Charcoal Buns with Green Tea Matcha Custard Filling

It’s time for some oozy-gooey-flowy matcha.

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Ok so some people seem to get disgusted by the idea of a green sticky filling. Reminds them of snot or something. Well it’s time to open your mind and broaden your horizons because there’s a whole world out there waiting for you to explore. And some of that world consists of green custard, alright?

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The green custard is restrained by charcoal bread, which colour is more for dramatic effect rather than any health benefits, really. Charcoal powder is used quite commonly in Asian baking. I’ve used it before in my Charcoal Bread with Salted Egg Yolk Filling, but this time I’m going to be using a different recipe which I think yields a softer bun.

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Get some dramatic sunrise lighting on those buns.

Charcoal Buns with Green Tea Matcha Filling

If your ability to wrap a filling is better than mine, you’ll probably end up with more custard in your buns. And for those that haven’t eaten matcha before it’s like ground-up green tea, also commonly used in Asian cooking. It kinda has a mildly bitter, earthy taste, but I think it complements sweet things really well.

I used my standard Asian-style bread recipe originally used here, and just adjusted for the charcoal powder. I got the recipe for the filling from here.

Ingredients (makes about 12 buns)

Green Tea Custard

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 60g sugar
  • 10g flour
  • 10g matcha powder
  • 250ml milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Water roux

  • 75g water (1/3 cup)
  • 14g plain flour (1 1/2 tbsp)
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Bread dough

  • 300g bread flour (2 1/2 cup minus about a tbsp)
  • 14g charcoal powder
  • 1 packet instant dry yeast
  • 25g granulated sugar (2 tbsp)
  • 110g heavy cream (1/3 cup)
  • 100g sweetened condensed milk (1/3 cup)
  • 1 large egg white
  • 37g unsalted butter, softened (2 1/2 tbsp)

Method

Matcha Custard

  1. In a pot, whisk together the egg yolk, sugar, flour, and green tea powder.
  2. Add in the milk and set over medium-high heat. Heat until the custard thickens, stirring continuously.
  3. When the custard is thick enough that when you dribble a bit back in the dribble briefly retains its shape, take off the heat and stir in the vanilla.
  4. Divide up the custard into tbsp-sized portions and place on a lined baking sheet (making sure you have at least 12 portions, or however many buns you want to make). Freeze until solid.

Water roux

  1. Mix the water, flour, and salt together in a microwave-proof bowl until there are no lumps.
  2. Microwave on high at 15 seconds intervals, whisking the mixture until smooth every time you take the bowl out of the microwave. The mixture is ready when it is thick and leaves behind ribbons.
  3. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Bread dough

  1. Mix together the bread flour, charcoal powder, yeast, and sugar. Then add the water roux, heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and egg white. Knead well until the mixture is smooth and elastic.
  2. Add the softened butter in 3 additions, adding a new addition after the butter has been well incorporated into the bowl. Keep kneading until your bread reaches windowpane stage.
  3. Cover with a piece of oiled clingfilm and let rise until doubled in size, about 1.5 hours.
  4. Knock down the bread dough and split the dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape each dough piece into a ball shape, and roll flat.
  5. Place a tbsp of the frozen matcha custard in the middle of the dough disc, and wrap the dough around the custard well, making sure to seal tightly.
  6. Let the buns rise until doubled in size, about 1.5h.
  7. After doubled in size, brush the tops of the buns with some oil and sprinkle some sesame seeds on top.
  8. Bake at 200ºC for 15-17 mins.

Notes

  • The frozen custard dough will retard the second rise of the dough, take that into consideration when planning the bake.
  • It can be difficult to judge when the bread is done since it is so dark, I just judged it by smell.
  • The times given for proofing the dough are a rough guide, since it is very dependent on temperature. Follow the visual cues (ie doubled in size) rather than the exact timing.
  • You have to use ground up matcha powder don’t use green tea leaves.
  • Make sure to seal the buns well!! The custard is super gooey and will seep out of any holes you’ve missed.
  • Use vanilla essence/extract whichever you prefer.
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Chocolate Sourdough with Walnuts and Raisins

My first sweet sourdough!

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I think that this is a bread that will satisfy both those who have a sweet tooth and those who don’t really like sweet things.

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The dough itself is on the bitter side because of the cocoa powder, but this also gives it a rich chocolate flavour. And of course you get the little pools of melted chocolate within which are to die for.

