Yes, I did it! I finally made my first ever Luncheon Meat Sweet Soft Buns on Sunday morning! Have been dying to bake this since I attended the Sweet Soft Bun Workshop by Chef Valerie 2 weeks ago.
Luncheon Meat Soft Buns hold a special place in my heart. I remember when I was about 4-5 years old and attending Kindergarten, everyday after class I would pass by an old school bakery in my neighbourhood in Bedok. Every time, I would be lured and tantalised by the sweet aroma of soft buns just freshly baked out of the oven. I would always beg my mother to buy me the luncheon meat soft bun, and no other, for it is my favourite bun. My mother would obliged once in a while, as a treat and tea time snack. I would hold the still-warm bun carefully and eat it immediately. It was bliss, the fluffy soft bun oozing with salty minced luncheon meat. This was one of the fond memories of my childhood :)
Those days, soft buns were very humble looking with only a few choices in flavour, I could only remember sugar and cheese, sausage, red bean. Over the years, bread has evolved into a food with fanciful shapes, creative flavours and even innovative names, and I believe the revolution started with Breadtalk. I recalled it was a sensation when Breadtalk first launched in 2000, it was not just bread, it became a concept. Then many other bakeries followed suit as well, including the neighbourhood bakeries. Although some neighbourhood bakeries still sell luncheon meat soft buns, it's not the one I'm familiar and grew up with, the minced luncheon meat soft bun. The whole slice type is just not the same as the minced one. So as I was saying, Chef Valerie's recipe gave me the golden opportunity to relive my childhood favourite tea time snack. And I was dying to bake it!
Prepared the Gelatinized Starch (Yukone method, also known as Water Roux, 汤种) on Friday night as the starch can only be used after 24hrs. It was easy, just mix a small amount of bread flour with boiling water.
The steps were relatively easy, in fact 'neater' than baking cakes. Was glad that I could let my trusty electric mixer knead the dough, no need for arm power. Only thing I was unsure how long to knead the dough. Though Chef Valerie said knead till dough looks very smooth, not sticky and leaves the bowl, I was slightly unsure since this was my first attempt. Then I saw the dough really leaving the sides of the bowl, was wondering whether it was time to stop, but decided to push on further as the dough was still a little sticky. Finally, the dough left the bottom of the mixing bowl too. Ahhh, I think it was about time, it felt right.
Next, took out the dough and let it proof for about 20-30 mins. While waiting, I prepared the minced luncheon meat and set up the table for the wrapping later. Nothing fanciful with my minced luncheon meat, just mashed using a potato masher, no other seasonings or condiments.
So after about 30 mins, my dough tripled in size, divided it into 12 pieces of 40g each and started shaping each dough. Chef Valerie made it look so easy and effortless to shape the dough. I just couldn't get the perfect round with smooth top. I guess practice makes perfect?
Okay, they didn't look that pretty, but hey it was sort of the look I wanted to achieve, the old school handmade bun that I remembered from my childhood. They looked exactly like this!
I couldn't wait for the buns to cool down, grabbed one and bit into it immediately. YUMMY! The bread was indeed soft and fluffy and went so well with the salty minced luncheon meat. I believe this was the taste I was dreaming about.
With the success of this sweet soft bun, I believe I would be making them often, and experimenting with different fillings, like curry. Till then, let me bask in my little sweet success and indulge in a day of eating the minced luncheon meat soft bun non stop.