Monday, 7 July 2014

Lions & Tigers & Bears! Oh My!... Sweet Potato Milk Buns

I had been toying with the idea of creating lions, tigers and bears steamed buns colored orange naturally with orange sweet potato. Then I saw Susanne's post for panda Japanese milk buns and I was inspired to try doing a baked version instead. Here's a bunch of animals that definitely won't scare Dorothy, the tin man and the scarecrow :p.

Too cute to be scary!

Check out the soft soft bun!

I love the natural colors with charcoal powder and cocoa powder as coloring, along with orange sweet potato.

I steamed some orange sweet potatoes, mashed, sieved and portioned into 25g portions for future use. I reserved 150g of puree for this bake.

I got hold of some wheat gluten as recommended by Priscilla Poh in my Wu Pao Chun bake. I adapted the sweet potato bun recipe from here. In order to create the white features, I prepared another small batch of plain milk bun dough.

I happen to stumble across the assembly instructions for a lion bun with beautiful braided mane. I followed it closely to create the lion here.

Ingredients (makes about 12 buns):
Plain milk bun
45g bread flour
11g cake flour
4g wheat gluten
3/8 tsp instant yeast
2g caster sugar
48g fresh milk
2g unsalted butter
Pinch of salt

1/2 tsp charcoal powder

Orange sweet potato milk bun
190g bread flour
44g cake flour
16g wheat gluten (you may replace it with bread flour)
150g orange sweet potato puree
30g sugar
3/4 tsp instant yeast
140g milk
20g unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cocoa powder

1. Prepare the plain milk bun dough.**(you may skip this step if you just want to use orange sweet potato dough). Combine all ingredients together in a bowl except salt and butter. Mix with a wooden spoon until a rough dough forms.

2. Pour the dough onto a non-stick mat and knead in butter and salt. Continue kneading by hand until the dough is smooth and elastic and passes the windowpane test. About 10-15 minutes.

3. Divide the dough into two portions and color one of them black with 1/2 tsp of charcoal powder. Cling wrap the dough and refrigerate.

4. Prepare the sweet potato dough in a similar way. Combine all ingredients except salt and butter and knead until a dough forms. Gradually knead in butter and salt. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. About 20 minutes.  Alternatively, you may use a breadmaker or standmixer with a dough hook attachment to knead the dough. You may add some bread flour if you find the dough too sticky to work with.

5. Add cocoa powder to about 60g of dough.

6. Take the white and black dough out of the fridge. Proof all 4 colored dough for about 50 minutes or double in size.

7. Punch down the dough and divide accordingly to form the various animals or plain buns:
Lion: 30g brown dough + 38g orange dough + bits of orange, black & white dough
Tiger/ bear: 55g orange dough + bits of orange, black & white dough
Let the dough rest for 10 minutes loosely covered with cling wrap before shaping. Place any dough you are not working with in the fridge to avoid overproofing.

8. Follow the pictures below for shaping the lion:

Begin by rolling a brown ball into an oval shape. Fold both sides towards the center. Roll to form rectangle about 13cm in length. Use a bench scraper to cut into 4 strips but not all the way through.  Twist 2 adjacent strips together. Straighten out the twisted pieces to form a long strip (6th picture). Wrap the long strip around a ball of 38g orange dough on a small piece of baking sheet and pinch the ends together. Affix the ears, eyes, nose and mouth. I just pinched bits of dough and stuck them on the face. A toothpick is helpful in pressing down tiny bits of dough.

Place the assembled bun in the fridge lightly covered with cling wrap until the whole batch is assembled and ready to proof for the second time.

Just assembled!

I only assembled 2 of each animal and left the rest plain.

9. Proof assembled buns at room temperature (about 27-30 degrees Celsius in the kitchen in Singapore) for about 40-50minutes. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius 20 minutes before end of proofing time.

10. Place the buns in the oven at the lowest rack and immediately reduce the temperature to 140 degrees Celsius. Bake for 15-16 minutes or until the bun sounds hollow when you tap on it.

11. Brush some melted butter to give the buns a bit of shine but this is optional. Cool completely on a cooling rack before storing.

Just baked!

I had leftover white and black dough so I played with it :p.

Soft and fluffy too!

My kids had much fun eating the animal buns, especially the littlest member of the family. He kept asking for more :).

With love,
Phay Shing


  1. Hi Phay Shing

    Truly loving creations, very cute animated buns. By the way, what is your verdict in using Vital Wheat Gluten (VWG)?

    I have been using Wu Poa Chun recipe since the day I discovered it at Aunty Young's blog but lately due to overstocked of all purpose flour (AP), I twisted recipe little by incorporating AP flour with bread flour when baking bread.

    I doubled the amount:

    260g AP flour + 40g VWG
    300g bread flour
    48g sugar
    420g milk (plus perhaps 1 tablespoon more, depending on the window pane result)
    6g yeast
    30g butter
    1/2 tsp salt

    The result was good. Incorporating VWG helped in preserving my bread with longer shelf life. Easy peasy method that does not require overnight fermentation as very often I've seen food bloggers using bread flour together with cake flour in making overnight fermentation or pre-fermentation in order to achieve that yoga softness. But with VWG added to AP flour, I have no need of pre-dough yet softness, longer bread life and better nutrients from VWG all of these given me good bread outcome.

    Priscilla Poh

    1. Thanks for the recipe Priscilla :). I followed your ratio of bread flour: plain flour: wheat gluten from your comments in my wu pao chun post, except that I replaced plain flour with cake flour.
      Verdict: very very soft and moist buns even on the next day. The sweet potato buns had a softer but chewier bite. Will try with plain flour instead of cake flour next time.

      Thanks for teaching me about bread making :)

    2. Thanks Phay Shing for your humble response. Notice you love creating different chiffon designs. When I need to create design for my chiffon baking in future, yours is the best blog to visit for inspirations.

      Priscilla Poh

    3. Thanks for your encouragement Priscilla :). Happy baking!

  2. Hi Phay Shing

    I find using sweet potato in bread gave me the bouncy texture. As I do not like bouncy texture but prefer to bite into bread that gives more elasticity, strength and gluten texture, I stopped using sweet potato or pumpkin when making bread. Anyway, incorporating sweet potato or pumpkin into bread is sure healthier.

    Priscilla Poh

    1. Thanks for letting me know Priscilla :). I also prefer the texture of plain milk bread. If I don't try I won't know :p. And yes I was also thinking that adding sweet potato is healthier. When I added the sweet potato dough as swirls I didn't encounter this. So maybe I can incorporate sweet potato in this manner in the future.