Twisted Coconut Buns

These soft and fluffy twisted coconut buns are made using milk bread dough. The dough is braided together with shredded coconut, raisins, and cinnamon for sweet and tasty snack!

Twisted Coconut Buns

Fresh bread! Fresh bread!

I miss my weekly trips to Asian bakeries to fill up on fluffy sliced milk bread, cheddar hot dog buns, and an assortment of sweet rolls. 

Since most of these bakeries are still closed or have limited bread production, I’ve sought out to make some of my favorite breads.  

Grab your homemade boba milk tea and enjoy one of these twisted coconut raisin buns fresh from the oven! 

Twisted Coconut Buns

Braided Coconut Raisin Bread Buns

These soft and fluffy bread buns are made with a milk bread dough. The secret to soft and fluffy milk bread is the use of tangzhong. 

This Japanese Milk Bread is consistently one of my top three most popular recipes. It is where I first introduced the tangzhong water roux method.

I get many questions and complains regarding the amount of the tangzhong used in bread recipes. Tangzhong is usually cooked stovetop. It is difficult to heat up a small batch stovetop. 

I have a solution! Use a microwave!

Tangzhong Water Roux for milk bread cooked in a microwave

What is tangzhong?

Milk bread gets its iconic fluffy texture from the use of a dough starter, also known as “tangzhong” or water roux. 

The dough starter is a mixture of flour, milk, and water heated together to a form a thick paste. Once cooled, this paste is mixed with the remaining dough ingredients to create an easy to work with, very forgiving dough.

Cook tangzhong in the microwave

This is the fastest way to prepare tangzhong! The microwave immensely speeds up the process. 

You need: a microwave safe mug or bowl, milk, water, and all-purpose flour.

NOTE: The cooking times listed here are for a 1100 W microwave.

How to Cook Tangzhong Water Roux in the microwave

1. Place flour in small microwave safe mug. Pour in milk and water.

How to Cook Tangzhong Water Roux in the microwave

2. Stir contents together. The mixture will not be smooth. Simply stir everything together as much as you can. It will smooth out as it heats up.

How to Cook Tangzhong Water Roux in the microwave

3. Heat mixture in the microwave for 20 seconds at full power.

How to Cook Tangzhong Water Roux in the microwave

4. Remove from microwave and stir contents together. The mixture will have thickened. Stir and break up any large clumps of flour. Then, return to microwave and heat for another 20 seconds at full power. 

How to Cook Tangzhong Water Roux in the microwave

5. Remove from microwave and stir together. Return to microwave and heat for another 10-15 seconds until mixture is smooth and has thickened to the consistency of mashed potatoes. 

Tangzhong Water Roux for Milk Bread

6. Transfer mixture to a cool clean bowl. Let mixture sit for 10-15 minutes to cool before adding to remaining dough ingredients. 

Mixing & Kneading Milk Dough 

This dough is easily mixed and kneaded together in a stand mixer fitted with a hook attachment.

You may mix it by hand, but it will be take much longer. 

Milk bread dough for coconut buns

Active Dry Yeast vs Instant Yeast For Milk Bread

Recipe works with either instant yeast or active dry yeast. No need to change the yeast amount. 

If you have NEW active dry yeast, there is no need to proof it first (regardless of what the package directions say). However, if you don’t know how old your active dry yeast is, you should activate it in warm liquid to ensure it is still alive.

Instant yeast does not require rehydration before use.

Milk Bread Dough after proof

Keep in mind, active dry yeast takes a little longer to rise and proof compared to instant yeast. Keep an eye on the proofing dough. Let rest until doubled in volume.

Where to rest or proof dough?

Yeast thrives in warm, humid environments. For home use, I suggest finding the warmest place in the house. Perhaps it’s the garage, over the microwave, or beside the refrigerator.

Covering the resting dough with plastic wrap helps to trap in the heat created by the live yeast, thus creating a nice warm environment.

