Eggs, milk and sugar … these are the basic ingredients that are in a custard.
So it should be as simple to make custard-filled buns, right?
But did you know that most custard buns are actually made with custard powder?
Custard powder was invented in England by Alfred Bird in the the 1800s. Hence, the name “Bird’s Custard Powder.”
There’s no actual eggs in that particular custard powder, however, there is a long list of additives and preservatives, which means you won’t find custard powder in my kitchen.
MY VARIOUS ATTEMPTS AT CUSTARD BUNS
In pursuit of the perfect steamed custard buns WITHOUT custard powder, I’ve attempted numerous versions of custard bun fillings to get as close of a texture and colour to commercially sold ones.
I tried doing a standard custard of just eggs, milk, sugar and flour — and while it tasted alright, it was a little stiff when steamed in the bun. I was aiming for more of an oozy texture.
In terms of colour, I tried turmeric powder to get a more natural yellow colour, but that tasted a little bitter, and the colour was way too yellow. Another time, I had the issue of leaky buns that wouldn’t hold inside the bun.
I’m lucky that my sons love eating custard buns so they were up for all of my experimentation. But with the help of my Mom, I finally developed what I think is the perfect all-natural custard bun recipe.
MY VERSION WITHOUT CUSTARD POWDER
Most steamed custard bun recipes do contain Bird’s Custard Powder, but mine doesn’t. I’m excited to share my recipe which is free from any artificial flavours, colours, or additives. The slight yellow colour is from pumpkin puree, but the coconut milk and eggs will mask the taste of it.
Rich, slightly oozy, and lightly sweet custard, enveloped by a soft, fluffy steamed dough. These buns are great for breakfast.
In fact, these custard buns appear at my breakfast table at least once a week. (It’s super easy when you steam them from frozen). Pair it with a homemade bubble tea for the ultimate afternoon snack.
Let me know if you try out this recipe — tag me on Instagram @siftandsimmer or leave me a comment below!
All-Natural Steamed Custard Buns (Lai Wong Bao)
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tsp vanilla extract or ¼ tsp vanilla paste
- ¾ C coconut milk you can omit and just use milk instead
- ½ C whole milk
- ¼ C + 2 tsp granulated sugar
- 2 Tbsp corn starch
- 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- 2 Tbsp pumpkin puree
- 250 g all-purpose flour
- 140 g warm water
- 5 g active dry yeast
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 10 g granulated sugar
- 5 g vegetable oil
- In a small saucepan, combine the coconut milk, milk, coconut oil, and pumpkin puree and stir over medium heat.
- In a small glass bowl, place the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and flour and whisk together. Place the bowl on a damp dishcloth.
- When the coconut milk is heated through, gradually drizzle the hot milk over the egg yolks and whisk constantly (to temper the eggs). Keep whisking while you pour the rest of the milk to remove any lumps.
- Gently pour the mixture back into the saucepan and continue to whisk over low heat. The mixture will start to thicken. You can tell it is thick enough when a spoon dipped into the mixture will sustain a line drawn on the back of it.
- Remove from heat and put the mixture through a sieve to remove any remaining lumps and into a clean bowl.
- Let cool. Place a piece of plastic wrap over top of the custard and place into the refrigerator overnight.
- The next day, remove the custard from the refrigerator and use a small ice cream scoop to form balls. Place the balls onto a piece of plastic wrap and enclose to keep its shape. Repeat with the remaining custard.
- Place the plastic-wrapped custard balls into the freezer until ready to use.
- In a stand mixer bowl, combine flour, baking powder and oil.
- In a small bowl, add the warm water, sugar, and yeast. Let the yeast activate and become bubbly.
- Once the yeast has activated, with the mixer running on low, add it to the flour mixture. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. If the dough is too wet, add a little more flour. If the dough is too dry, add 1 tsp of water at a time until you obtain the correct consistency.
- Lightly grease a medium glass bowl and place the the dough into it. Cover and let it proof in a warm place for about 1 hour or until almost doubled in bulk.
- Once dough has risen, divide into portions of ~50g each. Roll each dough portion into a smooth ball and flatten the edges to form a disc with a hump in the middle.
- Remove the custard filling balls from the freezer and place one custard ball in the middle of the dough. Carefully bring up the edges of the dough and pleat around it, sealing up the filling.
- Place the dough with the pleats facing down onto a square piece of parchment paper, approximately 3" by 3" in size.
- Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
- Place the custard buns (with the parchment) onto a steamer rack or a bamboo steamer.
- Let rest for about 20-30 minutes, until dough has risen slightly.
- Use large pot or wok with just enough water and set your steaming rack over top of it. Turn on the heat to high and steam for 15 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and let it rest for 5 minutes without opening the lid. (This is to prevent the buns from collapsing).
- Remove from heat and let cool. Enjoy the custard buns immediately.