Chocolate Sourdough with Walnuts and Raisins (2)

And then you get the classic chocolate complement of aromatic, crunchy walnuts and plump, sweet raisins just to add a bit of textural variety to the bread.

I also don’t know why my crust looks purple.

Chocolate Sourdough with Walnuts and Raisins (1)

The crumb itself was really soft and moist. The crust is a little on the chewy side though, which was described in the original recipe as well. If you like your crust a little bit more crispy, a good toasting is the solution to all of your life’s problems.

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And when you toast it and add cream cheese? NEXT LEVEL.

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I got the recipe from here, but used my own timings.

Ingredients

  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 50g malted milk powder, optional (ie ovaltine, I just thought it’d taste good)
  • 50g sugar
  • 150g sourdough starter (mine was at 100% hydration, see notes)
  • 400g water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8g salt
  • 65g chopped walnuts
  • 65g raisins, soaked in water for at least an hour
  • 150g semi-sweet chocolate chips (see notes)

Method

  1. Mix the flour, cocoa powder, and sugar together. Then stir in the sourdough starter, water, and vanilla extract until well combined.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap and autolyse for 1h (just let it sit).
  3. When the dough is done autolysing add the salt, chopped walnuts, raisins, and chocolate using the pinch and fold method.
  4. Stretch and fold your dough four times over the next 2 hours (so every 30 mins).
  5. Cover the dough and let rise in the fridge overnight.
  6. In the morning, turn your dough out into a well-floured banneton. Shape your dough by basically pulling the dough from the sides of the ball towards the center.
  7. Cover and let rise for about 2 hours.
  8. 15 mins before baking, preheat your oven to 260°C with a baking tray half-filled with water at the bottom of the oven to create a steam oven.
  9. Tip out your dough onto a lined baking tray. Score your bread if you want with either a bread lame or the sharpest knife in your kitchen.
  10. Place the bread in the steam oven. Mist the oven generously with a spray bottle to generate more steam. Bake at 260°C for 30 mins. Then reduce the temperature to 200°C and bake for 20 mins or until done. Bread is done when it is well browned and when you tap it it sounds hollow.
  11. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Notes

  • My starter was at 100% hydration. This bread was about 70% hydration. If you have no idea what I’m talking about check out my previous recipe on classic white sourdough.
  • I soak raisins beforehand so that they’d remain plump after baking.
  • Use chocolate chips not chopped chocolate. The original recipe source tried using chopped chocolate and it just melted into the dough, so you don’t get the pools of chocolate which is honestly the whole reason why you’re eating this bread in the first place.
  • Autolysing just means letting your flour sit with the water before you add any salt or yeast. This is supposed to make the bread easier to handle and have better structure and taste since the flour absorbs the water or something. More here.
  • Turning and folding means you don’t knead the dough. It’s just an alternative method to build structure in the dough usually used for higher hydration sourdoughs, but it can be used for any bread really. Up to your personal preference.
  • Scoring helps direct the shape your bread will rise when baked. And it looks pretty.

Earl Grey Hot Cross Buns

Well I say earl grey but I couldn’t really taste the tea. Maybe my palate is unrefined, reflecting my appearance and general approach to life. Or maybe my super-generous jam distribution combined with the fruits in the bread overwhelmed the tea flavour.

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Well it’s a good idea in theory. Earl grey has a bit of a fruity note to it so I thought it’d go well with the bread. I just wanted to make my Easter baking this year a little bit more cultured okay.

Probably will try steeping the tea for longer next time, might even try an overnight infusion.

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Don’t get too excited and snip too big a hole to draw your cross, like I did for my first batch. This is the stage where a steady hand comes into play, so just do some deep yoga breathing, pop a beta-blocker, and enter your Sherlockian mind palace.

Earl Grey Hot Cross Buns

Also there is nothing more unappetising to look at (and eat) than an unglazed hot cross bun so just remove all inhibitions and slather on an uncomfortable amount of glaze. You are the Picasso of your kitchen. The van Gogh of jam. And the Bob Ross of your own heart (aww).

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If this bun doesn’t look like it was from the previous image, it’s because it was a different batch. Sorry for the deception.

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And of course, what’s hot cross buns without an unhealthy amount of butter. I like my butter cold, like my heart.

I used the same recipe as the Hot Cross Buns I made last year (Paul Hollywood’s recipe), and just steeped the milk in some earl grey first.

