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Chinese New Year + Red Bean Twists

February 01, 2017

Happy Year of the Rooster! In addition to wandering Chinatowns filled with firecrackers and dancing dragons this past weekend, I took the opportunity to make some celebratory foodstuffs. When there's any chance for tasty deliciousness, take it, I say.

These yeasted twists, layered through with sweet red bean paste, look like something you might find in an Asian bakery. At first, they might seem too intimidating to tackle. You might think, sure, they look nice, but no way I have the time and energy to make them myself. BUCK UP! They're actually rather simple to make, and the only real trick is twisting the dough to form the buns (which is actually not that hard, and just looks fancy thanks to those pretty striations of red bean paste). With a little planning ahead, some patience, and a bit of work on your part, you'll be rewarded with marvelously soft, sweet buns that make you feel like a master baker!

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To make the red bean paste:

Soak 4 oz of adzuki (red) beans overnight. Add to a small saucepan with water to cover by 1/2". Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 1/2 - 2 hours until beans are soft and water is mostly absorbed. Add 1/4 sugar, 1 tbsp butter, and a pinch of kosher salt. Blend with a food processor or immersion blender until the consistency of a smooth paste. Let cool -- it will thicken even more as it cools.

To make the dough:

Bring 1/4 cup of milk and 3 tbsp water to 105-110 F. Add to a large bowl along with 2 tsp active dry yeast and let stand for 5-10 minutes.

In a separate bowl, whisk together 2 cups bread flour, 3 tbsp sugar, and 1/4 tsp kosher salt. Add to the wet mixture and combine. Add 1 beaten egg and 2 tbsp softened butter and knead together. Dough will be soft and sticky; knead until dough is smooth, supple, and just a bit sticky. Let rise in an oiled bowl, 1 - 1 1/2 hours, until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Turn out dough and punch down. Divide into 8 equal portions and roll into balls. Cover with a damp tea towel while forming the rolls.

Working one at a time, roll each ball into a 3/8" thick rectangle. Spread with red bean paste, leaving a 1/8"-1/4" border. Pick a short side of the rectangle and fold one third of the dough over the filling, then fold the other third over that. Pinch ends to seal in the filling. Roll out lengthwise to about 8" long, taking care not to squish out the filling!

Using a sharp knife, cut the log in half lengthwise to form two strands. Position filling side up, then twist together into a simplified braid. For the final twist, wrap the strands into a spiral. Tuck the end under the roll and pinch to fix in place.

Repeat this process for all the rolls. Arrange 2" apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and let rise, covered with a damp tea towel, for another 20 minutes.

If desired, glaze with an egg wash, 1 egg beaten with 1/2 tbsp water. Bake for 18-20 minutes until deep golden brown on top and hollow-sounding when tapped.

Let cool and enjoy! These are best when fresh, but you can store covered at room temperature or stashed in the freezer.

Want the full illustrated recipe?? Prints are available on the shop! Do eeeet :D