My Japanese mother-in-law always stocks me up on Japanese foods when we see her, including red bean paste. A lot of times it will sit there for months, but this time around I was determined to use it right away for something fun. And thus these animal buns were born.
The red bean paste can be found at any Asian store and I would also expect it to be in the Asian section of large grocery stores. But you can also sub out for any filling of your choice. Chocolate or custard would be just as delicious. Recipe below:
- 2-1/2 cups bread flour + 3 Tbsp for roux
- 1/2 cup water + 2 Tbsp
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- 4 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup milk + extra for wash
- sweet read bean filling
- 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine 3 Tbsp bread flour and 1/2 cup water. Whisk continuously until it thickens. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Whisk together 1/2 cup milk and your egg, then pour into a bread mixer. Add the roux and butter, then 2-1/2 cups bread flour, sugar and salt. Use your finger to make a small divot in the flour and pour the yeast into it so that it's not touching any wet ingredients. Set the bread mixer to the dough setting and let it run. Place your package of sweet red bean filling in the fridge so it firms up a bit.
*If you don't have a bread mixer: combine all of the ingredients, then knead either by hand or in a stand mixer with the dough hook for 10-15 minutes. Let rise in a warm, dry place for 1 hour, punch down, then let rise again for 30 minutes.
Once the dough is ready, plop it onto a clean surface dusted with flour. Divide it into 16 even pieces and set one aside to use for animal features. Take one piece of dough and use your hands to pinch and stretch it out until it's about 1/4 inch thick. Or roll out for an even consistency. Dust a small prep bowl and place the dough inside (see photos below). Place a scoop of sweet red bean filling in the middle, and pinch closed. Place seam-down on a pan fitted with parchment paper or a silicon mat. Continue with the rest of the dough until done.
For the animal features: roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Use a sharp knife to cut triangles for cat ears, roll balls for bear and pig ears. I used the back of a large pastry tip for the bear mouth, and a small pastry tip for the pig nose. Dampen the pieces with just a bit of water to attach them to your buns. Cover the buns with a tea towel and let rise for 30-60 minutes.
Heat oven to 335F.
Pour a bit of milk into a small bowl. Brush milk onto each bun. In a small bowl, combine 2 Tbsp cocoa powder and just slightly less than 2 Tbsp water to create a paste. Pour into a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip. Pipe the final details onto your buns. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool.
Bread recipe adapted from HERE.