Disney Character Taro-Filled Steamed Buns
I hope your tummies are ready for another fun and yummy recipe inspired by another one of my favorite Asian flavors, taro! (P.S. do you pronounce it as TAR-o or TAY-ro? I call it TAR-o)
I found this recipe on Tasty and I was so inspired by it that I had to put a Disney twist on it! I love that the ingredients and the recipe itself is so simple that it gives you a lot of freedom to create whatever kinds of decorations you want! You’re really only limited by the colors and shapes you can make, and even then, there are so many possibilities!
Like I mentioned, this recipe is super simple! Another thing I love about this recipe is that it’s super easy to substitute pretty much any of the ingredients to your preference! The original recipe calls for milk, but I substituted it with oat milk and it turned out great. You can also swap out the sugar for other substitutes like monkfruit sweetener, which I typically like to you. I chose not to replace the sugar in this recipe because the monkfruit sweetener that I have is golden colored and I didn’t want that to impact the color of the dough.
Now for the coloring. For the characters that I wanted to create I needed a pretty broad range of colors! Most food coloring is available in pretty much any grocery store. The one color I had a tough time finding in several supermarkets like Safeway, Smart & Final, Target, and 99 Ranch Market, was the black food coloring, so I had to go to my local specialty baking store to get it, but you can also easily find this on Amazon. And for those of you who aren’t interested in these processed food coloring options, you can also consider natural ingredients! For my yellow, I chose to use turmeric powder. So as it happened, I ended up using both gel and powder food coloring and they both turned out great!
When you make steamed buns, you can pretty much use whatever filling you want, sweet or savory! This time around I chose to use taro paste (as the title suggests!) I used a taro paste (more like a taro mash) that was already made by a family member, but it’s also a simple and straightforward recipe to make!
To start, you basically just have to throw in all of the dough ingredients and mix it up! I really liked the suggestion from Tasty about premixing the dough with a rubber spatula before using the stand mixer with a dough hook. I think it helped incorporate the ingredients a little better and made the dough kneading go a bit more smoothly.
I will say, I added a couple additional splashes of oat milk to the dough because it seemed like it was just a bit too dry. I was definitely weary of getting into the vicious dry-wet cycle that I tend to find myself in when working with dough (because I clearly still don't know how this works), but this time I was lucky enough and the dough came out great!
Now for the toughest part of the recipe: the decorating. I will say this though, if you have a knack for this stuff it probably isn’t that difficult, but making things cute and getting the shapes right was such a challenge for me! I think it took me a couple hours at best and finally somewhat get the hang of it.
The important thing to note is that the dough can dry out pretty quickly, so if you plan on coloring your dough, color portions as needed because if you let them sit, they’ll dry out. I tried to follow this suggestion, but ended up making chunks larger than I needed, but what I ended up doing was covering the dough pieces with a lightly wet napkin (don’t use the kinds that tear easily) or towel to keep it moist while I wasn’t using it and that really helped!
The other thing to remember is that you may not need very much color at all. Start off with a drop (if using liquid or gel) and continuously knead it until the color is evenly distributed in your dough; but of course color to the vibrancy you like. I also noticed that the dough would dry out as I was kneading it so I kept a small bowl of water on hand and would wet my hands as I was kneading the dough as “kneaded”.
Once I had the colors I wanted for the character I was making, I took a piece of non-colored dough, rolled it into a ball and flattened it so I could put the filling in. Since these buns were pretty small, I put around maybe a teaspoon or less of filling, but I think in the future I could make the buns thinner and larger so that I could fit more filling in. I was just being cautious this time around for fear they would explode or something.
After sealing up the bottom with a tiny twist, I placed the bun seal down on a square parchment paper and started decorating. The Mickey and Minnie buns were by far the most challenging since I had to lay the top of the bun with the black dough for their face arches (?) and it took me a while to get it right. I actually failed the first time I tried it and almost didn’t make them! But my determination saw me through to some pretty cute bear-like Mickey and Minnie buns if I do say so myself.
For the Pluto bun, I used turmeric for my natural food coloring mostly because it was hard to find yellow food coloring on its own and I already had turmeric. But for anyone who wants to use only natural ingredients for their food coloring you have lots of options for other colors: matcha powder for green, beet root powder or beet juice for pink, spirulina powder for blue, etc. To use these, you can choose to either make a syrup by boiling the powder with water and allowing the liquid to reduce, or you can just use the powder as is. I chose to just dump some powder on my dough and roll it out, adding a little more water to my hands in order to provide more moisture for the dough to balance out the powder and it worked great. The yellow incorporated very evenly and was so vibrant. I was actually very surprised at how well it turned out! It’s also worth mentioning that the ingredient you use will affect the flavor of the bun. The turmeric-colored buns I made have a turmeric flavor to them, so if that’s not something you want, you may want to consider traditional food coloring materials. I personally don't mind it, so this is something I will definitely continue to use!
