The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Coconut Sweet Buns with 30% Purple Rice Flour

Elsie_iu's picture

Coconut Sweet Buns with 30% Purple Rice Flour

I was suddenly craving white sandwich bread. That’s very uncommon for me as I always prefer whole grain sourdough bread. Then, I figured out I actually wasn’t craving any white sandwich bread but the store bought purple rice coconut white sandwich bread. Easy solution: drop the white flour and sub in whole wheat, put in some purple rice flour (the original version only mix in cooked rice) and include a coconut kaya jam filling. You get something not only healthier but much more flavorful (coconut milk in both the dough and filling!).


Coconut Sweet Buns with 30% Purple Rice Flour


Dough flour:

210g      70%       Whole wheat flour

90g       30%       Freshly milled black glutinous rice flour


For leaven:

15g        5%       Starter

15g        5%       Bran shifted out from dough flour

15g        5%       Water


For tang zhong:

16g       5.3%       Whole wheat flour

16g       5.3%       Freshly milled black glutinous rice aka purple rice flour

180g      60%       Canned coconut milk


For dough:

258g      86%      Dough flour excluding tang zhong and bran for leaven

<212g  <70.7%  Tang zhong (I didn’t weight)

60g       20%       Whey

45g       15%       Water

45g       15%       Leaven

9g           3%       Vital Wheat Gluten

5g        1.7%       Salt



305g      100%      Whole grain

305g      100%      Total hydration (inc. the tang zhong so it’s actually very easy to work with)



Pandan kaya jam (makes enough for 4 batches of buns):

180g     41.7%      Canned coconut milk (preferably full fat)

171g (3)  39.7%    Large whole eggs

80g       18.6%       Brown sugar (or coconut sugar)

(6)             -%        Pandan leaves (optional) 


Sift out the coarse bran from the dough flour, reserve 15g for leaven. Mix the rest back into the dough flour or soak them in equal amount of whey taken from dough ingredients for a minimum of 4 hours.

Combine all leaven ingredients and let sit until doubled, about 6-8 hours.  

Make the tang zhong. Pour the coconut milk slowly while whisking into a pot containing the flour. When no lumps remain, heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring continuously until thickened to a paste, about 3 minutes. Let cool to room temperature and refrigerate until needed. 

For the kaya jam, first extract the pandan juice if using. Blend the pandan leaves with as little water as possible until they turn into a fibrous paste. Strain and press it against a strainer to collect the extract. Discard the solids.Whisk the eggs. Heat the coconut milk with the pandan extract and sugar until the sugar melts and the mixture nearly comes to a boil. Pour a stream of the hot mixture into the eggs slowly while stirring continuously. Return the coconut milk-eggs mixture to the heat. Whisk constantly for 15 minutes over low-medium heat or until thickened. Blend it until completely smooth then refrigerate until needed.

Reserve 10g of the water and roughly combine all dough ingredients except for the leaven and salt. Autolyse for 30 minutes. Combine the reserved liquid with the leaven. Knead it into the dough along with the salt. Let it ferment for 10 hours.

Take the dough out of the bowl then stretch and fold for a couple of times. Let rest for 20 minutes. Roll the dough into a 38cm×15cm rectangle. Spread the pandan jam onto it, leaving a border on both long ends. Roll up the long ends of the dough and divide crosswise into 9 equal pieces. Place into the prepared pan (mine is 20cm×20cm) and let proof for 30 minutes. Retard overnight for 14 hours. 

Let the dough rest at room temperature for 1 hour. At the same time, preheat the oven at 190°C/375°F. Bake for 25 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 190°F. Turn out to a rack to cool for 30 minutes before serving.


Look at that dreamy purple! Full of Anthocyanin, a kind of flavonoid with powerful antioxidizing properties.

Ready to go into the oven...

I hate any forms of coconut flesh: flaked, desiccated or whatever. However, I seriously couldn’t resist the aroma of dishes prepared with coconut milk/cream. Case solved, my hatred for coconut meat is totally a texture issue :)

The buns are super soft thanks to the coconut milk and tang zhong. Nevertheless, I love that they are also slightly chewy instead of airy like typical cinnamon rolls due the glutinous rice. With so many flavour components going on, these buns are anything but lacking in flavour! They are a major upgrade from that pack of store-bought sandwich bread.

Save the extra kaya jam! It is traditionally enjoyed as a spread for toast but it is exceptional when served with pancakes and crumpets as well. And I can’t think of why it won’t go well with ice cream… 

Feel free to serve the buns with extra kaya jam! I made a much lower sugar version compared with the traditional recipe (but still sweet enough) so that I can put more of it onto the buns.



Ru007's picture

purple rice was thing!! How cool is this!

Your buns look fantastic. They remind me of cinnamon rolls. This inside looks really nice, it almost looks like cake, I'm sure they were delicious.

Nice bake Elsie :)


Elsie_iu's picture

But I've long learnt of its existence. Its usually used in Chinese desserts (coconut milk purple rice taro sweet soup is common in HK). It's cool indeed! Can't believe it takes me so long to try baking with it.

It actually doesn't taste like cake but just a very moist and springy bread. The reason why it looks like cake is probably because it was still hot when I cut it open...

I'm glad you like the bake, Ru!

pul's picture

It looks interesting and quite apdated with local ingerdients. I actually have no idea how  your kaya jam tastes (coconut ???) . Should have an interesting flavor.

Do you think this would work if made with the 100% rice flour?


Elsie_iu's picture

I'm lucky to live in HK, a city where you can find cuisine from all over the world. Kaya jam tastes like a rich coconut cream based custard. It's my favorite spread (all jams and nut butters inc. Nutella have to step away). There's another version made with caramelized sugar.

Don't attempt to make 100% rice flour bread! Rice is gluten free so the bread would lack structure. Moreover, in case you haven't noticed, purple rice is a kind of glutinous rice so you'll get sticky rice cake/mochi when you mix it with water :)

Happy Baking!

Elsie_iu's picture

At 30% purple rice flour, the dough still felt very similar to 100% wheat dough and was very easy to work with. So I think you'll have no problem with the structure at up to 40%. However, any higher than that then I can't guarantee for the outcome.

dabrownman's picture

Great outcome for a new recipe too!  Very nice indeed Elsie!

Elsie_iu's picture

Coming from you, that complement means a lot to me!

It's very rare for me to repeat a bake. I frequently try out new recipes as I can't stand boredom. A few may fail and most turn out ok. These buns make it to the top 10% where the outcome is so good that even I myself get surprised. 

I didn't expect rice flour to be that easy to work with despite its lack of gluten. Now I seriously can't understand why I get very short strands of gluten whenever I include barley flour! It still contain some gluten but its performance is much worse than gluten free flour like rice, buckwheat and masa harina. Any clues for that?

Happy Baking!