make the fudge. In a small pot over medium heat, combine the milk, chocolate chips, and butter. Stir until melted and set aside. OR, combine ingredients in a microwave-safe container and microwave until melted (microwave in small increments and stir often).
  3. Using a stand or hand mixer, cream the butter and sugars. Add the egg and vanilla. Gradually add the dry ingredients.
  4. Press 2/3 of the mixture into the prepared pan. Add a layer of fudge and finish with the rest of the oat base dropped by spoonfuls.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes.
  6. Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares.

fudgebar-pan

Mini Chocolate and Red Velvet Cakes

minicakes2I love the idea of mini cakes because they’re so cute and festive and don’t require a cupcake pan. I’ve had my eye on these rainbow mini cakes on Molly Yeh’s blog. I decided to try my hand at a simpler, two-layer version (mostly because I was too lazy to go out to buy matcha powder for the green tea layer…next time).

I like a huge cake to frosting ratio (i.e. waaaaaay more cake than frosting because I don’t really like frosting, except for the carrot cake cream cheese variety) so I left my minis naked. But the frosting recipe definitely makes enough for you to frost the tops and sides if you so choose.

Mini Chocolate and Red Velvet Cakes

Assembly:
Make one portion each of the chocolate, red velvet, and buttercream recipes below. Freeze cake layers for at least one hour, or overnight. Use round biscuit cutters to cut out rounds (I used 2-inch and got about 20 mini cakes total). Frost and decorate as desired. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

Magnolia Bakery Super Rich Chocolate Cake

(Original source)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla
  • Scant 1/2 cup boiling water

Method:

  1. Preheat convection oven to 350 degrees or conventional oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk together eggs, milk, oil and vanilla in a separate bowl. Whisk the egg mixture into the sugar-flour mixture by hand until combined. Whisk in boiling water just until combined. The batter will be watery.
  3. Pour batter into parchment lined 9″ x 13″ pan. Bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 22 to 25 minutes in a convection oven or 25 to 30 minutes in a conventional oven. Cool in pan 10 minutes; remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Southern Red Velvet Cake

(Original source)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 1/2 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9″ x 13″ dish with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In another large bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla.
  3. Using a standing mixer, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined and a smooth batter is formed.
  4. Pour batter into prepared cake pan. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through the cooking, until the cake pulls away from the side of the pans, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
  5. Remove the cake from the oven. Invert onto a plate and then re-invert onto a cooling rack, rounded-sides up. Let cool completely.

Vanilla Buttercream

(Original source)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 to 8 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Method:
Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. (Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled.) Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Yield: enough for 2 dozen cupcakes or 1 (9-inch) layer cake

minicakes1

Chinese Coconut Cocktail Buns (Gai Mei Bao)

buns1My dad works in Chinatown in Seattle, and when my brothers and I were young he’d occasionally bring home a bright pink box filled with Asian bakery treats. These coconut buns (or gai mei bao) were always a family favorite. I’ve been searching for a recipe for awhile, and when I bit into one of these I knew I’d found it. The best part of gai mei bao is the buttery coconut filling, and this recipe doesn’t just nail the flavor — it allows for a generous amount in each bun. These buns are a great introduction to Asian baked goods; and even the non-coconut fans in my life gladly scarf these down.

There are a lot of steps to this recipe; don’t be intimidated! It all comes together quite easily in an afternoon. If you want to split up the work, make the dough on the first day and proof overnight in the fridge. Take out the dough about an hour before you want to wrap the buns so it can get to room temperature. During that time, make the filling and topping.

buns2This recipe calls for a couple unusual ingredients (caster sugar and whole milk powder). I found everything I needed at Bulk Barn, though your local Asian market should also carry them. If you have difficulty locating caster sugar (which is basically superfine sugar — NOT powdered), you can whiz regular granulated sugar in the food processor for 10 seconds or so. This recipe also incorporates the tangzhong method, which involves cooking a portion of the flour with liquid in order to give the bread a longer-lasting soft texture. These buns keep well for a few days (I recommend microwaving a few seconds after the first day), and make a delicious breakfast alongside bacon and a cup of coffee.

(Note: I weigh my ingredients — highly recommended! — when making these buns, but have included approximate US equivalents below.)

Chinese Coconut Cocktail Buns (Gai Mei Bao)

Adapted from Christine’s Recipes
Makes 16 buns

Tangzhong Ingredients (will make a little more than needed for this recipe):

  • 50gm / 1/3 c bread flour
  • 250ml / 1 c water (could be replaced by milk, or 50/50 water and milk)

Tangzhong Method:

  1. In a small saucepan, slowly add liquid to flour and mix until smooth. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, whisk or spatula to prevent burning and sticking while you cook along the way.
  2. 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.
  3. Transfer tangzhong to a clean bowl. Cover with a cling wrap sticking onto the surface of tangzhong to prevent from drying up. Let cool. The tangzhong can be used immediately once it cools down to room temperature. Leftover tangzhong can be stored in fridge for a few days. (Note: The chilled tangzhong should return to room temperature before adding into other ingredients.)

Bun Ingredients:

  • 160 ml / 2/3 c milk, warmed (any kind will do)
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 160 gm / 2/3 c tangzhong (for method, please see above)
  • 6 gm / heaping 1 tsp salt
  • 70 gm / 1/3 c caster sugar
  • 10 gm / 2 tsp whole milk powder
  • 360 gm / 3 c bread flour
  • 10 gm / 3 tsp active dry yeast
  • 40 gm / 1.5 tbsp butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

Filling Ingredients:

  • 180 gm / 13 tbsp butter, softened at room temperature
  • 80 gm / 2/3 c caster sugar
  • 50 gm / 1/2 c cake flour
  • 60 gm / 4 tbsp milk powder
  • 90 gm / 1 c unsweetened desiccated coconut

Topping Ingredients:

  • 35 gm / 1/3 c cake flour
  • 40 gm / 3 tbsp butter
  • 20 gm / scant 1/8 c caster sugar
  • 1 egg, whisked (with a splash of milk, optional)
  • Sesame seeds for sprinkling on top, to taste

Sugar glaze (optional):

  • 1 tbsp sugar + 1 tbsp water

Method:

  1. In a medium bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk to activate. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, and milk powder.
  3. Once the yeast is active and bubbly, add egg and tangzhong and stir to combine.
  4. Make a well in the middle of your dry ingredients. Slowly add the wet to the dry ingredients, incorporating with a spatula or wooden spoon. Dough will be sticky at first. Once in a cohesive ball, add melted butter. Knead until dough becomes smooth and soft, yet pliable (~8 – 10 minutes).
  5. Cover dough with cling wrap or a linen towel and set aside in a warm area until doubled in size (or proof in the refrigerator overnight).
  6. While dough is proofing, make filling and topping (see below).
  7. Transfer proofed dough to a clean floured surface. Gently deflate and divide the dough into 16 equal portions. Form into ball shapes. Cover with cling wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.
  8. Roll or 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.
  9. Transfer bun to a parchement 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.
  10. Preheat oven to 350F.
  11. Lightly brush whisked egg on the surface of each dough. Pipe two lines of toppings 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!

Filling:

  1. Combine the butter and sugar well. Sift in in milk powder, cake flour, and coconut. Mix to combine.
  2. Form filling mixture into a long tube. Divide into 16 equal portions. Set aside. (I like to put in the fridge while dough is proofing to make it easier to handle.)

Topping:

  1. Mix the softened butter with sugar well. Sift in the cake flour and combine well.
  2. Transfer into a ziplock bag and snip off a corner. Pipe over the tops of buns after egg wash.