Ingredients (makes 12 medium-sized buns)

  • 330ml full-fat milk
  • 4 Earl Grey tea bags, opened
  • 50g butter
  • 500g strong bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 70g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil (for oiling the bowl)
  • 7g instant yeast (1 sachet)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 75g raisins, soaked in water for at least an hour
  • 50g mixed peel
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 apple (peeled, cored, and finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 75g plain flour (for making the cross)
  • 3 tbsp apricot jam

Method

  1. Simmer the milk and empty the contents of the teabags to the milk. Take the milk off the heat and steep for at least 30 mins.
  2. Sieve the milk to remove the bulkier leaves and warm the milk up slightly again. Add the butter to melt the butter. Leave to cool until it’s about body temperature.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. When adding the ingredients to the bowl, add the yeast on the opposite side of the salt and sugar since the latter two could retard the yeast.
  4. Make a well in the center and pour in the warm milk and butter mixture. Then add the beaten egg. Mix well.
  5. Knead on a lightly floured surface until the dough is smooth and elastic. It might be sticky at first but just keep kneading until it comes together.
  6. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with oiled cling film. Leave to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  7. Mix the dough with the sultanas, mixed peel, lemon zest, apple, and cinnamon. Knead into the dough, making sure everything is evenly distributed. Cover and leave to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  8. Divide the dough into 100g portions to make 12 rolls. Shape each dough into a ball by pulling on the top surface to create a smooth top. Arrange the buns on a baking tray, leaving some space between them for expansion. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise for 1 hour more.
  9. To prepare the paste to make the cross, mix the 75g of plain flour with about 5 tbsp of water, adding the water 1 tbsp at a time so you just get a thick paste. Place the flour mixture into a piping bag and pipe a cross pattern onto the top of the bun once they are done with the final proof.
  10. Bake at 200°C for 20 mins until golden-brown.
  11. Gently heat the jam until it’s more runny, then sieve it to get rid of any chunks. When the bread and jam is still warm, brush the jam over the top of the buns with a pastry brush and leave to cool.

Notes

  • If you don’t have a piping bag you can just use a zip-lock bag with a corner cut off.
  • Try to use a piping bag with a smaller nozzle to get a neater looking cross.
  • I find that soaking raisins beforehand makes them a little more plump and less likely to burn when baking.
  • I like to mix in cinnamon with the jam for glazing, to get more cinnamon flavour.

Shiro Anpan (Buns with Sweetened White Bean Paste)

Continuing to live vicariously through food. In this case compensating for not actually being in Japan.

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This sticky mucus-y water roux is the first step to making fluffy Asian-style bread. I was a bit weirded out by it at first but the results are goooood.

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And no, I don’t have two of the same bowl, I just combined two images to save on the limited memory allocated to me with my free wordpress account (student life). I don’t even know why I thought it was important to show both images.

But moving on.

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I had some leftover sweetened white bean paste (shiro-an) from my attempt at wagashi and read that shiro anpan’s a thing. I eat normal anpan (with sweetened red bean paste) all the time in Singapore, so I was really excited to try this variation on it. I thought that the shiro-an had a bit of a lighter and more delicate flavour than normal sweetened red bean paste.

By the way, sweetened bean paste is a common thing in East Asian desserts. Some of my (non East Asian) friends get a bit weirded out by the idea of it but give it a try!

And now, a lovely 3 image collage detailing the rise (and rise) of my bread. Enjoy.

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Well, that was fascinating.

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Oh yeah check out that pull.

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And here is me trying to make a cross-section shot of my bread look aesthetic but failing abysmally.

I got the recipe for the bean paste from here, and used my standard Asian bread dough recipe originally detailed here.

Ingredients (makes 8 buns)

Shiro-an (sweetened white bean paste)

  • 1 can cannellini beans (235g dried weight)
  • 75g granulated sugar

Water roux

  • 75g water (1/3 cup)
  • 14g plain flour (1 1/2 tbsp)
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Bread dough

  • 310g bread flour (2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 packet instant dry yeast
  • 25g granulated sugar (2 tbsp)
  • 110g heavy cream (1/3 cup)
  • 100g sweetened condensed milk (1/3 cup)
  • 1 large egg white
  • 37g unsalted butter, softened (2 1/2 tbsp)
  • Some white sesame seeds to decorate

Method

Shiro-an

  1. Drain the beans thoroughly and mash through a strainer. Apparently this step is easier if you skin the beans first but it was honestly a pain and it was easier to just start mashing and pick out the skins as you go. I ended up with about 190g of strained beans.
  2. Put the strained beans in a saucepan and add the sugar. Stir until thickened. The paste will cool down as it cools.

