Savoury Inside Out Coconut Buns (BBB August 2022)

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BBB: Let's Keep Baking summary: I’m late yet again – so what else is new?; recipe for inside out coconut buns; commercial yeast really wants to make dough rise; opting for savoury over sweet; following (or not) instructions; information about Bread Baking Babes;

Coconut is one of those love-hate ingredients.

It’s true. I am not at all a fan of coconut in sweet things. I may even have been know to spit them out…. Discreetly, of course.

But I love the flavour of coconut in savoury food.

So, when Aparna suggested that we make buns using coconut milk instead of milk, and filling the buns with “a moist and sweet shredded or desiccated coconut based filling”, I admit that I blanched. But then I remembered the really fabulous shredded coconut and peanut condiment that T makes to go on rice with Asian curries. THAT’s my idea of heaven!

Savoury Inside Out Coconut Buns

Here’s what I did to the BBBabes’ August 2022 recipe:

BBB Coconut Buns diary:

16 July 2022, 19:27 Wow!! The buns that Aparna showed us look amazing.

31 July 2022, 15:23 I keep thinking about the filling for these buns and being just a little bit horrified. I confess that sweet coconut cream is one of the last things I want to ingest.

I’m searching for permission to make the filling savoury rather than sweet. Sigh. So far, I have only found sweet fillings.

I keep thinking about a wonderful peanut/toasted chili/shredded coconut condiment we love to put onto noodle soup or as a garnish for rice and curry. I wonder if that would work. If I chop the peanuts finely? And maybe add a few raisins? And perhaps a little coconut oil to hold the mixture together?

Eeeek. I may have to go ahead without permission!

7 August 2022, 09:31 What?! All the milk in the fridge has curdled. None of it is even close to the “best before” date. We haven’t had any power outages (except for a few very brief brown-outs in the middle of the night). It has been poisonously hot though But. How can I have cappucino if we don’t have any milk to steam?! Quel tragedy!

11 August 2022, 14:04 Once again, I have no concept of what day it is, let alone what month. It is clearly summer (thank goodness the heat has broken) but now it’s quite lovely. I really should take advantage of this beautiful weather to make this month’s recipe.

I was just about to translate the BBB recipe into grams. But….

How handy!! Both the BBB and Lisa Lin’s (Healthy Nibbles and Bits) recipes are in grams! Including the salt and yeast. Yay. Yay. Yay.

Oops. Except the coconut milk that we are substituting for actual milk. The BBB recipe calls for “175 ml coconut milk” According to Gourmet Sleuth, this would be 168 grams.

The sugar amount (30 grams to go with 360 grams of flour) seems on the high side to me. And the salt amount seems quite low. Because the savoury filling I’m going to add is on the salty side, I’ll reduce what I think is the correct amount of salt from 6 grams to 5.

13 August 2022, 15:00 This morning, when I was standing on the step stool getting a tin of coconut milk. T asked me what I was doing. I said I was going to use coconut milk in the dough for the buns, he looked ever so slightly disapproving. He said we would go to buy a different “less expensive” brand of coconut milk.

We just got back from the supermarket, where I was relieved to hear from T that the coconut milk we bought for the buns (50 cents less than the “expensive” one in the cupboard) is still completely decent. AND we got points for buying it!

15 August 2022, 18:00 I mixed the dough this morning at around 10. By a little after noon, it was already pillowing up wildly in the bowl. I cannot believe how active it is! I just kept pushing it down in its bowl, determined not to shape it too early.

I completely forgot that I was going to add a little bit of vital wheat gluten to make our all purpose flour mimic bread flour. It really doesn’t seem to matter though.

dowel for making filo dough I used our new Turkish dowel to roll out the dough. It is now my favourite rolling pin! I love the length and the light weight.

Shaping the buns was a bit of a challenge because of the peanuts in the filling. I had meant to chop them up a little more, but then got lazy. This meant that I only managed to twist the first of the rectangles before knotting it into a roll. The filling kept trying to escape!

With the other five, I just kind of winged it and manipulated each rectangle into a really bad granny knot, trying not to lose the filling.

15 August 2022, 18:47 Wow! Wow! Wow! The buns look beautiful. I cannot believe how much loft they got in the oven. They were already significantly larger in the rise after shaping. They are easily half as large again! And they smell fabulous!