Okay, okay, I know these buns look kind of goofy (pun intended), but I actually think that their imperfections and slightly off representations of the characters are what make them cute, so I’m pretty proud of them!
Last but not least, it was time to steam them! If you don’t have a steamer you can use a small bowl and a plate as an impromptu steamer, but as luck would have it, I actually had the right tools this time around! Using a large pot and filling the bottom just barely with water such that no water was touching the steamer, I steamed the buns for 9 minutes over medium heat then left them to sit in the pot with the heat off for another 5 minutes.
Fresh off the stove, these buns were perfectly fluffy and felt like clouds to touch. They tore apart so seamlessly and the bun dough had such a light and happy bounce to it! The taro filling was yummy and both the dough and filling were very lightly sweet, but not overpowering so that the taro flavor could come through. Like I mentioned earlier, the buns that were flavored with turmeric had an additional turmeric flavor to them, so that’s something to be aware of if you use other ingredients for your coloring.
I have to say, I think this may be one of the first recipes where things went right the first time! I struggled for sure with decorating the buns and shaping the features properly, but I think that’s just part of the fun of it! The textures and flavors all came out exactly how I was hoping they would and cute character looks were just the cherry on top! And look how beautifully it looks in the center (was too excited so I didn't get a more high quality photo)!
So overall, I’d say this recipe was definitely a win! I will for sure be making more of these in the future!
Character Taro-Filled Steamed Buns
ºoº 1 taro root
ºpº 1-2 tbsp granulated sugar or taro milk tea powder
ºoº 1-2 tsp hot water
ºoº 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
ºoº 2 tbsp granulated sugar
ºoº ⅓ cup oat milk
ºoº ¼ tsp instant yeast
ºoº Food coloring (as needed)
Colored gel: https://amzn.to/2Uq0eTD
Black gel: https://amzn.to/35o8NVw
Turmeric powder: https://amzn.to/2K7jgMZ
Peel and cut the taro into large chunks
Put the taro cubes into a pot of water and bring to a boil
Lower the temperature and allow the pot to simmer until tender (20-30 minutes)
Transfer the softened taro to a bowl and mash with a fork or electric mixer
Mix in the sugar or taro powder
If the paste is too dry, slowly add in small increments of hot water until the paste reaches ideal consistency
Refrigerate until needed
Add the flour, sugar, yeast, and milk to a bowl and mix with a rubber spatula until ingredients are just combined
Use a stand mixer/electric mixer with a dough hook to mix the dough until the dough is smooth and no longer sticks to the side of the bowl
Cover the dough with a wet towel and allow it to rest for one hour
While the dough is resting, cut parchment paper into the squares in a size that matches the size buns you want to make
After the dough is rested, pull a piece of dough and apply the colors you want (only a drop or two is needed)
Knead the dough by rolling it into a log shape and folding the edges inwards in thirds. Continue kneading in this motion until the color is evenly distributed, adding a sprinkle of water as needed to keep the dough moist
For the main part of the bun, pull a piece of dough, knead in the same motion as Step 6 until the dough is smooth, roll it into a ball and flatten
Place the filling in the center and fold the edges up, wrapping the filling, and twist the edges together to seal the bun. Place the bun twist side down onto the parchment paper
If you’re not decorating your buns, side aside and continue the same process for the rest of the buns; otherwise start decorating!
Once complete, let the buns rest for 30 minutes
Prepare your steamer by using a pot and filling the bottom with water such that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the steamer. Or, for an at-home steamer, place a bowl at the bottom of the pot, fill the bowl with water and fill the bottom of the pot with water such that the water in the pot doesn’t not exceed the height of the bowl. Then place a plate on top of the bowl
Put the buns onto the steamer and steam over medium heat for 9-10 minutes
Turn off the heat and wait another 5 minutes before serving
ºoº For a creamier or smoother taro paste, you can substitute the hot water for butter or your preferred oil
ºoº Using taro milk tea powder gives an additional taro flavor to the paste, but granulated sugar works fine
ºoº When mixing the dough, you can knead the dough entirely by hand if you don’t have a stand mixer available
ºoº While you're making your buns, keeping your unused dough under a lightly wet towel or napkin will help keep it from drying out
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