Tangzhong Chinese Tear and Share Buns

The third signature challenge of Bake Off 2019 was to make a filled tear-and-share loaf. We saw Michael receive the first Hollywood Handshake with his Keralan Star Bread, which was inspired by his Indian roots. I have also been inspired by my roots and decided to combine some traditional Chinese bakery items with some Western breads in my Tangzhong Chinese Tear and Share Loaf!

Tangzhong (湯種) is also known as utane dough or the water roux method. Tangzhong refers to a paste made from cooking flour with water (or milk) that is added to the dough. Because the flour has gelatinised and absorbed the liquid, this liquid is trapped in the mixture which gives the final bread a higher moisture content. It’s highly popular with Asian breads and it’s a technique that I have seen before but never ever tried. And now having seen just how soft and fluffy the final buns are, it’s a method that I am going to do from now on. It’s such a simple process but makes a huge difference in the resulting bread!

My choice of bun flavours is inspired by classic Chinese bakery products in the form of cocktail buns and pineapple buns and more Western-style breads in the form of rum and raisin buns and cinnamon apple filled buns. Let’s not mention the fact that this is the second week in a row where my recipe has featured rum and raisin… let’s instead talk about the apple filling! It’s not a jam and it’s not a paste, it’s just cooked apples. I personally keep the skin on partly because I don’t like peeling apples but also because the pectin helps to thicken up the filling a bit. You can, of course, peel them if you prefer.

Cocktail buns (雞尾包) are a sweet bun with a buttery coconut filling. Apparently they were created in the 1950s when a baker ground up the unsold buns from the previous day, added sugar and coconut to make a new filling and they were given the name cocktail as the baker mixed ingredients like a bartender! They traditionally are finished with stripes of a sweet cookie paste and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Pineapple buns (菠蘿包) are a sweet bun with a sweet buttery crunchy cookie crust. Contrary to their name, they don’t contain any pineapple. Their name comes from the cookie crust which cracks when it bakes and resembles the skin of a pineapple. You’ll often see pineapple buns being sliced and served with a huge slab of butter inside and this is called (菠蘿油).

The hardest part of this recipe is filling and shaping the buns quickly. If you take too long filling the buns, then there might not be enough room to place all 20 of the buns inside the tin when the first buns begin to prove for the second time, which is a problem I had on my first test of this recipe. I found that the best order to do the buns is starting with the raisin bread, followed by the pineapple buns, then the cocktail buns and lastly the apple buns. The pig noses can be done while the dough proves as they don’t need much time to prove.

Check out my video guide on making my Tangzhong Chinese Tear and Share Buns below:

For the tangzhong:

  • 20g strong white bread flour
  • 100ml cool water

For the dough:

  • 280g strong white bread flour
  • 7g fast action dried yeast
  • 35g granulated sugar
  • 4g salt
  • 1 whole egg
  • About 70ml whole milk
  • 25g margarine

For the rum-soaked raisins:

  • 40g seedless raisins
  • 1 tbsp dark rum

For the cinnamon apple filling:

  • 150g diced apples; any eating apple will do!
  • 25g granulated sugar
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon

For the cocktail bun filling:

  • 60g margarine
  • 25g granulated sugar
  • 16g plain flour
  • 20g custard powder
  • 35g desiccated coconut

For the cocktail bun topping:

  • 10g margarine
  • 5g sugar
  • 9g plain flour
  • A few drops of milk, to loosen
  • Sesame seeds (black or white, up to you!)

For the pineapple bun topping:

  • 35g margarine
  • 40g granulated sugar
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 5ml whole milk
  • 78g plain flour
  • 12g custard powder
  • ¼ tsp baking powder

Extra ingredients:

  • Red gel food colouring
  • 1 egg, for egg wash
  • 25g white chocolate
  • 16 small cacao nibs, for the animal eyes

To make the tangzhong, mix together the flour and water in a saucepan until there are no lumps. Place over a medium heat and cook until it has thickened to a paste, stirring constantly to prevent lumps forming. Leave to cool until it has reached around 50˚C and then add some of the whole milk gradually, stirring until smooth, until it has reached around 42˚C.

In a mixing bowl, add in the strong white bread flour. Place the yeast to one side of the bowl, the sugar and salt to another side of the bowl and add the slightly cooled tangzhong to another side of the bowl (i.e. split the bowl into thirds and place them each into one of them). Using a spatula, begin to combine the ingredients into a dough. Form a well in the centre and add the egg and some more of the milk and begin to bring everything together into a dough. Tip the raggedy mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough together, until it forms a dough that is soft, smooth but not sticky. Knead for a few minutes before flattening out with your hands.

Spread the margarine on top of the dough and fold the dough on top of itself and continue to knead the dough, incorporating the margarine evenly, adding more flour if the dough becomes sloppy and the margarine isn’t incorporating. The dough has been kneaded enough when you shape the dough into a ball and you press a lightly floured finger in and it springs back. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with clingfilm and leave to prove until doubled in size.


