HomeRecipesChocolate Steamed Bun by Helen Jo Leach

Chocolate Steamed Bun by Helen Jo Leach

(This recipe appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of Pastry Arts Magazine)

This chocolate steamed bun was inspired by my fond memories of eating Jjinppang – a Korean steamed bun filled with sweet red bean paste – as a kid. It went onto the dessert menu at The Town Company in celebration of Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month and in support of the national fundraiser campaign #doughsomething. I paired it with a local coffee espresso drink and later with a coffee ice cream.

Yield: 18 buns

Toasted Milk Powder

  • 50 g milk powder
  1. On a half sheet pan lined with parchment, spread the milk powder evenly across the pan and toast in oven (low fan) at 300°F (149˚C) for 5-minute increments until the powder is a golden tan color, then remove it from the oven. While toasting and drying, the milk powder may clump up. Break it into pieces, then process it in a food processor or blender so it is ground back down to a fine powder.

Toasted Milk Ganache

  • 100 g white chocolate, chopped
  • 220 g blonde chocolate, chopped
  • 220 g heavy cream
  • 5 g honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 30 g Toasted Milk Powder (above)
  • 1/16 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • Cocoa powder, for rolling
  1. Place chocolates in a medium bowl. In a saucepan, bring the heavy cream and honey to a light simmer, then pour over chocolate. Mix the salt, Toasted Milk Powder and xanthan gum together, then add them into the chocolate mixture and blend well with a stick blender. Transfer into a half hotel pan. Let the ganache cool down and transfer into the refrigerator so the ganache can firm up.
  1. When the ganache is chilled, scoop it into 30g balls, round them out quickly in your palms and toss into a bowl with cocoa powder. This helps to keep them from sticking to each other and for easy pick up when assembling the buns. Place the ganache balls into the freezer for 30 minutes or longer so they can be very cold and firm while assembling them into the steam bun dough.

Chocolate Glaze

  • 200 g bittersweet chocolate 70%
  • 130 g white chocolate
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 125 g grapeseed oil
  1. Melt all ingredients in a mixing bowl over a water bath and blend together until homogenous.

Chocolate Steamed Buns

  • 500 g water (120°F)
  • 8 g rapid-rise yeast
  • 115 g granulated sugar
  • 115 g milk powder
  • 8 g salt
  • 6 g baking powder
  • 6 g baking soda
  • 15 g black cocoa
  • 75 g regular cocoa
  • 715 g all-purpose flour
  • 35 g shortening
  1. Measure all dry ingredients together into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the lukewarm water.
  1. Using a dough hook, mix on low speed for 3 minutes, then scrape the bottom of the mixing bowl. Mix on medium speed for 5 minutes. The dough should be sticky but combined, and pulling toward the dough hook. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Proof for 1 hour and 45 minutes at 98°F (37˚C) on DRY (PROOF Function) in the Combi oven. The dough should double in size.
  1. Set up 3 medium deep perforated hotel pans with lids. Spray the pans and line with parchment paper, then line the inside of the lids with parchment paper as well. (This method has worked with our Combi oven steaming process to excess steam water and dripping water from impeding the growth of the bun and/or blemishing the bun.)
  1. Portion the dough to 75g portions. While portioning, be sure to keep portions covered with plastic wrap to keep them from drying out. Also, lightly oil your hands when portioning and rounding the dough to keep the dough from sticking. When all the dough has been portioned, you are now ready to fill with 30g portioned chilled ganache balls. Place a dough ball on the table, press all edges down with fingers then gently press down the ganache ball in the center of the dough. Use a plastic dough scraper to pick up the dough and place in the palm of your hands. Use the other hand to pinch together the edges over the ganache ball. Then gently round out the pinched side on the table and place into the prepared perforated hotel pans. The sealing and rounding process is very crucial in keeping the chocolate filling from exploding out of the dough when steaming. Continue to shape each dough with the ganache balls and place them into the pans (approximately 6-7 in each pan), leaving adequate space in between each bun to expand while steaming. Lightly spray oil on the tops of the buns, then cover with hotel pan lids. Place into the 98°F (37˚C) DRY Proof again for 20 minutes. Add another 10 minutes if the buns don’t have a nice spring and/or don’t seem proofed.
  1. After the proofing is done, pull the steam bun pans out and set the Combi to STEAM at 212°F (100˚C). When the oven is at full steam temperature, place the pans back into the oven and steam for 8 minutes. When 8 minutes are up, open the oven door a crack so that the steam can slowly release from the oven. This keeps the buns from deflating due to the sudden change in temperature. Leave for 2 minutes, then pull the pans out. Ideally, the buns should be fluffy, round and intact! If there are some buns that have exploded, then it’s a chance to taste your creation while it’s freshly steamed.


  • Toasted chopped nuts or roasted acorn powder or crushed cacao nibs and salt, for garnish
  1. Drizzle a small amount of chocolate glaze over the bun. Almost any toasted chopped nuts goes well with the chocolate flavor of the bun and is an easy garnish. At the Town Company, the bun gets a light dust of roasted acorn powder (found at Korean grocery stores) and a sprinkle of crushed cacao nibs and sea salt.

Headshot by Bonjwing Lee;
Dessert photos by Aaron Leimkuehler

About Helen Jo Leach

Helen Jo Leach is the pastry chef at The Town Company in Kansas City, MO. Her signature style is rustic, playful, and leans toward savory-sweet desserts.

Tish Boyle
Tish Boyle
Tish Boyle is managing editor of Pastry Arts Magazine and an experienced food writer, cookbook author, pastry chef, and recipe developer. Her previous books include Chocolate Passion, Diner Desserts, The Good Cookie, and The Cake Book