Bread dough

  1. Mix together the bread flour, yeast, and sugar. Then add the water roux, heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and egg white. Knead well until the mixture is smooth and elastic.
  2. Add the softened butter in 3 additions, adding a new addition after the butter has been well incorporated into the bowl. Keep kneading until your bread reaches windowpane stage.
  3. Cover with a piece of oiled clingfilm and let rise until doubled in size, about 1.5 hours.
  4. Knock down the bread dough and split the dough into 8 equal pieces. Shape each dough piece into a ball shape, and then roll each ball flat, with the edges a bit flatter than the middle (makes it easier to close).
  5. Divide your shiro-an into 8, and place each divided portion into the middle of the dough disc (if you think it’d make it easier to handle, freeze each portion of shiro-an first. But note that this will retard the second rise). Close the dough around the filling, and seal well. Shape each bun into the ball shape (see notes). Cover and let rise until doubled in size (about an hour).
  6. After doubled in size, create a egg wash with the leftover egg yolk and a splash of leftover cream. Brush over the top of the buns. Decorate with some white sesame seeds.
  7. Bake at 200ºC for 13-15 mins, or until golden brown.

Notes

  • This video shows pretty much how I shape my buns. It’s potato quality and out of focus but eh you get the general idea from it.
  • Heavy cream is also known as double cream or whipping cream.
  • All timings listed are a general guide. It’s better to follow the description (eg doubled in size) rather than the timings, as the timing depends on many factors like the activity of your yeast, or the surrounding temperature.
  • It’s important to oil the clingfilm to cover the bread or the bread will stick to the clingfilm and you’ll lose some of the volume in the bread when removing the clingfilm. That’s a lot of clingfilm in one sentence.
  • I’ve made matcha green tea buns containing sweetened red bean paste as well! But the dough from this recipe’s nicer. Life is a never-ending pursuit of knowledge.
  • Also. No, housemate-who-shall-not-be-named-and-shamed, my cover photo does not look like anal beads. Get your head out of the gutter.

Blue Cheese, Mozzarella, Pear, Thyme, and Walnut Sourdough Pizza

A quick recipe this time!

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I just really like weird combinations of flavours that unexpectedly merge to form a beautiful friendship with mutual love and respect.

Blue cheese walnut mozarella thyme pear pizza

In this case it’s the Sweetness of Pear, Saltiness of Blue Cheese, Aroma of Thyme, and Crunch of Walnuts that really makes this a special pizza. And the Mildness of Mozzarella?

If the picture is missing thyme, it’s because I forgot it. I added it in subsequent reheatings of pizza though so I can vouch that it definitely tastes better with the thyme.

I made this using my standard sourdough pizza base recipe and got the idea from this reddit post.

Ingredients (makes 1 medium thin crust pizza)

  • 1/2 cup sourdough starter (mine was 100% hydration)
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 150g all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • Some walnuts, some pear (depending on the type of pear you use, you might need to pre-cook the pear to let it soften sufficiently first), blue cheese, mozzarella, thyme. Just however much you want really.

Method

  1. Mix the sourdough starter with the water, flour, salt, and yeast (make sure the salt and yeast are placed at opposite ends of the bowl).
  2. Knead until smooth and elastic. Grease the ball of dough and place in a greased container.
  3. Cover the container with cling film and leave to rise until doubled in size, about 2-4 hours.
  4. Coat a pan with olive oil. Flatten the dough onto the pan. Cover, and let rest for 15 mins. It will start to shrink back a little, just press the dough to the edges of the pan again.
  5. Cover and let the dough rise until it’s as thick as you like.
  6. Preheat your oven to 230°C. Bake the crust for 4-5 mins, then top and bake for an additional 8-10 mins or until the toppings are done as you like.
  7. Remove from the oven and loosen the edges of the pizza with a knife. Carefully lift it onto a cooling rack to keep the bottom crisp. Or you could just eat it straight away from the pan.

Notes

  • 100% hydration means my starter was equal parts flour and water by weight.
  • To see how I started my sourdough starter, see this post.