Today’s recipe is for another local bakery standby – the Pan de Coco. Pan de Coco is a soft, coconut-filled bun that is a popular snack in the Philippines. Like most Filipino breads, its name comes from Spanish and literally translates to coconut bread.
It’s cool to note that other former Spanish territories also boast their own version of pan de coco. The Dominican Republic and the Honduras have bread recipes that use coconut extensively. Coconut milk and freshly grated coconut meat are added to the flour to make the dough.
Unlike its Central American and Caribbean cousins, the local Filipino pan de coco incorporates coconut (or strictly speaking, sweetened coconut) as a filling for sweet buns. Freshly grated coconut is highly preferred when cooking the filling. I find using desiccated coconut necessitates more milk (and water, if using) and sugar in the recipe and frankly, for the amount of liquid it uses up, the texture was still on the dry and rough side.
But that’s not to say that you totally can’t use desiccated coconut. Living abroad where tropical ingredients such as freshly grated coconut is scarce, desiccated coconut is a decent substitute for the real deal. But if you’re able to get your hands on some coconut flakes, use this instead. Just be wary about the type of coconut flakes you’re buying; if you buy a bag of sweetened coconut flakes, you might have to dial back on the amount of sugar you use for the filling.
If you’ve browsed through a couple of pan de coco recipes or even some of the bread recipes that I posted before, you are in for a surprise today. I’m a fan of sweet and soft bread. No crusty, artisan bread for me if I can help it. One of the secrets of Asian bakers for pillowy soft bread that’s steadily gaining recognition among Western bakers is tangzhong.
What is tangzhong?
Tangzhong (or water roux), is an awesome technique that helps to keep bread soft and fresh even after a few days. How cool is that? I came across this technique a few years back when I was looking through some Chinese blogs on a hunt for the fluffiest milk bread. While it’s been said to have originated from Japan (and is often the underlying technique for baking Hokkaido milk bread), it was catapulted to greater popularity among home bakers when a Chinese book called 65°C Bread Doctor came out. Interestingly, 65°C is the temperature used to prepare tangzhong.
Tangzhong is prepared by mixing a small amount of flour and a fair bit of liquid (usually milk or water) and heating the mixture over low medium heat until it forms into a paste like substance. It gives the dough more elasticity and locks in moisture so your bread is absolutely soft.
Ok, here are some pointers for those making tangzhong for the first time.
- Make sure your milk or water is at room temperature. We don’t want to heat the liquid longer than necessary.
- To avoid lumps of uncooked flour in the tangzhong, add the flour to the liquid (and not the other way around) and give this mixture a few swirls with a spoon or spatula before cooking it over the fire.
- Constantly stir the mixture during cooking to avoid burning the flour.
- Once the mixture is starting to get thick, turn down the heat. It cooks fairly quickly.
- Immediately remove from heat once the mixture is thick like cream.
- Cool it down to room temperature before adding it to the dough.
Now the next bit that I want to talk about is the coconut filling. This recipe uses freshly grated coconut and makes just enough for around 12 tablespoons of filling. I tried using more than a tablespoon of filling but I had some problem sealing the dough balls afterwards so I stuck to a tablespoonful of filling for my subsequent baking. Of course, you can double the recipe for the filling and eat the extra too. ?
If you’re using desiccated coconut, I suggest doubling the amount of liquid and sugar used as the dry coconut absorbs more liquid than fresh ones do. Use the same amount of desiccated coconut as you would with the grated coconut.
I brushed some melted butter over the freshly baked buns and sprinkled toasted sesame seeds and sugar on top. The original pan de coco comes without these toppings but the buns are delicious either way.
I pinched off a bit to eat. Can you see how the edge just stays pinched? That’s how soft it is.
Ready to bake some seriously addicting pan de coco? Let me know your thoughts!Print
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