Soft and fluffy Chinese steamed buns are filled with sweet grated coconut filling.
BAKPAO ISI KELAPA
The mention of this steamed buns with sweet coconut filling reminds me of childhood. Dad bought these steamed buns with coconut filling so often because they were his favorite. Coconut is not really Chinese, but this version of steamed buns with coconut filling is popular in Indonesia. We call it bakpao (steamed buns) isi (filled with) kelapa (grated coconut meat in this case).
THE COCONUT FILLING
The flesh of the coconut is used as the filling. The flesh is finely grated. I can usually get the grated coconut in frozen form at the Asian store. There are two different versions of coconut fillings I know of. The first one is cooked with regular white fine sugar and has that pale white appearance. The second one is cooked with Indonesian palm sugar (gula Jawa) or we call it coconut sugar here. The second version is much darker in color, dark brown to be exact, because of the palm sugar. I love both versions equally. My version here is kind of in between 🙂 not as pale and not as dark because I ran out of coconut sugar and I used a mixture of light brown sugar and regular sugar.
FRESH GRATED COCONUT VS DESICCATED COCONUT
I highly recommend using freshly grated coconut for the filling. When I said fresh, it doesn’t mean you cannot get the frozen grated coconut. The one I usually get is in frozen form, but they are freshly grated coconut. Desiccated coconut has been dried and if you plan to use desiccated coconut, you need to add more water to hydrate it while you cook it.
WHY YOU WILL LIKE THIS RECIPE
1. The steamed buns dough is much quicker to make and soooo soft !!!
I used to proof the dough twice. Now, I only proof the steamed buns dough once and that doesn’t even take that long
2. Easy to make coconut filling
The filling is really very easy to make without much fuss. The level of sweetness can be adjusted to your liking
The recipe was originally published in 2013 and has been updated with an improved recipe and new photos.
Soft Fluffy Chinese Steamed Buns with Coconut Filling
- 200 gr grated unsweetened coconut
- 100 ml water
- 80 gr sugar or more if you like it sweeter. See notes 1
- 1/4 tsp salt
Preparing the coconut filling (can be prepared one day ahead):
- Mix all the ingredients for the filling. Place this over a medium-size skillet and stir-fry for over medium heat for about 2 minutes or so. The sugar will start to dissolve and the mixture will be "wetter". Stir fry again until the mixture is dry. Remove from heat and let it cool down completely before wrapping
Preparing the dough:
- Place the flour, instant yeast, sugar, and cooking oil in a mixing bowl. If you are using a stand mixer, use a dough hook attachment. Gradually add in milk or water. You may need more than 150 ml or not. Add more teaspoon by teaspoon until the dough comes together and continue to knead for 5 minutes. If you are kneading by hands, about 10 minutes until the dough is no longer sticky and smooth. Then add in the salt and continue to knead until the dough is smooth again
- Lightly dust your work surface with cake flour. Not too much. If you use a silicon pastry mat, you may not even need to dust with flour. Divide the dough into 15 equal portions. Keeping the dough covered and work with one dough at a time
- Then roll the dough into a smooth round ball in between the palm of your hand or as I did in the video. REALLY make sure the dough is smooth. Flatten the dough with your palm and then use a rolling pin to roll it out to form a circle about 4-5 inches, with a slightly thicker middle part
- FOR ROUND SHAPE: Place about 1 to 2 Tbsp of coconut filling in the middle and gather the edge to enclose into a round ball and place the seam side down. Cup the dough with both palms and move the dough in a circular motion to shape it taller. This part is important so your steamed buns come out tall instead of spreading to the side after steaming
- Place on a piece of parchment paper. Lightly dab the surface of the bun with some milk using your finger to smooth the surface. Loosely cover with a saran wrapper to prevent drying. Work with another dough and do the same
- IF YOU WANT TO PLEAT SOME PATTERNS: Place the char siu filling in the middle. Create a fold around the edge and then pinch to seal. Cup the dough with both palms and move the dough in a circular motion to shape it taller. This part is important so your steamed buns come out tall instead of spreading to the side after steaming
- Let the shaped buns proof until about 50% double its original size. They don't have to double in size. This may take about 15-20 minutes, but please don't go by the time, just observe to make sure the buns have puffed up to half its original size before steaming or the buns will be tough. Don't overproof them as well.
- Most likely your steamer won't be able to accommodate steaming all buns at one go. You may need to steam in 2-3 batches, which means, the rest of the batches will sit longer and continue to proof while waiting for the steamer. Not good for the buns! Here's what you can do: Make sure the cover them with plastic wrap and then place them in the refrigerator to slow down the yeast activity or halt it all together until they are ready to be steamed
- Bring water in the steamer to a boil. Lower the heat to LOW (not medium). Wrap the lid of your steamer with a kitchen towel to prevent moisture dripping on your buns creating burn spots. Place the buns inside the steamer and steam for 5 minutes
- Turn off the heat. Do not open the lid of the steamer. Let the buns sit there for 1 minute like this. The buns will not sink or wrinkle due to the sudden change in temperature. Transfer to cooling rack to let them cool down so the bottom of the buns won't be wet and soggy
- If you make extra and plan to store them, once the steamed buns have cooled down, place them on a baking sheet not touching each other and put them inside the freezer for 1 hour then transfer to a freezer bag
- They can be reheated in the steamer without thawing. Steam over high heat for 5 minutes
- You can swap out regular sugar with coconut sugar or palm sugar. You many need to increase the amount of coconut sugar/palm sugar because they are less sweet compared to regular sugar. You can also combine regular white sugar with coconut sugar too. Just adjust the sweetness to your liking.
- You can also replace all 300 gr of all-purpose flour with cake flour or premixed Hongkong/Vietnamese bao flour and omit the wheat starch/corn starch.