Tuesday 4 July 2017

Tiger and Bear Pull-Apart Buns with Cream Cheese Filling (Naturally coloured!)

I love new challenges and bakes that break away from the routine of what I am familiar with. Although that means trial bakes may be necessary, I welcome the challenge if it is not out of my reach. And that was why I accepted the request for making my first cute pull-apart buns for sale! The cute bee on top is made from shortbread cookie.

Bee on tiger and bear buns!

Shortbread bees! Requested as part of the deco. Refer to this post for the recipe.

I am very much in favour of making cute buns for birthday celebrations as they are healthier than cakes or macarons. I use absolutely no artificial colouring at all for the buns. Although using cocoa powder would have been the easiest to create brown colour, I was told not to use it due to allergy. I experimented with dark brown sugar with a little Earl Grey powder, vanilla bean paste and a pinch of charcoal. It worked perfectly :). The deep orange colour was created using pumpkin powder and a pinch of paprika. I adapted the recipe from Victoria Bakes' killer toast recipe which stays soft for 5 days (I tested it myself). I bought both pumpkin powder and Earl Grey tea powder from Kitchen Capers.

It would also be easier to knead one large batch of dough, divide it into two and colour it separately when the dough almost passes the windowpane test. But because the brown colour is primarily coloured using dark brown sugar, the orange and brown dough have to be prepared separately as sugar has to be added at the beginning of making the dough. I did a few trial bakes before finally coming up with a satisfactory version. Here is one of my earlier trial bake.

How do I knead two separate batches of dough at the same time? I spend about 5-8 minutes kneading each colour at a time. This also allows the dough to relax in between 3 kneading cycles for each coloured dough. Those of you who have followed my blog posts will know that I prefer to knead dough by hand as I can feel the change of structure through my fingers. You may save yourself the trouble and use cocoa powder instead to colour the dough brown. That way you can just knead one dough and divide it later. Having said that, the brown sugar vanilla bread tastes awesome on its own!

Recipe for pumpkin and dark brown sugar cream cheese bun
Ingredients (makes 9 pull-apart buns in 7" tin):
Dark brown sugar dough
130g bread flour
25g dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1/8 tsp Earl Grey powder (optional)
1/16 tsp charcoal powder (optional)
1g (or 1/2 tsp)  sea salt
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
85g half an egg and top up the rest with milk
15g unsalted butter

Pumpkin dough
110g bread flour
10g caster sugar
1/2 tsp instant yeast
20g pumpkin powder
1/8 tsp paprika powder (optional)
1g (or 1/2 tsp) sea salt
90g half an egg and top up the rest with milk
15g unsalted butter

9 pieces of Laughing Cow cream cheese (about 16g each piece)

White compound chocolate
Charcoal powder
Edible markers

Notes: You may use any pumpkin bread recipe that uses fresh pumpkin but I find it more convenient to use the powder form here. You may also use any brand of cream cheese or any filling of your choice.

1. Shape each piece of cream cheese into a ball and freeze it. Add vanilla bean paste into the egg and milk mixture for brown dough. Line a 7x7" tray with baking sheet.

2. Combine all ingredients for the dough together except butter. Cover the mixing bowl with cling wrap and let the mixture rest for 10 minutes. This is to help the flour absorb more moisture but it is optional. Knead until the dough is smooth. About 5-8 minutes. Add butter and knead until the dough passes the windowpane test (another 15 minutes or so). Place the resting dough in a bowl loosely covered with cling wrap to prevent it from drying out if you are kneading two separate balls of dough at the same time like me.

3. Place the kneaded dough in a bowl loosely covered with cling wrap. Let the dough proof for about 25 minutes at room temperature (27-28℃ in hot Singapore).

4. Punch down the dough to release trapped air bubbles. Divide the dough into 44-45g portions for the head and 3g for a pair of ears. You will end up having extra dough for one colour.

5. Lightly flour the work surface with bread flour. Flatten a ball of dough for the head and wrap a ball of cream cheese filling. Pinch seal the dough and place in baking tray seam side down. Repeat for all the heads.

6. Divide the 3g dough into two for the ears. Stick the dough on the head and use a toothpick to press down the edge of the ears as shown in the picture below. This is to prevent the ears from falling out during proofing and baking.

7. Cover baking tray loosely with cling wrap and proof until the buns double in size. This can take anywhere from 45min to 1.5h depending on proofing conditions.

Assembled buns before proofing

After doubling in size

8. Towards end of proofing time, preheat oven to 180℃ (fan off) and set the rack to lowest position. Bake for 10 minutes. Carefully tent a foil over the tray and bake for another 20 minutes at 150℃ or until done.

9. Let the buns cool in the tray for 10 minutes before letting them cool completely on a cooling rack.

10. Prepare some melted compound white chocolate to decorate the snout and ears. Colour the white chocolate with charcoal powder for the eyes and nose. Use edible marker to add the markings on the tiger and rosy cheeks.

All packed and ready to go!

Thank God these were very well received! The birthday boy gobbled up the bun before mummy could take a picture :p.

With love,
Phay Shing

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