coconut buns

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

coconut bunsWalk into a Chinatown bakery and chances are you’ll see a handful of elderly patrons, chatting away with friends or lingering over coffee, Mini Egg Tarts, or something called a cocktail bun. Also known as Coconut Buns, these pillowy, golden buns with buttery coconut filling were created in the 1950s in Hong Kong, supposedly by bakers who wanted a way to use up extra bread and shredded coconut. Gai mei, literally “cock tail” in the animal sense, was just Cantonese slang for leftovers.

  • Yield: 6 to 12 Servings


  • 2 packets instant dry yeast
  • ½ cup very warm water
  • ½ cup sugar, plus 2 teaspoons for proofing the yeast
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Canola or vegetable oil
  • coconut filling
  • 1½ cups finely shredded coconut flakes
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • White sesame seeds
How to Make It
  1. Dissolve the yeast in the very warm water. To proof the yeast, add the 2 teaspoons sugar and let stand for about 10 minutes. The yeast is ready when it has bubbled and the volume has at least tripled. .
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the remaining ⅓ cup sugar, the flour, and salt. Add the milk, butter, eggs, and proofed yeast and mix until well combined. Dust a clean work surface with flour and knead the mixture for about 5 minutes, until it forms a smooth, elastic dough. Add more flour if the dough seems too sticky
  3. Lightly grease a large bowl with canola oil. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Set the bowl in a warm place (such as near a radiator in the winter or inside a turned-off oven that has a pilot light) and let the dough rise for 1½ to 2 hours, or until it doubles in size. While the dough is rising, make the coconut filling.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together the coconut flakes, sugar, and butter until the mixture has a pastelike consistency.
  5. When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and divide it in half. Divide each half into rounds the size of a tennis ball. Working one by one, flatten each ball with the palm of your hand, and use a rolling pin to roll each disk into a 5-inch circle. Place 1 heaping tablespoon of coconut filling in the center. Bring the sides up to encase the filling, pinching and sealing up the dough. Make sure the edges are well sealed to prevent the coconut filling from spilling out during baking.
  6. Place the buns, seam side down, 1 to 2 inches apart on a greased baking sheet. Let the buns rise on the baking sheet, uncovered, for another 10 to 15 minutes. The buns may rise up and the seams run into each other during baking, which is perfectly fine and how they are baked at Chinese bakeries.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  8. To make an egg wash, whisk the egg in a small bowl. Lightly brush the tops of the buns with the egg wash and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
  9. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes before serving. The coconut buns will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to a week.

Comments are closed.