Pull Apart Coconut Buns

Coconut Buns (Cocktail Buns) // Eat Cho Food
Coconut Buns (Cocktail Buns) // Eat Cho Food
Coconut Buns (Cocktail Buns) // Eat Cho Food
Coconut Buns (Cocktail Buns) // Eat Cho Food
Coconut Buns (Cocktail Buns) // Eat Cho Food
Coconut Buns (Cocktail Buns) // Eat Cho Food
Coconut Buns (Cocktail Buns) // Eat Cho Food
Coconut Buns (Cocktail Buns) // Eat Cho Food
Coconut Buns (Cocktail Buns) // Eat Cho Food
Coconut Buns (Cocktail Buns) // Eat Cho Food
Coconut Buns (Cocktail Buns) // Eat Cho Food
Coconut Buns (Cocktail Buns) // Eat Cho Food
Coconut Buns (Cocktail Buns) // Eat Cho Food

You see that first photo up there? That’s actually a selfie I took this weekend, because I’ve most literally turned into a bun and got a nice tan. Jkkkkk, I just ate a lot of buns the last few days for the sake of “research” and feel very bun-like. I definitely didn’t get a tan because I’ve been mostly indoors since… forever. This weekend has been all sorts of wonderful and all sorts of crazy. My office gave me 2 days to work from home and bake a cake! Like, what?! I’ve been slaving away on this Great British Baking Show Final Showstopper caliber cake that’s inspired by the designs our office created for a recent project. The cake will be part of one of our quarterly publications! I just finished it and I’m actually pretty happy with it! My coworker, Paulina, is an incredible graphic designer and the design of this cake was actually inspired by her work. I made her wedding cake too, which was also inspired by the graphics she created for her invites. So pretty much Paulina and I should start a graphic cake business! Ah, I wish! There was a moment during the decorating process when my buttercream was being weird and kept breaking and I though I was going to melt into one of my crying puddles, but then it somehow worked out! Hooray! If you just push through the butter and tears, things will work out.

(Maybe my tendency to cry all the time is what prevented me from making it on the Great American Baking Show?????? How would the producers know that about me though? Oh, whatever… I’m over it. Stop talking to yourself, there’s still people reading your blog.)

I can’t wait to share the final cake with you! Hopefully that will happen soon.

When I wasn’t working on this crazy cake, Reuben and I got to finally spend some quality time together. It seemed like we barely saw each other for what felt like eons because I was working overtime a bunch and Reuben was gone on his man ski trip. We took advantage of our weekend and got to relax, be lazy, make plans for Italy (we leave in a month!!!!! Holy, meatballs.), eat lots of buns, and squeeze in a little brewery pit stop. There was a cat named Matcha at the brewery we stopped at. I stalked the cat. If you watched my Instagram stories over the weekend you already know it was pretty much the highlight of my whole weekend. Gosh, I loved Matcha. I desperately need a small animal in my life I can name Black Sesame or Noodle.

Should we discuss these buns now? Last week I shared those lovely Chinese Bakery Style Hot Dog Flower Buns and I was overwhelmed by how many people related to them and also considered them a childhood favorite! I would love it if you share with me your Chinese Bakery favorites! I’ll try to make them! This week, I’m sharing another one of my favorites (I have a lot of favorites…)! You might know them as Coconut Buns, Cocktail Buns, or Gai Mei Bao. These buns have a fluffy milk bread base and then filled with a sweet coconut and slightly milky filling. Its made all shiny with a simple syrup glaze, which gives it just a little extra kiss of sweetness. The coconut filling is the best part of the bun! I should eat that stuff straight! Don’t though because there is raw flour in it and it needs to be cooked a bit haha, but you get the point. It’s delicious. The ratio of filling to bun in this recipe is a little higher than what you would find at an actual bakery, but this is my kitchen and I can do what I want! You may notice that the milk bread base is this recipe is different than the Hot Dog Flower Buns, and that is because I’m still experimenting with all the various milk bread techniques. Don’t worry though, they all taste good! Typically you would find Coconut Buns as individual buns, but I wanted to turn them into a shareable/pull apart situation because why the hell not? There is always something about tearing your food apart with your hands that make it taste better. The pull apart nature of this recipe also makes this a great option for your weekend brunch table too! Yay for friends tearing apart buns!