Initially, I had decided I wasn’t going to bother brushing the buns with an egg or milk wash, but because there was some coconut milk left over from the tin, I used some of that. I can’t wait to taste them tomorrow!

Savoury Inside Out Coconut Buns
BBB August 2022

Yesterday morning, we heated one of the buns and each had half. We love the savoury filling. I must admit that I was surprised that I didn’t really taste the coconut in the crumb though. T was surprised to learn I didn’t; he said they were quite coconutty.

And. He is in heaven, getting to have his favourite all white bread….

BBB August 2022
BBB August 2022
BBB August 2022

Thank you, Aparna. This was really fun! This bun recipe is a keepers.

Here is the August 2022 BBB recipe that we were given. And here is what I did to it:

Savoury Inside Out Coconut Buns
based on Aparna’s take on Chinese Bakery Coconut Buns at Healthy Nibbles and Bits

Sink your teeth into these pillowy Chinese bakery-inspired coconut buns. These milky soft buns are laced with fragrant ribbons of coconut […] flavor.
– Lisa Lin, Healthy Nibbles and Bits

makes six large buns


  • 3 grams active dry yeast
  • 10 grams water
  • 360 grams unbleached ‘no additives’ all-purpose flour [BBB recipe calls for “360 gm bread flour” OR 350 grams all purpose + 10 grams vital wheat gluten]
  • 10 gm sugar [BBB recipe calls for “30 gm sugar”]
  • 10 grams powdered milk
  • 182 grams (175 ml) coconut milk
  • 50 grams unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 grams salt [BBB recipe calls for “[BBB recipe calls for “2 gm salt”]

Savoury Filling

  • 28 grams (2 Tbsp) sunflower oil
  • 75 grams (0.5 cups) salted roasted peanuts, chopped
  • 50 grams (0.5 cups) unsweetened dried coconut flakes
  • 1 dried cayenne pepper, seeded and chopped, or 1 tsp (~2 grams) chili flakes
  • 4-6 grams (1-2 tsp) sugar
  • 6 grams (1 tsp) seasalt
  • handful Thompson raisins

For Brushing

  • coconut milk
  1. mixing In the morning of the day you will be baking the buns, put yeast and water into a small bowl and whisk well. Set aside for a few moments.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and powdered milk. Pour in the yeasted water, coconut milk, and melted butter (making sure that the butter is “baby bottle” temperature. ie: no hotter than 100F…). Using a dough whisk (or wooden spoon), mix together until it forms a rough dough.
  3. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave it in a non-drafty area of the kitchen for about 20 minutes.
  4. Adding the butter and salt: Put 14 grams softened butter on top of the dough. Pour 10 grams of water and 6 grams salt overtop. Use one of your hands to squoosh the salt into the dough; use the other hand to steady the bowl – this way you always have a clean hand. At first the dough might be a bit messy and seem like it’s coming apart. Persevere. Suddenly, it will seem more like dough than a horrible separated glop. Keep folding it over onto itself until it is relatively smooth. Cover with a plate and leave to rest for about 30 minutes.
  5. Make the filling: Confession: we had enough of this filling already made and sitting in a jar in the fridge. (It really is delicious as a garnish on rice when served with grilled meat or an Asian curry!)
    1. Heat oil in a wok over medium high heat.
    2. Check to see that the oil is hot enough by adding a couple of peanuts. When the oil begins to bubble around a peanut, add the chopped cayenne and leave until it becomes dark, but not black. It takes no time at all. This must be watched; if the chili gets too dark, the fumes will fill the house and cause painful coughing galore!
    3. As soon as the chile pieces are dark, add the rest of the peanuts and stir-fry until the oil heats up again. (We use frozen peanuts so it takes a few moments for the oil to heat up again.)
    4. Sprinkle in unsweetened dried coconut flakes and stir constantly until the coconut is golden. This only takes a short time – a minute or two at the most.
    5. Remove to a bowl. Sprinkle in raisins, sugar, and seasalt; stir well to mix. Taste and adjust seasonings, if required.

    Put the mixture into a clean glass jar and set aside. (Left-over filling can be refrigerated and used as a garnish for rice.)

