Saturday 28 June 2014

Panda Japanese Milk Buns

My son had just been to River Safari during the June holidays and he liked Kai Kai and Jia Jia very much. I think they are super adorable too! We were going to have a picnic on Saturday and he asked me for panda buns for the picnic. I think I shared previously that he rarely requests for bakes, so I was more than happy to oblige him :).

I searched for a bread recipe that would have minimal browning so that my pandas would stay white and black. I found them in the very talented Bento, Monsters' Japanese Milk Bun Bears. The milk buns were amazingly white and pretty. I was further piqued that the recipe was very similar to the Wu Pao-Chun Champion Toast Recipe that I have been wanting to try, with no egg and only slightly less flour, sugar and butter. 

I modelled the pandas after the cute panda steamed buns in River Safari and those I saw in Japan. As my kids love chocolate, I used a combination of cocoa powder and charcoal powder for the eyes, ears and nose. They were brownish black before baking but turned out black after baking, which was perfect for pandas. The baking temperature at 140°C (after preheating the oven at 190°C) seems to be one of the key factors in preventing browning.

Recipe adapted from Bento, Monsters:

Ingredients (makes 6 buns)
200g bread flour
50g cake flour
3g instant yeast
200 ml fresh milk
10g castor sugar
10g unsalted butter
3g salt

1. Put the ingredients into the breadmaker pan according to the sequence below:
- Add the wet ingredients first: milk.
- Add the dry ingredients next: bread flour, sugar at the side, yeast in the middle (dig a small hole) (top left pic).
- Select dough function on bm. When the mixture is being combined around 2-5 min later (bottom left pic), add in the salt and the softened butter.

3. After the breadmaker is finished with the dough function (right pic), transfer the dough out onto a lightly floured table and punch it down.

4. Divide the dough into six 60g balls. Cover with clingwrap and let the dough rest for 15 min (top row, left pic in collage below). To the remaining dough, add 2 tsp cocoa powder and some charcoal powder (till desired shade of brownish black) and knead in until evenly incorporated. 

5. Roll out the cocoa-charcoal dough into a 2-3 cm thick layer. Use a 1.5 cm round cutter to cut 12 circles for the eyes (top row, middle pic) and a straw to cut 12 circles for the ears (top row, right pic). Gently roll the circles into ovals. Cover with clingwrap and let the dough rest for 15 min likewise.

6. Affix the eyes onto the plain dough balls. Do likewise for the ears on top. For the noses, just pinch a tiny bit of the cocoa-charcoal dough and stick it in between the eyes (bottom row, left pic).

7. Cover with cling wrap and let the dough rise for 40 min. Meanwhile, preheat the oven meanwhile to 190°C. The middle picture in the bottom row shows pandas after proofing and before baking.

8. Lower the temperature to 140°C before placing the panda buns at the lowest rack. Bake for 16 min. *You can test for doneness by tapping the bun with your fingers. A hollow sound means the bread is done.

9. Brush with butter after the buns are out of the oven for a light shine with softer crust and richer taste. It will slightly deepen the colour of the bun. *You can omit the butter wash if you prefer a lighter colour.

*Original recipe calls for all bread flour. I have substituted a small amount of bread flour with cake flour as I find it makes bread even softer, from my favourite sweet bun recipe from Happy Home Baking. You can choose to use all bread flour and the bread should still come out very soft.
*I had about 20 g cocoa-charcoal dough leftover. So you could divide into six 63 g plain dough balls and reduce the amount of coloured dough.
*The baking time in the original recipe was 15 min, but was insufficient for me, maybe because I placed the buns in the lowest rack. It is important to check for doneness as every oven is different.
*At the time of writing after the bake, I realized that Bento, Monsters had also done a different full-body version of black sesame pandas. They look quite different from my steamed buns version but are really cute too! Do check them out too if you're interested to make pandas.
*You can cover with aluminium foil to reduce browning as well.

This is my milk bun version of the pandan steamed buns! Are they cute? My kids were thrilled to see and eat them! :)

Check out the fluffy texture! This recipe is really a keeper. The buns kept well and were soft and moist the next day and the following day.

More panda bears in the serving plate! :)

My daughter had so much fun eating the freshly-baked buns! :)

This post is linked to the event Little Thumbs Up (June 2014 Event: Butter) organised by Zoe (Bake for Happy Kids) and Mui Mui (My Little Favourite DIY) and hosted by Jozelyn Ng (Spice Up My Kitchen)


With love,


  1. Hi,Susanne, these panda bread really looks so first sight, I thought they are pao instead of bread, thanks for sharing the tips how to bake the bread so that they stay pale...

    and thanks for linking up with LTU!

    1. Thanks Jozelyn! It's almost ending, thanks for hosting and doing such a great job! :)

  2. how to keep the bun if not eat in the same day?

  3. Hi...i follow your recepi..i failed get the dough sticky to my hand..and dint double size after waiting for 1hour for raising...what wrong with my dough? I follow all ur ingredients

    1. Sounds like a problem with your yeast? To prevent the dough from sticking to your hand, you can use some oil on your hands. Thanks

  4. How to do chocolate custard panda bun using ur recipe?

    1. Hi do you mean the filling? Or chocolate flavour? For filling, you need to prepare the custard separately, weigh into balls and then freeze them before wrapping them in the dough (after first proofing). Thanks

  5. the chocolate filling, any idea how to make chocolate custard filling?