Pull Apart Coconut Buns

makes 11 buns in a 8” round pan

dough materials:

1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup warm milk
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup bread flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp instant yeast
1/2 tsp salt

coconut filling materials:

6 tbsp softened butter
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup dried milk powder
1/2 cup finely shredded coconut

1 egg + 1 tbsp water - egg wash
sesame seeds - for topping (optional)
1/4 cup water + 1/4 cup white sugar - syrup glaze (optional)


  1. Combine heavy cream, milk, egg, sugar, cornstarch, flours, yeast, and salt in the bowl of your standmixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix at medium speed (speed setting 4 for KitchenAid) for 15 minutes until a smooth and slightly sticky dough is formed. Stop to scrape down the sides every few minutes. If the dough sticks to the sides, sprinkle a little bit of flour after scraping to help it not stick. Once dough is formed, place in a large bowl lightly greased with oil. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and allow to rest in a warm place for 90 minutes. The dough will grow 1.5x from its original size.

  2. While is resting, make the coconut filling. Combine all the filling ingredients in a bowl and mix with a spoon or rubber spatula until just combined. Set aside.

  3. Scrape out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2 minutes. Divide the dough into 11 equal pieces. Roll out the dough into a roughly 3” circle. Add a tablespoon of filling in the center of the dough round. Fold the dough around the filling and pinch the dough together to close. Quickly roll again to form a smooth ball. Place dough in a greased 8” springform pan. Repeat with remaining dough and fill the springform pan. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and allow to rest for another 45 minutes.

  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the tops of the buns with egg wash (1 egg mixed with 1 tbsp water) and sprinkle each bun with a few sesame seeds if using. Bake for 28-30 minutes on the center rack until golden brown and cooked through.

  5. A few minutes before taking the buns out of the oven, combine 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup sugar in a small sauce pan and cook on medium heat until sugar has dissolved. Remove buns from the oven and immediately brush the syrup glaze over the buns. Allow buns to cool in the springform pan for 10 minutes. Remove buns from the springform pan and cool on a wire rack until ready to eat!

notes :

  1. Buns are best fresh out of the oven. After a few hours or days the bread will feel a little hard. You can just microwave the buns for 15-25 seconds and they will be fluffy again!

  2. If you only have active yeast, you can add it to the warm milk with a pinch of sugar and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. It should be have a few bubbles on the surface.

Chinese Baked BBQ Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao)


This is Kristina from late-ish Wednesday night. I just had a few friends over for a weeknight dinner party that would make any New Jersey Housewife proud. We feasted on eggplant parm, baked penne, kale salad (with homemade yogurt ranch dressing, OMG), red wine, and famous chocolate chip cookies and milk. I'm so full and happy. I'm super sleepy, but for some reason I felt like it was a good time to write. I'm also alone tonight. Reuben is away on a little business trip in Tahoe. It's weird to be alone in the apartment at night, I get spooked by every random thud and the tree branches scratching up against windows. But I'm taking advantage of my alone time. Meaning I'm going to write, stay up late, listen to annoying pop music, and binge watch crappy TV. It reminds me of the time before Reuben and I moved in with each other. Tonight, I'm catching up on Riverdale! Reuben hates it so much, but I can't get enough of it.

Have you started listening to Christmas music yet? How many times have you heard "All I Want For Christmas Is You"? Not enough? Me too.

I feel like the internet has been exploding with holiday cookies and eggnog flavored things lately. And I'm over here thinking about all the buns that I want to make. Typical. I think I'm just getting ahead of myself and jumping to my next holiday, which is Chinese New Year. I'm planning waaaaaay in advanced this year because I have big ambitions of throwing a huge Chinese New Year party in February. I envision endless and multiple dumpling options and a table covered in buns. However, both buns and dumplings take time and are pretty labor intensive. So I'm preparing and practicing 3 months early. 

Don't get me wrong, I have some Christmas cookies to share with you next week! And I'm working on a Christmas Red Velvet Cake this weekend. The holiday spirit is alive and well with me, but I'm just trying to break up the sugary sweetness with some BBQ Pork Buns!

I've ate approximately 209,248 pork buns in my life. Rough estimate. They are one of my favorite snacks and a must buy whenever I step into a Chinese bakery! When they are good, they are SO GOOD. Pork buns can be either steamed or baked. The dough should be pillowy soft. The pork on the inside should be tender, salty, but slightly sweet, and just saucy enough. Thankfully, I live in a city where every dim sum shop or Chinese bakery makes a pretty stellar BBQ Pork Bun or Char Siu Bao.

