The mercury continues to soar above 40C, and nobody stirs. The afternoon is still and not even the birds or insects make a sound. Shuttered inside, all one can do is hope that there will be a rainshower to bring the temperature down. Tall glasses of lime juice in frosted glasses offers the only respite. The coconut palms in the backyard remind me that coconut water is often the best remedy for the dehydrated spirit.
The tender coconut water straight from the coconut or mixed with a touch of honey and lemon, cold transparent ice apples, or the slippery flesh of the coconut after the refreshing water has been consumed are all a part of the normal summer diet. There were some coconuts, however, which were solely kept aside for their delicious white meat to be grated and made into all kinds of sweets and savouries. Coconut milk extracted made a delicious stew. The lightly grated flesh was sprinkled over the vegetables or ground into chutneys. Occasionally they were added to sugar or jaggery to be made into a delicious sweet preparation. Every self-respecting South Indian had some secret coconut recipe which they guarded with their life. My freezer always had a couple of bags of grated coconut ready to be put to good use. Desiccated coconut? Now, what was that?!!
We Knead to Bake came up with these Asian inspired buns filled with coconut and I could not help but be tempted. Yes, it was too hot to bake, but the coconut lover in me kept nudging me to take the summer head on. So after many days of just dreaming and postponing it was finally time to get down to business.
The process itself was not very complicated but what I found interesting was the addition of cornstarch to the flour. I am very used to adding vital gluten to all purpose flour but this was the first time I was doing the opposite and I was curious to know what would happen. Would it change the structure of the crumb? There was only one way to find out. One look into my well-stocked pantry and I realised I had no corn starch. There was no way I was going to run to the market. I did have some vanilla custard (pudding) mix. So that went into the dough instead of the cornstarch. It added a lovely yellow hue and that touch of vanilla (which I enhanced with another dash of the extract) You cannot go wrong with that now can you?
The dough done, the filling made, buttery and mildly sweet and the biscuity topping was resting in a piping bag. As I filled and shaped the rolls, I realised I could do with just a tad more filling. If you are happy with just a promise of coconut paradise, stick with the recipe. But like me, if you are greedy for more, go ahead and double it. Watch out, however, when you are sealing the filling inside the dough. One little crack, and all your buttery, coconutty goodness will fill your baking tray and your rolls will be swimming in the filling.
One bite into the butter and coconut filled treats and you know that suffering the hot oven on an even hotter afternoon is entirely worth it.
For the Bread Dough:
2/3 cup warm milk
1 large egg
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tbsp corn-starch
1 tsp instant yeast
3/4 tsp salt
For the Filling:
50 gm butter, soft at room temperature
1 1/2 tbsp caster sugar
1 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/8 cup milk powder
1/3 cup fresh grated coconut
For the Topping :
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
25 butter, soft at room temperature
2 tsp caster sugar
A little milk (or egg wash)
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds for sprinkling
Let’s start off by making the bread dough.
1. Knead all the dough ingredients 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 super sticky.)
2. Shape it into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, turning the dough so it is well coated with oil.
3.Cover loosely and let it rise till double in volume.
4. Now to make both the filling and the topping. For the filling, mix together all the ingredients into a paste and keep aside (I divided it into 6 and put it in the fridge) Remember I told you it was above 40C. I did not want a pool of sweet filling. Similarly, mix together all the ingredients except the milk and sesame seeds for the topping into a smooth paste. Transfer this to a piping bag. (this can stay out)
5. 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.
6. Working with one piece of dough at a time, flatten the dough out into a rough oval about 4” by 3”. Place 1 portion of the filling 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!
7. Place the buns on a lined baking tray and cover loosely. Let them rise a bit for about 45 minutes.
8. 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 four!). Also, sprinkle some of the sesame seeds on top of each bun.
9. 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 (I did not. They are sweet enough as is). Let them cool on racks.
Serve warm or at room temperature with coffee or tea, or as a snack. Or like me, forget the tea and coffee , and maybe the sun and the heat just for that instance, and just sit back and enjoy the coconutty goodness.