Happy Chinese New Year: Custard Buns

Kung Hei Fat Choi to you all (Happy New Year). May this year bring you happiness, wealth and luck!

2013 marks the year of the snake and to celebrate I have baked a batch of custard buns.It is a light and fluffy bread, which has a delicious silky custard centre that just melts in your mouth.

Kay-Ann’s Bakery has a good recipe to prepare the dough, which I adapted and filled with crème patissière (aka confectioner’s custard or pastry cream).

It takes about 4 to 5 hours to make the buns so you can either prepare the dough the night before, or start the cooking process early in the morning to be able to enjoy the buns by the  afternoon / early evening.

I am linking this to Domestic Sluttery’s baking club, Just Desserts. Their current theme is titled ‘Fighting for Custardy.’

This recipe makes 12 buns.

How to make the dough starter (Tang Zhong)

This dough is prepared with a water roux starter, known as Tang Zhong, which gives the bread its soft fluffy texture. The rule of thumb here is to mix 1 part flour with 5 parts water / milk.

  • 25g bread flour
  • 60ml cup water
  • 65ml cup milk
  1. Add the ingredients into a saucepan and keep whisking over a medium heat until the mixture thickens into a paste consistency.
  2. Remove from heat, put in a bowl and cover with cling film to prevent the surface from drying.
  3. Allow the roux to cool to room temperature. In the meantime, prepare your dough.

How to prepare the dough

  • 350g strong white bread flour
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 1 packet (7g) instant yeast
  • 120 ml warm milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 30g salted butter, room temperature
  • Water roux (see above)
  1. Put the dry ingredients into a large bowl and make a well.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the butter, into the bowl and knead to form a dough. It will be sticky at first but you should eventually get a smooth ball. At this stage, add the butter and continue kneading for atleast 10 minutes, or until the dough has become smooth and elastic.
  3. Place the dough in a bowl, cover with cling film and keep it in a warm room for at least 2 hours (until it has doubled in size), or overnight in the fridge. The longer you leave the dough to proof, the fluffier your buns.
  4. Place the dough on a flat floured surface and break into 12 balls. Cover each ball with cling film and set aside for at least 15 minutes. In the meantime, move on to prepare your crème patissière.

To make the crème patissière

  • 250 ml whole milk
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp corn flour
  • 1/2 vanilla pod, split
  1. Place the milk and vanilla pod into a saucepan and allow to boil.
  2. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar into a large bowl, then add the corn flour and plain flour and continue whisking.
  3. When the milk has come up to the boil, add half of the milk into the bowl and then quickly add the contents of the bowl back into the saucepan.
  4. Keep whisking the ingredients over a low heat until you get a thick custard.
  5. Once you get the required consistency, put the custard into a bowl and cover with cling film.
  6. Allow to cool to room temperature before you begin to assemble the custard buns.

NB the crème patissière can be stored in a fridge for up to 3 days.

To assemble the buns

  • Dough (see above)
  • Crème patissière (see above)
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • Plain flour for dusting
  1. Pre-heat the oven 180C.
  2. Roll out one of the dough balls onto a floured surface to form a large circle. Add a heaped teaspoon of the crème patissière into the middle and then close the ends to form a bun (see the two pictures below). Place the ball on a lined baking tray.
  3. Repeat the process until you have filled all the custard buns. Then cover the baking tray with cling film to proof the balls for a further hour (or until they have doubled in size).
  4. When you are ready to bake, glaze each bun with egg yolk and place the baking tray in a preheated oven for 18-20 minutes.
  5. Allow the custard buns to cool slightly before serving.
Adding the custard to the middle of the bun

Adding the custard to the middle of the bun

Filled bun before baking.

Filled bun before baking.

Shared with Tea Time Treats with Lavender & Lovage & The Hedgecombers.



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  • Posted February 12, 2013


    This sounds delicious! I’ve been meaning to try making crème patissière too, so this will be the ideal opportunity.

    • Posted February 12, 2013

      The Spicy Pear

      Glad you like the look of them.

      The crème patissière in this recipe is enough to fill 12 buns and is not too sweet. Feel free to add more sugar, to suit your palette, and double the contents if making more.

      Do let me know how you get on.

  • Posted February 21, 2013


    Oh my ACTUAL GOD! This is absolutely amazing. I adore custard donuts and these buns look like I might actually be able to make them. Thank you!

    • Posted February 22, 2013

      The Spicy Pear

      Thank you Kat. It was my first time making the buns and I am so pleased with the results. You should definitely try and make them. Not difficult at all, just time consuming but the wonderful smells in the house will more than make up for that. Also one tip, I found that it was better to let the buns rest once out of the oven (10 min or so), as the custard becomes even more flavoursome – although it may not ooze out as much. Would love to know how you get on.

      • Posted February 22, 2013


        Brilliant tip, thank you. I’ve got some friends coming to tea on the 17th next month so I think an evening in to prep the dough and then a morning of bun-making is definitely on the cards!

  • Posted January 1, 2014


    They look amazing, and I would win some serious brownie points with Jonny is I served them up. He LOVES custard in anything!
    Thanks so much for linking up in my first Tea Time Treats, it was a pleasure to see you there 🙂
    Janie x

  • Trackback: January Tea Time Treats Round Up - The Hedge Combers

  • Trackback: The Spicy Pear | Happy Chinese New Year 2014: Turnip Cakes

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