While the dough is proving, prepare all the toppings and fillings. Place the raisins in a small bowl with the rum and leave to soak, stirring occasionally. For the apple filling, wash and finely dice the apples, leaving the skin on. Put into a saucepan with the sugar and cinnamon and a splash of water and cook over a medium heat until the apples are soft and the texture has thickened slightly. Place into a bowl to cool down. For the cocktail bun filling, mix together the margarine and sugar until even. Mix in the flour, custard powder and desiccated coconut until it comes together into a stiff-ish dough. Cover and clingfilm and refrigerate until needed.

For the pineapple bun topping, mix together the margarine and sugar and vanilla extract until even. Add in the egg yolk and the milk and mix to combine. Add the flour, custard powder and baking powder and bring together until it forms a soft pliable yellow dough. Cover with clingfilm and chill to firm up slightly. For the cocktail bun topping, mix together the margarine and sugar until even and add the flour. It needs to have a piping consistency but still be quite thick so you might want to loosen it with a few drops of milk. Place into a piping bag and cut off a small hole and set aside.

Line an 8-inch square baking tin with 2 pieces of baking parchment that come up the sides and the base twice. Turn out the proved dough onto a lightly floured surface. Flatten the dough out and roll it up into a large log. Weigh the dough and divide equally into 4 balls, placing 3 back into the bowl and covering with clingfilm to prevent drying out.

Add the raisins to the first ball of dough, not adding any of the rum to the dough, and knead to evenly distribute the raisins. Divide and shape the dough into 4 equal balls, making sure no raisins break the surface. The best way to do this is to pull the edge of each dough ball up and into the centre, rotating until all the joins are underneath, then turning over so the top is smooth.

Now imagine a 4 x 4 grid where the rows are letters A to D and the columns are numbers 1 to 4.

You want to place the raisin dough in squares A1, B3, C4 and D2. Cover with clingfilm to prevent drying out while you work on the other buns.

Take another dough ball and divide into 4 equal pieces. The best method for shaping the pineapple buns is to simply cup them in your hand and roll them lightly in a circle on the surface, without flour, so that the dough slightly sticks to itself and the tension forms a smooth top! Place the pineapple buns in squares C1, B2, D3 and A4, leaving a bit of room for expansion as it proves.

Next work on the cocktail buns. Divide a large dough ball into 8 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough balls into shapes roughly measuring 2 inches by 3 inches, with the bottom third being thinner than the top two thirds. Take about 12g of the coconut filling, work it into an oval shape and place in the centre. Lift up and tuck the bottom third over the filling and roll up. Press the dough together to seal all the holes and form into an iced finger shape. Repeat for the rest of the dough balls and place two into squares B1, A2, C3 and D4.

Lastly work on the pig buns. Divide the dough into 4 pieces, removing 2g of dough from each ball for the noses. Roll out each dough ball into a thin circle and place a quarter of the apple filling into the centre of each one. Pinch together the edges of the dough ball to surround the filling, as if you were folding up a dumpling, and roll on the surface to smooth out the surface. Place the pig buns in the remaining squares.

Add a small amount of red gel food colouring to the small amount of dough and knead until it forms a nice pink colour. Take a small portion of the dough and flatten out into a pig nose shape with your thumb. Take a small round piping nozzle to press out two holes for the pig’s nose, making them bigger than you think so that they don’t close up when the dough rises. Leave the entire loaf to prove for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Roll out 12g of the pineapple bun topping between small squares of parchment into a thin circle larger than the size of the bun for each of the four buns. Brush the tops of each bun lightly with egg wash. Place the toppings onto the pineapple buns and brush the topping with more egg wash. Pipe 2 horizontal lines of the cocktail bun topping on the cocktail buns and sprinkle the area between them with some black sesame seeds.

Bake the buns for about 25 minutes until the buns are a rich golden brown on the surface and a thermometer inserted the centre reaches 90˚C. If the buns haven’t reached this temperature but are already brown, cover the tin with foil and bake for a bit longer. Leave the buns to cool inside the tin for about 15 minutes before carefully lifting (they are soft) to a wire rack to cool completely.

Melt some white chocolate and place into a piping bag and cut off a small hole. Pipe on two eyes for the pig buns and place a cacao nib in the centre. For the tiger buns, pipe an inverted triangle nose followed by a line to the mouth. Draw on some whiskers followed by the eyes and ears and place cacao nibs in the eyes. Leave the chocolate to set before tearing and sharing the bread.

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15 Comments Add yours

  1. One of your best ever bakes Andrew! You clearly excel when there’s a bit of creativity and humour involved xx


    1. Thank you so much for the kind words Lynn!! I do have to agree, I think this is one of my best ever bakes, super happy with it! I never think of myself as a hugely arty and creative person haha, hopefully I get more chances to get creative and have fun!


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