We’re taking a little break from the Japan travel blogs because I haven’t had the time to make the next posts in the series yet. But what else should I write about except this Japanese-inspired bread? This has been on my drafts folder for such a looooong long time. So long I don’t even want to tell you the exact date! But clearly these buns have made quite the impression on me, because the moment I saw the photos again, I immediately remembered what they tasted like.
I haven’t always been the biggest fan of red beans. It’s not that I hate it or anything. I just feel very… blah about it. Red bean flavour is one of those things I never crave but if it’s presented to me I wouldn’t exactly throw it aside. One of my brothers in comparison always cringes and makes a face right before taking a bite of anything red bean related, like a ritual of some sort. But the important thing is: he eats it anyway. Just like with these buns. 🙂
I guess you can say red bean falls under “acquired tastes”. For that matter, matcha is a bit of an acquired taste too. When I found out that my Mother did not like matcha very much I was shocked! I love matcha so much sometimes I forget that not everybody likes it. Oops.
But since finally being able to source baking matcha powder locally, I have been searching up a storm on the internet for green tea recipes of all shapes and sizes. I have made several recipes (most of which I have yet to share here) but none have really impacted me the way recipes featuring the combination of matcha and red bean have. I think many people in the house would agree that this was quite a pleasant surprise!
I love how the slightly bitter and fragrant matcha balances out the sweet sweet red beans. I am pretty sure I would never choose to eat red bean desserts on its own, but combined with matcha it becomes a different story. A story I wouldn’t mind reading over and over.
I think a big part of why I enjoyed this is the bread itself. An Asian-style bread made using the tangzhong method, the matcha buns were as soft and fluffy as can be. In Japan they put some cut marks on top of the buns and call them “melon pan” because of their resemblance to a rock melon.
The thing with Asian tangzhong breads is it doesn’t matter if they’ve been left out in the open for hours, or put in the fridge for that matter, it remains all nice and fluffy at room temperature. I guess that’s more or less why I’m biased toward Asian breads– they’re light so I can eat them all day long. There’s just something about starting the day off with a rich European bread (or a crusty one at that when my jaw barely knows how to work in the early morning) that doesn’t quite fit. But that’s just me.
So back to these buns.
I bought my red beans from the strip of Japanese stores in Cartimar, Pasay. They have such an assortment of Japanese and Korean goodies in there, and frankly I’m looking forward to stock up on some ingredients so I will be reminded to cook more Japanese and Korean food. So excited!
The red bean filling I bought is canned with actual mushy pieces of whole red beans. Usually these are used for Asian ice cream desserts, but there’s another type which is the pure red bean paste. You can use either, but for filling these sorts of buns I prefer the chunkier version. As you can see, it gives you something to chew on.
Ironically, my excitement was put to a halt when I realised I actually did not buy enough red bean. How can you make Green Tea Buns with Red Bean filling without the other?! So I ended up filling some of my buns with chocolate spread. Since I made 16 buns, I decided to divide the buns into red bean and then chocolate spread-filled buns for those who really just don’t feel like having any red beans.
Fragrant matcha buns with sweet filling… It kind of makes you realize just why they always mix the matcha dessert side by side with something sweet. Matcha and white chocolate. Matcha and red bean. It’s just perfect! I wish someone would give me a lifetime supply of matcha.
Green Tea Buns with Red Bean Filling
For the tangzhong*
- 1/3 cup bread flour
- 1 cup water
For the buns
- 2½ cups bread flour
- 3 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons caster sugar
- 2 teaspoons green tea powder
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup milk
- 120 grams tangzhong
- 30 grams butter, cut into small pieces and softened at room temperature
- 240 grams canned red bean paste for filling, more or less
Make the tangzhong
- 1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk flour into the water until completely dissolved and no lumps remain.
- 2. Set the pan on the stove at medium heat and begin to stir as the mixture heats up. To avoid burning, stir constantly until the mixture begins to thicken. Keep stirring until the mixture forms lines right on the path where you stir your spoon. (If using a thermometer, stir until the temperature of the mixture reaches 65 degrees Celsius.) Turn off the heat and take the mixture off the stove. Transfer immediately to another to stop the cooking process and let cool.
- 3. Once tangzhong has cooled (or just the tiniest bit warm), press clingfilm right on the surface to prevent the tangzhong from forming skin. Place in the fridge for several hours or overnight. Make sure to use within a few days as this does not keep well.
Make the dough
- 4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, sugar, green tea powder, instant yeast, and salt. Make a well in the center and add in the egg, milk, and tangzhong. Roughly mix together using a spoon to distribute the ingredients.
- 5. Using the dough hook, begin mixing on medium speed until the dough comes together. Then add in the butter and continue to mix on medium speed.
- 6. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth, not too sticky on the surface and elastic, about 10 to 15 minutes depending on mixer. To tell if the dough is ready, take a chunk of dough and carefully and gently stretch it out. You should be able to stretch it out to a very thin membrane before it breaks. When it does break, a circular hole-like shape on the stretched dough should form.
- 7. Gather up the dough and put in a lightly-greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel. Let proof until doubled in size, about 45 minutes to an hour.
- 8. Punch down the dough and divide into 12 or 16 equal portions, depending on size of bread desired. Knead into ball shapes. Cover with cling wrap and let rest for 15 minutes to relax the gluten.
- 9. Roll out each small dough ball with a rolling pin and flatten into a disc. Flip the dough so that the smooth side of the disk will be at the bottom and will be the outside of the bun. Place some red bean paste in the middle of the dough, then pinch the dough closed and gently knead into a ball shape with the seal facing down. Repeat until all dough has been used up.
- 10. Place dough balls onto baking tray lined with parchment paper. Let the buns sit for final proofing until doubled in size, about 45 to 60 minutes. During the last 20 minutes preheat oven to 320°F (160°C).
- 11. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until buns have browned on top. Transfer onto a wire rack and let cool completely.