Chinese Sweet Red Bean Buns
By Dani Lind - Winter 2017 Issue
These buns are irresistibly soft and lightly sweet, and a big bite reveals a dollop of red bean paste hiding inside. This version ups the flavor of the red bean paste with grated beets for a seasonal touch, along with molasses and honey instead of only sugar.
Recipe Detail Serves: 12 2 hours 30 minutes Prep Time, 20 minutes Cook Time
Make the Sweet Red Bean Paste:
Combine drained beans, grated beets, sugar, honey and molasses in food processor and process until slightly chunky or smooth, as you prefer.
Melt butter in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add bean paste and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, until thickened. Remove from heat, stir in orange zest, and set aside.
Make the Dough:
In a small pan, gently warm half-and-half and sugar until mixture feels just warm to the touch, but not hot. Remove from heat and stir in yeast (let cool a bit first if it got too warm). Let sit a few minutes to activate yeast, then mix in the beaten egg.
In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, sift together flour, cornstarch and salt. Pour in warm half-and-half/yeast mixture, mix until just incorporated, then either knead by hand on a floured surface or with the bread hook in the stand mixer for 10 to 15 minutes, until a smooth dough has formed. If it’s really sticky, add flour 1 tablespoon at a time. Shape dough into a ball, lightly oil the bowl, and cover with a damp cloth. Let rise in a warm spot until almost doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.
Line a couple rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide dough into 12 to 16 pieces (depending on your size preference) and shape each into a ball on a lightly floured surface. Press each ball into a 4- to 5-inch disk with the palm of your hand. Place about 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of red bean paste in the center of each ball and then gently wrap dough around filling, pinching edges together. Place pinched side down on prepared baking sheets. Cover with a light damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise for 45 to 60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together 1 egg with about a teaspoon of water. Brush buns gently with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Eat warm or at room temperature, or store in an airtight container in the fridge and refresh in the oven to re-serve.