One of the things I absolutely adored doing while living in Japan was visiting bread shops (my favourite was Pompadour) and taking home bags of perfectly fluffy buns filled with creamy custard, and crunchy rolls laden with diced cheese and bacon. If you’ve visited Bread Top or BreadTalk in the eastern States or Utopia here in Perth, you’ll be familiar with the style of bread products favoured in Asian countries; petite, highly refined, filled buns that would send carb-freaks into a full head spin.
One of my Japanese cooking magazines had a recipe for a basic white bun (it’s basically a pain au lait) recipe so I thought I’d give it a whirl, concocting my own unique topping. I caramellised some shallots with butter and a dash of maple syrup to boost the flavour. I still had a good chunk of provolone cheese left from the day I raided Lopresti & Son so I diced some up into small squares (not too small, say just shy of 1cm square cubes) to finish off the buns.
Onion and cheese are hardly a surprise combination but a secret ingredient sends the two right off up to a new level; Japanese ‘Kewpie’ mayonnaise. Actually, Kewpie is hardly a secret ingredient in the Asian bread making world but I suspect its use in a bread recipe may raise some eyebrows elsewhere. However, please take my word for it; Kewpie mayo rocks and everyone should keep some stocked in their fridge! I should also add here that you should not attempt to use any mayo with added sugar. If you can’t get hold of Kewpie, use Best Foods or Thomy style mayo. Please!
Once my buns proved, I gently dug a small hole in the centre of the dough and squeezed about a teaspoon of mayonnaise inside. I then put about a tablespoon of the craramellised shallots on top and five cubes of provolone. Ready for a quick 10 minute bake.
I’m not one to blow my own trumpet but my buns were awesome!! The shallots were gorgeously sweet but kept in check by the provolone’s saltiness. In between those two champions, the Kewpie mayo added a mild tang and creaminess. The buns were naturally best straight out of the oven but they proved to be a fantastic snack the next day either cold or warmed gently in the oven. I’ll be making these again soon!
Caramellised Shallots, Provolone & Mayo Buns
200g plain flour (I used bread-making flour)
5g of dry yeast (I’m sure you can use whole 7g sachet if you wish)
one extra egg yolk
70ml milk (lukewarm)
1/2 teaspoon salt
caramellised shallots – 3 large shallots slowly cooked in one tablespoon of butter and one teaspoon maple syrup (brown sugar can be used)
Kewpie mayonnaise (can be bought from most Asian grocers and even Coles supermarket)
80g Provolone cheese, diced into small cubes (any salty rind cheese can be substituted. A mature cheddar should work well too)
To make: Place flour, sugar, yeast and butter into mixer bowl. Using a paddle beater, combine ingredients until a crumbly mixture forms. This process can be done by hand if needed. Beating the egg and egg yolk, place a third of the milk into egg mix and combine. Place remaining milk into dough mix and mix until well combined. Put egg mix into dough and mix again. Once a good dough has formed, place on floured surface and knead well. Place rolled dough ball into a bowl, cover with wrap and allow to prove in a warm place for 50 minutes. Once proved, remove air bubbles from dough by kneading again. Form small balls and place on lined tray. Cover with a dampened cloth and allow to prove for 20 minutes. Knead the balls again to remove air and prove one last time for another 20 minutes. Pre-heat oven to 180C while waiting. Prepare proved buns with Kewpie mayo, shallots and cheese. Bake in oven for 10 minutes.