Yeasted dough rise best at a room temperature of 75 degrees F. Avoid direct sunlight. Keep the dough in a relatively dim area. 

Milk Bread Dough for Coconut Buns

Once dough has doubled in volume, punch it down and get ready to assemble your twisted coconut buns!

Braided Coconut Buns using milk dough

Twisted Coconut Raisin Bun Components:

  • Milk bread dough divided in 6 equal pieces
  • Cinnamon sugar butter
  • Shredded sweetened coconut
  • Raisins
  • Milk or cream, for brushing
  • Sliced almonds and turbinado sugar, for topping

How to Make Braided Coconut Buns

How to assembled twisted or braided buns

  1. Working with one piece of a dough as a time, roll dough into a 6-inch square.
  2. Spread a thin layer of cinnamon sugar butter all over dough.
  3. Sprinkle shredded coconut and raisins over cinnamon sugar butter.
  4. Roll dough into a tight log.
  5. Place log seam side down. Slice down the middle lengthwise. Slice into two pieces if making twisted buns. (Keep a portion of the end intact if braiding.)
  6. Twist or braid the two ends of the dough together. Pinch end seams together

Braided Coconut Buns

Place assembled coconut buns on a parchment lined baking sheet. Six buns will fit perfectly when arranged on an angle on a 3/4 sheet pan (15″x 21″ baking sheet pan).  

Braided Milk Bread Coconut Buns

Cover buns and let rest until dough is puffy. The buns will rise significantly, almost touching each other.

It is important to cover dough with plastic wrap. The dough should look pillowy and soft. 

If uncovered, the dough will get rubbery and dry on the outside. 

Braided Coconut Buns made with milk bread

Before baking

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F while the assembled buns are proofing.

When the buns are soft and pillowy, lightly brush the tops with milk or heavy cream. Sprinkle on sliced almonds for crunch and turbinado sugar for a touch of extra sweetness. 

Braided Coconut Buns with raisins and cinnamon

Bake until the bread buns are fragrant and golden brown. Let them rest in the sheet pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

These twisted coconut buns are best warm, fresh from the oven. They’re equally delicious at room temperature. 

They can be quickly reheated in a toaster oven or gently reheated in the microwave. (Check notes section of recipe for how to reheat in the microwave!)

Ingredient Substitutions:

Customize the recipe for these twisted milk bread buns with your choice of filling. 

Flour

All-purpose flour or bread flour work well in this recipe. Do not substitute in whole wheat flour or cake flour. 

Yeast

I have tested this recipe using both instant yeast and dry active yeast. Either yeast option will work.

Instant yeast is mixed directly with the ingredients.

If you have NEW dry active yeast, you can treat it like instant yeast. If you’ve had your dry active yeast for a while, rehydrate the yeast in the warm milk listed in the recipe.

Shredded Coconut

This recipe uses sweetened shredded coconut. It is also labeled as sweetened coconut flakes.

Do not use unsweetened coconut. It will not provide enough flavor. 

Raisins

Use your choice of raisins: Thompson, Flame, Muscat, Sultana, etc.

Or, swap in other dried fruit like dried cranberries, chopped dried apricots, dried cherries, or dried mango bits. 

Braided Coconut Buns

Twisted Coconut Buns

These soft and fluffy twisted coconut buns are made using milk bread dough. The dough is braided together with shredded coconut, raisins, and cinnamon for sweet and tasty snack!