  6. stretching and folding: About 40 minutes after adding the butter and salt, reach down along the side of the bowl and lift and stretch the dough straight up and almost out of the bowl. Fold it over itself to the other side of the bowl. Turn the bowl and repeat until it’s a little difficult to stretch the dough up any more. You’ll notice that the dough feels significantly smoother. Cover with a plate and leave on the counter for about 30 minutes.
  7. Repeat the above step 3 or 4 times (in his recipe for Tartine bread, Chad Robertson says to do this 4 times in all). He writes
    [N]otice how the dough starts to get billowy, soft, and aerated with gas. At this later stage, you should turn the dough more gently to avoid pressing gas out of the dough. […] A well-developed dough is more cohesive and releases from the sides of the bowl when you do the turns. The ridges left by the turn will hold their shape for a few minutes. You will see a 20 to 30 percent increase in volume. More air bubbles will form along the sides of the container. These are all signs that the dough is ready to be […] shaped
    With this particular dough, you will notice that it beomes particularly “billowy, soft, and aerated” almost immediately.
  8. Shaping: After very lightly flouring the board, turn the dough out, and cut it into 6 even pieces. Cover 5 of the pieces with the overturned bowl to keep them from drying out. One at a time, roll each piece of dough out into a long rectangle about 8x30cm, and roughly half a centimeter thick. Note that there is no need to flour the board any more. Simply lift the rectangle off the board to make sure it’s not sticking. Spread a thin layer (as thin as is possible with those peanuts and raisins!) of filling lengthwise over half of the rectangle on one side, leaving a small gap on the edges. Fold the clean side over the filled side, and seal the edges. Use a very sharp knife to make 2 or 3 cuts lengthwise, being careful to cut through ONLY the top layer of dough, and leaving the short edges of the rectangle uncut. Hold the short edges and pull gently to stretch the rectangle longer. If the filling allows you, twist the rectangle a couple of times. If it doesn’t, don’t worry…. Tie the rectangle into a knot, trying to keep that filling inside rather than out. Make sure the ends of the rectangle are placed on the bottom of the knot. Put the shaped bun onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with clean tea towel and repeat with the rest of the dough. There should plenty of space between each of the knots; this dough is a vigorous riser! Once all six buns are shaped, make sure they are covered with the tea towel, and leave them on the counter for about an hour, until they have doubled in size.
  9. About half an hour after the rolls have been shaped, turn the oven to 400ºF.
  10. baking: Make sure the oven is hot before proceeding. Just before the buns go into the oven, gently brush the tops with coconut milk. Put the tray into the oven and immediately turn the oven down to 375ºF. Bake the buns for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.
  11. When they are done, remove to cool on a wire rack (use a spatula or tongs to move them – they’re hot wherever the filling has escaped).


:: Sugar: The BBB recipe calls for quite a lot of sugar in the dough. Because we were adding a savoury filling, I significantly reduced the sugar in the dough.

:: Butter: We realized, as we were tasting the buns, that I could have used coconut oil instead of butter in the dough! Next time, I’ll try that.

:: Filling: The BBB recipe calls for filling the buns with sweet grated coconut and egg mixture.
50 grams unsweetened shredded coconut
45 grams sugar
1/16 teaspoon ground turmeric (optional)
45 grams unsalted butter, softened
1 egg yolk, from a large egg
6 grams vanilla bean paste, 1 teaspoon, can substitute with vanilla extract [was 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/ extract]
– BBB August 2022 recipe

I just couldn’t face the idea of sweetened coconut. I also didn’t want to substitute with jam, or custard, or something that would make the buns seem pretty much like Danishes, or what my friend calls “squishies”. In a nod to the fact that Chinese buns seem to be traditionally very very very sweet, I made sure that raisins were included in the peanut chili mixture.

:: Cayenne Pepper in the Filling: Alternatively, you can pre-toast chile flakes: In a cast iron frying pan, dry-fry plenty of chili flakes until they are quite dark. Note that the fumes are very pungent! We try to do this in the summer time with all the windows open and/or on the barbecue. After the chili flakes have cooled, we put them into a covered glass jar and keep it in the fridge. They lend a lovely smoky heat to Asian or Middle Eastern dishes. They are a great alternative to freshly ground pepper to add heat. Toasted chile flakes can be substituted for the cayenne pepper in the filling recipe. Simply add them after the wok has been removed from the heat.

