Soft, fluffy, sweet, and classically Asian. There’s no other way to describe red bean buns. Where Americans have chocolate chip cookies, the Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans have their red bean buns. Whether it’s someone’s birthday or time for an afternoon snack, in Asian food culture red bean buns are always a welcome treat.
Maybe it’s the American in me, but I don’t find red bean buns nearly as appealing as chocolate chip cookies. After all, they’re made with–of all things–beans! Everything changed this past week when I did some tweaking on my recipe for savory steamed buns. Inspired by spring, I sought out to make an Easter bunny-themed variation, with the perfect mild sweetness and tender texture. The results are some seriously yummy buns that can easily steal the spotlight from those chocolate chip cookies.
Azuki buns are so popular that you’ll often find them ready-made in the freezer or fridge section in Asian markets. The tell-tale sign of a mediocre (or bad) azuki bun is that it’s chokingly dry and dense. And a good one? Tender and slightly chewy with just the right amount of filling.
I based this recipe on the dough used for my Steamed BBQ Pork Buns and Chinese Fold-Over Buns, with a few changes. Instead of using Hong Kong flour, which is harder to find, I use regular all-purpose flour here. I also swap out the powdered sugar for superfine sugar, which creates a chewier, slightly heavier dough that steams up with a perfectly thin skin and smooth surface.
Decorated with a pair of bunny ears and a nubby nose made from soft candies, the humble buns are instantly transformed into wagashi-like Easter treats. You can also just scatter some sesame seeds in the center of each rounded bun before steaming. The buns will look elegant and easy, ideal for no-nonsense adults who aren’t in to adorably chubby bunnies. Enjoy these with Japanese green teas like a pale jade gyokuo, a toasty genmaicha, or a delicate sencha like Palais des Thés Tawaramine Shincha. Any tea that’s light, grassy, and fresh on the palette is ideal with the classic Asian flavor and look of these buns. Some may say that these Azuki Bunny Buns are too cute to eat, but as you can see I clearly don’t agree!Azuki Bunny Buns
Makes 10 buns.
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup superfine sugar
1 tsp SAF instant yeast
1 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp non-fat dry milk powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
6 Tbsp lukewarm water + 1-2 tsp water more (if needed)
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp sweetened smooth red bean paste (koshian)
black sesame seeds, for bunny eyes
soft, pink chewy candies, for bunny ears and noses (I used Hi-Chews)
non-stick spray or oil, for coating proofing bowl
stand mixer with dough hook attachment
large bamboo steamer
wok with slightly larger diameter than steamer OR a stockpot with exactly the same diameter as the steamer
parchment paper, cut into 2 1/2″ squares
small cupcake liners (optional)
Japanese bento grass (optional)
1.) Place all dry dough ingredients into the bowl of a large stand mixer. Start the mixer on low, then gradually add the water and oil. About 3 minutes in, the shaggy dough should come together to form a ball. If it does not, add 1-2 tsp of water until the dough comes together. Let the dough continue to mix on low for 10 minutes, until you get a soft and supple ball of dough.
2.) Lightly spray a large bowl with non-stick spray, coating the top surface of the dough with some of the same oil. Place the dough ball in the large bowl, then cover it with plastic wrap and place it in a draft free place to rise until almost doubled in volume.
3.) After the first rise, take the dough out onto a work surface. Give the dough a few light kneadings, then portion it out into 10 equal pieces using a chef’s knife. Shape each dough piece into a ball, then flatten each ball into a disk about 3 1/2″ in diameter and fill it with 1 Tbsp of red bean paste. Gather the edges of the flattened dough disk, pinching them together to seal. Flip the filled dough ball over, then roll it into a slightly oval circle. Place this shaped bun on a small square of parchment paper.