Servings 6 buns
Author Maryanne Cabrera

Ingredients

Starter:

  • 25 grams (about 3 Tbsp) all-purpose flour
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) milk
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) water

Dough:

  • 325 grams (2 1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 50 grams (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 7 grams (2 1/4 tsp) instant yeast or active dry yeast*
  • 1 Tbsp milk powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly whisked, room temp
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) whole milk
  • 60 grams (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

Filling:

  • 60 grams (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temp
  • 10 grams (1 Tbsp) confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 50 grams (about 1/2 cup+ 1 Tbsp) shredded coconut
  • 45 grams (1/4 cup) raisins, packed

Topping:

  • milk or heavy cream, for brushing
  • raw sliced almonds, as needed
  • turbinado sugar, as needed

Instructions

Starter:

  1. Stir together flour, milk, and water in a microwave safe cup. Mix will be a little lumpy. Microwave for 20 seconds. Stir. (NOTE: this cooking time refers to a 1100W microwave)

  2. Remove from microwave and stir contents together. Mixture will have thickened. Stir and break up any large clumps of flour. Then, return to microwave and heat for another 20 seconds.

  3. Remove from microwave and stir together. Return to microwave and heat for another 15 seconds until mixture is smooth and has thickened to the consistency of mashed potatoes.

    *If needed, return to microwave for another 10 seconds and mix again.

  4. Transfer mixture to a cool clean bowl. Let mixture sit for 15 minutes to allow to cool before adding to remaining dough ingredients.

Dough:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flour, sugar, instant yeast, milk powder, and salt. Attach dough hook to mixer. Add in cooled starter mixture, egg, and milk. Mix together on low speed for 3-5 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl to ensure thorough mixing.

  2. Add softened butter and continue to knead on low speed for 3-5 minutes until butter is incorporated. Increase speed to medium and knead for another 3-5 minutes until dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

  3. Transfer dough to a large greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in warm area for about an hour, until dough has doubled in volume.

Filling:

  1. In a small bowl, mix together softened butter, confectioners sugar, cinnamon, and salt until smooth. Set aside.

  2. Measure out shredded coconut and raisins. Set aside.

Assembly:

  1. Punch down risen dough. Transfer to a clean work surface. Divide dough into six equal parts. (Use digital kitchen scale for precise measurements.)

  2. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll dough into a 6-inch square.

  3. Spread a thin layer of cinnamon sugar butter filling all over dough. Sprinkle about 1 1/2 Tbsp shredded coconut and about 2 tsp raisins over cinnamon sugar butter.

  4. Roll dough into a tight log. Place log seam side down. Slice down the middle lengthwise. Slice into two pieces if making twisted buns, or keep a portion of the end intact if braiding.

  5. Twist or braid the two pieces of dough together. Pinch end seams together. Place diagonally on a parchment lined 3/4 sheet tray (15x21-inch baking sheet). *see blog post image for reference

  6. Repeat assembling the remaining pieces of dough.

  7. Cover assembled dough with plastic wrap. Let rest in a warm area for about an hour (45 to 60 or so minutes depending on room's temperature) until dough is puffy. It should look soft and pillowy.

  8. Preheat oven to 350°F.

  9. Remove plastic wrap covering from proofed buns. Lightly brush the tops of buns with milk or heavy cream. Sprinkle sliced almonds and turbinado sugar on top.

  10. Bake for 28-30 minutes until bread buns are fragrant and golden brown. Rotate baking sheet midway during baking to ensure even cooking.

  11. Let bread rest in pan for 5 minutes. Unmold and transfer to wire rack to cool. Enjoy bread warm or at room temperature.

    *See note for reheating instructions.

Recipe Notes

Microwave heating time listed for starter is for a 1110W microwave.

*See blog post for ingredient substitutions

  • Recipe has been tested using both instant yeast and dry active yeast. Instant yeast is mixed directly with ingredients.
    • If you have NEW dry active yeast, you can treat it like instant yeast.
    • If you've had your dry active yeast for a while, rehydrate the dry active yeast in warm milk for 5-7 minutes before adding to remaining ingredients. 

Storage:

  • Keep cooled coconut buns in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Reheating Instructions:

  • Coconut buns can be enjoyed warm or at room temperature.
    • To reheat in the microwave: place twisted coconut bun on a microwave safe plate along with a mug filled with about 1/2 cup water. Cook for 20 second intervals until bread is soft and warm. 
    • Alternatively, reheat coconut buns in a toaster oven until warm.
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