We Knead To Bake #38 : Gai Mei Bao or Chinese Cocktail/ Coconut Buns
The Chinese Cocktail/ Coconut Bun or Gao Mei Bao has its origins in Hong Kong and is a sweet bun that is filled with a buttery, milky sweet coconut paste. This bun was supposedly created some time in the 1950s in Hong Kong, when the owners of a local bakery were left with quite a few unsold but perfectly good buns.
The enterprising owners apparently ground them up with sugar to make a filling which was put into freshly baked buns the next day. Talk about a creative solution to re-inventing leftovers! While the original buns were made with filling made only from left over buns and sugar, more creative bakers eventually added more flavour to the new buns by adding coconut, butter and milk to the filling. This has now become the accepted filling for these Chinese Cocktail/ Coconut Buns.
The “Cocktail” in the name is thought to be a comparison of the rather ‘interesting’ mixture of unusual filling ingredients in the buns to a bartender’s mixture of exotic ingredients that go into creating a cocktail!!
Chinese Cocktail/ Coconut Buns make for a great snack and I found there was something almost addictive about the buttery coconut filling. I guess it helps that we like coconut. You could use desiccated coconut in the filling but if you can find fresh coconut (even the frozen kind), I’d say go for it because it does make a whole lot of difference.
These Buns are typically topped with two stripes (almost reminds me of the American football!) and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. I had extra dough for making the stripes so I piped three stripes onto my buns just for the heck of it.
One word of caution while making these Buns. While they’re quite easy to make, you need to make sure the filling is sealed well inside the dough. Otherwise, the seams will open up when the buns rise and the butter in the filling will leak out during baking which is not at all a desirable thing.
Some recipes call for these buns to be brushed with a sugar or honey glaze as soon as they come out of the oven, but I left that out because I didn’t want these Buns any sweeter. If you want to use the glaze, mix together about half a tablespoon each of caster sugar and hot water for the sugar glaze or a tablespoon of honey and half a tablespoon of water for the honey glaze.
For the Bread Dough:
For the Filling:
For the Topping :
- First make the bread dough. Put all the ingredients listed under bread dough into a processor bowl (or knead by hand) and knead together until you have a soft and smooth dough that is just short of sticky. Knead in a little more flour if your dough is sticky.
- Shape it into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, turning the dough so it is well coated with oil. Cover loosely and let it rise till double in volume. This should take about an hour to one and half hours.
- In the meantime, prepare both the filling and the topping. For the filling, mix together all the ingredients into a paste and keep aside. Similarly, for the topping, mix together all the ingredients (not the milk and sesame seeds) for the topping into a smooth paste. Transfer this to a piping bag.
- Once the dough has risen well, turn it out onto your work surface and lightly sprinkle with flour. Knead the dough a few times to deflate it and then divide it into 6 equal portions. Working with one piece of dough at a time, flatten the dough out into a rough oval about 4” by 3”. Put about a tablespoon of the filling (1/6th portion) in the middle and then pinch together the two long edges of the oval over the filling and seal well, tucking the ends in to make a smooth oval shaped bun with rounded ends. Make sure the buns have been sealed well or the filling will leak out during baking and end up sitting in pools of melted butter!
- Place the buns on a lined baking tray and cover loosely. Let them rise a bit for about 45 minutes. Brush the buns with milk (or egg wash if you use it). Now cut the tip off the piping bag (a small hole is good) and pipe two lines of the topping across the length of the buns (I piped three!). Also sprinkle some of the sesame seeds on top of each bun.
- Bake them at 180C (350F) for about 20 to 25 minutes till done and golden brown. Brush them with a sugar or honey glaze, if you would like to, as soon as they come out of the oven. Let them cool on racks. Serve warm or at room temperature with coffee or tea, or as a snack.