RED BEAN BUN TALE

The ‘tring’ of a bicycle bell always reminds me of the Bread Man of my Singapore childhood. A wrinkly but ageless Chinese man with a wide, gentle smile that reflected a very kind soul.

The tea chest attached to the back of his bicycle was a treasure trove of baked delights. Crusty baguettes we called elbow bread with his home made kaya (local coconut curd) was a tea time combination made in heaven. Sweet, fluffy brioche and a white bread that was crust off and cloud soft are delicious memories. The treat of all treats for me were his red bean buns sold in batches of nine.

You can buy them here in London at Chinese supermarkets and bakeries. My kids love them and it gives me such pleasure to watch them devour a flavour of my past with the same gusto.

Now I have painted the idyllic picture, let me destroy it. I know that the red bean buns, if not of my youth then certainly now, are pumped full of additives and preservatives, transfats and far too much sugar. Burdened with this reality the bun treat frequency trickled and I became the wicked but not step mother.

Enter stage right: Thermomix. Bread dough in 3 minutes and mess-free home made red bean paste means red bean buns are back in abundance!

I know they are additive free because I made them. I control the amount of sugar as well as what kind, using coconut nectar and dates to sweeten. The downside is I use white bread flour because wholemeal detracts from the red bean flavour but I do throw a handful of flaxseed or toasted sesame seeds into the dough to compensate.

I first made them using the Thermomix Milk Bread recipe from the Basic Cook Book. Now, to keep them simpler I make a plain white bread dough with a little coconut nectar or jaggery to sweeten it and some coconut oil to moistened it and it works a treat.

My daughter says they are like the Chinese supermarket ones….

That makes me the fairy godmother and the Thermomix is my knight in shining armour!

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RED BEAN PASTE:

Ingredients:
200g small red adzuki beans
1.5 litres water
8 – 10 pitted dates
2 tbsp organic coconut oil
40 – 60g coconut nectar to taste
Salt to taste

Method:
1. Rinse and soak the beans in plenty of water overnight.
2. Drain the beans into the simmering basket and rinse.
3. Pour water into the TM bowl and place the simmering basket into it. The water should just cover the top of the beans. If it doesn’t then top it up with more water. If the water more than covers the beans, pour some out.
4. Cook for 35 minutes at 100 degrees on speed 4.
5. Place the pitted dates on top of the beans and cook for a further 10 minutes.
6. Test the beans by pressing one between index finger and thumb. It should be soft. If not cook for longer till it reaches the desired consistency.
7. Using the spatula, hook it onto the simmering basket to form a handle and lift the basket out. Tilt the basket and rest the disc on the spatula in the groove on the TM bowl handle to let the water drain and then remove the basket onto a saucer.
8. Pour the cooking liquor out of the TM bowl into a jug ( I keep it to cook rice in!).
9. Tip the cooked beans and dates into the TM bowl. Add the other paste ingredients and blend 30 seconds, speed 5 gradually increasing to speed 8 till you have a smooth paste.
10. Cook for 5 mins, 100C, speed 2.

BREAD DOUGH:
Ingredients:
300g water
7g dried instant yeast
15g coconut nectar
500g Strong White Bread Flour
80g toasted sesame seeds
30g organic coconut oil
1 tsp salt
Egg white or milk to glaze
Extra toasted sesame seeds to sprinkle

Method:
1. Measure water, sugar and yeast into the TM bowl.
2. Warm the mixture for 2 minutes at 45 degrees at Speed 2 (it may take slightly longer to reach the temperature).
3. Add the flour, coconut oil and salt. Stir for 30 seconds at speed 2 to gently mix liquid and dry ingredients (this way you can keep the flour from messing up the lid for easy cleaning).
4. Knead using dough function for 3 – 7 minutes (the longer the better to give the dough more elasticity).
5. Meanwhile lightly grease a large bowl and cling film to cover the bowl.
6. Transfer the dough into the bowl and cover with the cling film to prove in a warm, draft free place for at least an hour or until doubled in size.

ASSEMBLING THE BUNS:

1. Line an oven tray with parchment paper.
2. When the dough is almost ready, divide the red bean 2 tb sp portions (you should get 16 portions and a bit left over.
3. Knock back the bread dough. Halve the dough and divide each half into 8 equal sized balls.
4. Flatten a ball of dough and stretch out into a circle in the palm of your hand.
5. Place a ball of bean paste in the centre of the circle of dough.
6. Lift the edges of dough over the bean paste ball, encircling it completely and pinching the dough at the top to seal securely.
7. Gently press into a bun shape and place on the lined tray. Repeat till you have sixteen buns. Leave to rise for at least an hour.
8. Glaze the buns with a milk or egg wash. Sprinkle on sesame seeds.
9. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes till golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped.
10. Cool on a wire rack.

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