4.) Attach the eyes of the bunnies with the slightly wetted tip of a toothpick. Place the bun into the bamboo steamer. Shape a total of 10 buns, placing them at least 1″ apart in the steamer. Cover the steamer and let the buns rise for about 15 minutes, until just slightly puffy. Meanwhile, boil some water in a wok or stockpot so that the water is at least 2″ deep in the pot. 5.) Steam the buns for 12 minutes over water at a full boil. After the buns have finished steaming, let them cool before decorating them with soft, pink candies (I used Strawberry Hi-Chews, but you could use any soft pink candy). Cut a candy crosswise, in 1/4″ thick pieces. Shape the pieces (see below) into elongated bunny ears. Use the center pink part of the candies to make tiny balls to make the bunny noses. Attach the candies to the surface of the cooled, steamed buns using light dabs of water. Decorate these buns just before serving as the attached candies get soft and sticky after being adhered to the buns. Place the buns on cupcake liners decorated with bento grass for a festive Easter finish.
I have a soft spot for red bean (red bean soup is one of my favorites!), so I don’t need anything else to push me to make these!
I hope you love them Heather!! 🙂
Bonnie these are the cutest thing ever! So great for spring, and you can see the amount of care and precision that you put into each bun. They look perfect!
Thank you so much Chaya! I think the spacing between the eyes and noses was the hardest part…some of them ended up looking like pigs, but oh well, Easter/spring-minded people should hopefully get the idea! 😉
So cute! Love the idea of using the Hi-Chew for the ears! Creative 🙂
Bonnie! These are so beautiful and adorable!!! I love them! They actually made me go “WOW” out loud when I saw them. I feel slightly bad for the bunnie that has the bite in it… 😉
gawd these are ridiculous, i’m squealing over them. i think i’m too american, i do have the preference for the chocolate chip cookies over anything asian red bean treats. but these. i’d keep them around just to look at!
(it was around this time last year that i found your blog, with your egg decorations!)
I have never had one of these buns, Bonnie, but they are so freaking cute!!! You are an artist, seriously 😀
Bonnie! You are a creative girl, those buns look like ceramic! 🙂 So cute!!! ❤
You are always so brilliant, Bonnie! Not only I love red bean buns, these bunny ones are totally irresistible! Gotta make them for sure! Have a great Easter weekend! 😀
Omg! Bonnie you did it again! Soooo cute😋 too cute to eat!?
That is just too darn cute! It’s almost too precious to eat. Have a wonderful Easter weekend.
You definitely won the award for the cutest eatable easter bunnies :))
I can totally relate and would prefer cookies anytime but those are adorable!
Cute buns love the way they turned out.
Your bunnies are just so precious, Bonnie! Love them! 🙂
Oh My GAWD! These are the cutest things I’ve ever seen! Red bean paste is one of my favorite sweet treats too!
Haha, thank you so much! HapaNom is such an awesome site! Can’t wait to read more!! 🙂
Just look at those buns Bonnie :). I just love them. I definitely have to try out this recipe. Hopefully, it will turn out like yours :).
Kay of Pure & Complex
I never heard of these buns, but your recipe sounds so delicious, I have to try them! Thanks for sharing.
I hope you get to try them Cecelia! My family and I really enjoyed these, best red bean buns we’ve had. 😉
Oh my goodness, these are so so cute!!!
Thank you so much Claudia! Hope you had a fabulous Easter! 😉
These are amazing little bunny buns! I have a Pinterest board called Culinary Critters… guess who is about to become my new cover picture? So adorable and incredibly creative!
Thank you so much Meggan! Hope you had a wonderful Easter and thanks so much for the pin! Love your site! 😉
Your chubby bunnies are adorable!! I was introduced to red bean buns in my teens, and I actually really enjoy them but it’s hard to find good ones. I’ll have to try your recipe!
I hope you do get to try them Shareba! I don’t always love red bean buns, but this dough recipe has me loving them now! Now that Easter is over, you can forgo the bunny embellishments and I promise they’ll be just as delicious! BTW I love your blog, you have a new follower! 😉
Reblogged this on TLF | Tho Loves Food and commented:
Kawaii! Super Cute Red Bean Buns! Happy Easter everyone 😉
These Bunnies are too cute to be eaten 😦
These. Are. Just so amazing!!!
These are so darling and elegant at the same time. I can hardly believe the little ears are candy. I have never had one of these buns before but I will watch for them when I’m out from now on!
I like red bean buns already (my husband adores them), but these bunnies take them to a whole new level of awesome and remind me of the kinds of desserts I saw in Tokyo—pretty and impeccable. Just like you, Bonnie! 🙂