:: Shaping: Next time, I’ll make sure that the peanuts are crushed a little more finely so that the filling doesn’t want to escape as I twist the dough before knotting it.
The process of scoring and twisting the dough into hypnotizing spirals is an easy and creative way to form buns. Through the scores, you also catch a glimpse of the sweet filling.
– Kristina Cho, Mooncakes and milk Bread
Grab a hold of the short ends of the dough and twist it several times. Then tie the twisted dough into a knot […]. Transfer the knotted dough onto the lined baking sheet.
– Lisa Lin, Healthy Nibbles and Bits } Coconut Buns


Last night, with left-over butter chicken, palak paneer, barbecue-wok’ed green beans/Swiss chard/potatoes, radishes, and beet/cucumber raita (remind me to rave about this!), we served inside out coconut buns. Normally we would have had the dinner with naan. Well. It turns out that even though coconut buns are very very rich, they are just as delicious with dinner as naan. (T added the last little bit of tinned coconut milk to the butter chicken. Because, why not?)

BBB August 2022

Bread Baking Babes BBB: Let's Keep BakingInside Out Coconut Buns

Aparna is hosting August 2022’s Bread Baking Babes’ project. She wrote:

[W]hat I’ve done for August is that I’ve picked out a recipe for Inside Out Coconut Buns. […] Traditionally, Chinese or Hong Kong Cocktail Buns are soft milk buns with a moist and sweet shredded or desiccated coconut based filling. They’re sort of small sausage shaped buns with dough stripes on them. These Inside Out Coconut Buns are another version of them. They’re pretty much the same but shaped such that the filling shows on the outside in layers or stripes.
– Aparna, in message to BBBabes

We know you’ll want to make these delicious buns! To receive a Bread Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: make steamed buns in the next couple of weeks and post about it (we love to see how your bread turns out AND hear what you think about it – what you didn’t like and/or what you liked) before the 29 August 2022. If you do not have a blog, no problem; you can also post your picture(s) to Flickr (or any other photo sharing site) and record your thoughts about the bread there. Please remember to contact the Kitchen of the Month to say that your post is up.

Please note that it’s not enough to post about your bread in the Facebook group. Because of the ephemeral nature of Facebook’s posts, your FB post may be lost in the shuffle. Please make sure to directly contact the kitchen of the month if you want to be included in the BBBuddy roundup.

For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBBuddy, please read:

Please take a look at the other BBBabes’ June 2022 bread:

black cat
At last, the furry black fiend is bowing down to us


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5 responses to “Savoury Inside Out Coconut Buns (BBB August 2022)

  1. Cathy (Bread Experience)

    A very creative take on coconut buns. I like the idea of using roasted peanuts in a filling. They look tasty.

    edit 18 August 2022, 15:53: They were tasty, Cathy. They were! – Elizabeth

  2. Katie Zeller (Thyme for Cooking)

    I was with you and your savory filling until you got to the raisins. Ruin a perfectly lovely peanut butter & coconut combo with sweet raisins! Zut alors!
    But they look lovely, regardless.

    edit 18 August 2022, 15:57: Hahahaha! Non Non Non. Tu as tort. The raisins are the crowning glory, Katie! They are the perfect foil for the blackened chile flakes. – Elizabeth

  3. Karen (Karen's Kitchen Stories)

    Great idea to go savory. I bet a nut meal would be nice too!

    edit 20 August 2022, 09:12: Good idea, Karen. I like the idea of several nuts. And a few raisins… just for Katie. :whee: – Elizabeth

  4. Kelly (A Messy Kitchen)

    Hubby is not a huge coconut fan, but he did like these. Pretty awesome dinner you had with your savories!

    edit 20 August 2022, 09:17: Thank you, Kelly. We were very proud and speculated that nobody on our block was dining as well as we were. And I was amazed at how coconutty these weren’t! The only time I was really aware of the coconut flavour was when I tasted a part of the bun that had filling. I wonder if using coconut oil instead of butter would make the buns more coconutty. – Elizabeth

    1. Kelly (A Messy Kitchen)

      Only if you use unrefined coconut oil. I used to keep both on hand for different needs but now I usually just have refined – no coconut scent.

      edit 21 August 2022, 08:15: I did not know that about unrefined and refined coconut oil. All we have is cold-pressed virgin coconut oil (for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties), which definitely has a coconut scent. The scent is not huge but it’s definitely there. – Elizabeth


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