Haw Berries & Kumquats

Pumpkin brioche red bean buns 南瓜布里欧修豆沙包

I am quite ready to declare this to be the best brioche dough in the world.

As cinnamon rolls, they’re divine. As a tart base, it’s pillowy and sweetly accommodating. In simple brioche form, the essence of the dough shines through: The crumb is light, airy, and moist; fragrantly rich but not at all heavy. It doesn’t weigh in your stomach afterwards – this is one buttery treat that tastes delightfully guilt-free. The pumpkin is present more as an ineffable depth and fragrance, rather than a distinct flavor.

pumpkin brioche red bean buns

Such inherent perfection was begging to exercise its talents in other arenas. What couldn’t it elevate to new heights? After making a double batch of cinnamon rolls, as per request, for a party, I was ready to try something new with the remaining dough.

pumpkin brioche red bean bun - interior

I’m usually quite the indecisive one, but this I knew in an instant. Red bean buns (豆沙包 dousha bao) are ubiquitous in bakeries here, but I tend to shun them. I don’t mean traditional pastry shops (which make their own delightful flaky red bean pastries) but rather the Chinese take on Western bakeries. They make things like pineapple buns, croissants, and egg tarts, as well as sweet buns embedded with various permutations of corn and sausage. Cream generally turns up in the most unexpected places too. Everything is united by a sweet, cottony, dry dough– what most Chinese people think of when they think of “Western” bread.

pumpkin brioche red bean buns 2

Which is why these red bean buns are some of the best in the world. Red bean paste is all well and nice, but what’s a filling without its shell? A pie without crust? A dumpling without its wrapper? A travesty, you will agree.

Which is, of course, why this pumpkin brioche dough is just what every sweet bun deserves.

These buns are also, in a way, going home, to Yeastspotting.

Recipe: Pumpkin brioche red bean buns

In Beijing, one can find red bean paste (豆沙 dousha) at large supermarkets and in Daoxiangcun (稻香村), which lately I’ve found to be a good source for supplies for Chinese style baking. In the US, many Asian groceries carry some variety of red bean paste. I recommend the Japanese-style, or any kind made with water (清水 qingshui), unless you particularly prefer the richer flavor of vegetable oil or lard.

Makes 8 buns

400 grams of Susan’s incomparable pumpkin brioche dough
(one batch yields 1800g; I made cinnamon rolls with the rest)

160g red bean paste
40g toasted pumpkin seeds, roughly chopped
(walnuts would match the red bean paste better, but pumpkin seeds are what I had)

Whole pumpkin seeds for decoration
Egg whites, for glazing
(use the egg whites leftover from making the brioche dough)

1. After the overnight fridge fermentation, divide and preshape the dough into 8 balls of 50g each. Place in covered bowl, and refrigerate again for at least 20 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, mix the red bean paste and pumpkin seeds/walnuts.

3. Remove the dough from the fridge. Taking one dough ball, flatten it into a round disc on a lightly floured counter, and roll out into a flat circle, approximately 9-10cm (about 3½-4 inches) in diameter.

4. Spoon a small quantity of filling – about 25 grams – into the center of the disc. Be careful of using too much filling, as red bean paste has a very strong and sweet flavor; a little goes a long way. Pat the filling down into a flat round about 4cm (2 inches) in diameter. Bring the edges of the dough in toward the center, and seal, making sure to keep the bun round. Smooth out the seams so that it make a flat surface; this is now the bottom of the bun. Place onto a lightly oiled baking tray. Repeat with the remaining dough.

5. Press pumpkin seeds on to the top of the buns in a decorative pattern. Brush the buns with egg whites. Let them proof at room temperature for about an hour – it’s around 28°C / 82°F  in my house, so you may need to adjust time up to 1hr 45min. The dough is done proofing when it springs back slowly after being poked gently with a finger.

6. Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.

pumpkin brioche red bean bun - innards

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  1. [...] Pumpkin Brioche Red Bean Buns [...]

  2. Mimi says:

    I love red bean paste. I’ve only had it in restaurants. I think this may give me the kick in the pants that I need to try using it at home. Your buns are just stunningly gorgeous!

  3. [...] adapted from Haw Berries and Kumquats, originally from Wild [...]

  4. i made these buns a couple of days ago. they were amazing and delicious! thank you for the wonderful recipe, i will be making these again and again!

  5. Rod says:

    Good day,

    I used the pumpkin brioche dough for a batch of Kolache, and in addition to the usual walnut filling, cheese filling, and poppyseed filling, I tried the red bean paste. I’d had the “fluffy buns” made here in a (I believe, Vietnamese) bakery and liked the filling but not the dry, fluffy bun surrounding it. Both my wife and I prefer denser, moister breads, and this pumpkin brioche dough was great.

    I could not locate the pumpkin puree in the grocery (I did find pumpkin pie filling). I happened to have half of a butternut squash left over from Christmas (I used it in a Summer Squash Lasagna recipe that was fantastic) so I cooked up the other half until soft and threw it in the food processor. I guessed this would be a good substitute for the pumpkin puree. The dough came out great, but I don’t know how different it was due to this substitution.

    I was thinking of other ingredients that could be substituted in for the pumpkin puree, which is not so easy to find in my local grocery stores. What do you think of substituting the following?

    1. Sour cream or cream cheese
    2. Silken Tofu
    3. Mashed potatoes

    I would not want to use anything that adds a lot of flavor/aroma on its own as I do not want to stray too much from traditional kolache (my Slovak grandmother used to make them).

    Anyway, your site is nice and this recipe was fun and delicious!