I've made my own BBQ Pork Buns a few times, but the dough was never quite right. Until now. After extensive research, I read about the tangzhong method, which is making a mixture of bread flour, milk, and water to help activate the dough and give it it's pillowy soft consistency. Reuben wanted to prepare his own Char Siu Pork for the bun fillings because he is the meat expert in this partnership. Is that a weird title? I've shared the recipe for the pork tenderloin if you want your buns to be extra homemade, but you can totally go to your local Chinese BBQ joint (the places with the ducks hanging in the window) for a pound of BBQ roast pork. It will save you a few hours. Pro Tip: order a pound or more because you're going to end up snacking on half of it before it makes it into your buns. We are going to work on another recipe using pork butt or shoulder in a few months and will share it with you soon!

I'm going to be honest with you. This is recipe takes a while. But isn't the holidays a great time to deep dive in crazy delicious but long recipes? You know you're about to plan a whole weekend decorating cookies. If I had to pick between a pork bun or sugar cookies, I'd most definitely pick the pork bun!

Baked BBQ Pork Buns

makes 12 buns

For the Pork Marinade:

3 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp hoisin
1/2 tsp chinese five spice
3 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 Tbsp chinese cooking wine (Bourbon also works!)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1.5 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp red food coloring

For the Pork:

~ 1 1/4 lb pork tenderloin
2 Tbsp ketchup
2 Tbsp honey

For the Pork Filling

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 Tbsp dark soy
1/2 cup water
3 Tbsp cornstarch
~ 2 cups chopped BBQ Roast Pork

For the Buns:

25g bread flour
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup water

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 packet)
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
1 beaten egg
350g bread flour
50g sugar + 1/4 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp oil
Egg Wash (1 egg+1 tbsp water)

To Make the BBQ Pork:

1. Whisk together all the ingredients for the pork marinade. Reserve 1/3 of the marinade for the glaze. Cut the tenderloin lengthwise. Combine the pork tenderloin and remaining marinade in a ziplock bag and let marinade for at least 2 hours or overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easy clean up) and place the pork tenderloin on the sheet. Cook for 10 minutes. Combine 1/3 cup marinade with ketchup and honey to make your glaze. After 10 minute in the oven, glaze the top and bottom side of the tenderloin. Cook for another 5 minutes and then reglaze. Continue to glaze every 5 minutes until the pork has been in the oven for about 30 minutes.

3. Remove the pork form the oven and allow to rest for 20 minutes before slicing into the meat.

4. Enjoy! Make sure to reserved about 2 cups for the bun fillings.

To Make the BBQ Pork Buns:

1. In a small bowl whisk together 25g bread flour, 1/4 cup milk, and 1/4 cup water until smooth. Heat a small sauce pan over low to medium heat and cook the flour and milk mixture, stirring continuously, until thick. It will take about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let cool. You got your tangzhoug!

2. Combine lukewarm milk (I microwave the milk for 30 seconds) with 1/4 tsp sugar and yeast in a small bowl. Let proof for 5-10 minutes. You should see a few bubbles develop on the surface.

3. Whisk together the yeast mixture with the tangzhoug and beaten egg until combined.

4. Attach a dough hook to your standmixer. Sift together bread flour, sugar, salt in the bowl of your standmixer. Add in your yeast mixture and knead on medium high speed for 10 minutes. Add in butter a little bit at a time. The dough should be smooth and elastic.

5. Pour oil into a medium-large bowl and turn it to grease the sides of the bowl. Add dough into the bowl, cover with a towel or plastic wrap, and allow to proof in a warm place for 1-2 hours. If it is a little cold, I like to place my dough in the oven while it is off with the door left slightly open.

6. While the dough is proofing, preparing your filling. Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Cook onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in the rest of the filling ingredients and allow to cook for another 5-8 minutes until thickened. Set aside in a bowl and allow to cool.

7. Lightly flour your work surface and turn out your dough. Divide the dough into 12 equal parts. I like to cut it into wedges, scone style. Roll one wedge into a small bowl. With a small and lightly floured rolling pin, gently flatten the dough ball until you have a 3-4" diameter disc. Fill with heaping tablespoon of pork filling. With the dough in the palm of your hand, carefully pinch the bun closed. Pinch and twist the bun in a counter clockwise direction.

8. Place the formed buns, pinch side down, on a parchment lined baking sheet. I used a 9x12 pan so that they touch and look more like dinner rolls. You can also use a larger baking sheet and spae them farther apart.Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rest for another hour in a warm place. The dough should double in size.

9. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Brush the tops of the buns with an egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown! Enjoy!

dough recipe was adapted from Betty Liu's Furikake Milk Buns recipe!