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Pan de Coco (Filipino Coconut Bread)

by A Bee In My Bonnet
6 minutes read

Welcome to the Panaderia!

This post is a part of the #panaderia series, which showcases various Filipino breads and pastries. Want to learn how to bake something other than pandesal? Check out the other posts in the tag.

I’ve been itching to make Pan de Coco ever since I kicked off the Panaderia series. This bread holds a special spot in my memories. When I was a kid, we’d visit my grandma’s house and make a beeline for the neighborhood sari-sari store across the narrow footpath. We’d grab a handful of pan de coco. The lola who sold them kept the coconut filling separate from the buns, which was a bit unconventional, but still absolutely delicious.

Pan de Coco, much like many other Filipino breads, draws its influence from the Spanish colonial period. Its name literally translates to coconut bread, and that’s for a good reason—the bread is stuffed with a sweetened coconut filling.

Other former Spanish territories, such as the Dominican Republic and Honduras, also have their own version of pan de coco. However, instead of using coconut as a filling, they add coconut milk and grated coconut into the dough itself.

I'm a standout!

You might be wondering why these pan de coco buns don’t resemble the ones you’d find in your average bakery. Well, for starters, I topped these buns with pumpkin and toasted sesame seeds. Why? No particular reason, just wanted to add some visual and textural flair to this yummy bread. The seeds really pop against the golden surface and add a nice crunch when you bite into them. Originally, I wanted to use sliced almonds, but since I didn’t have any, I went with these instead. Of course, you don’t have to add any toppings if you don’t have them on hand.

What is Tangzhong?

In addition to topping the buns with seeds, I also added tangzhong into this recipe. In my original post on my old blog, I raved about tangzhong or water roux and how it works wonders in keeping bread soft and fresh for days. So, what exactly is tangzhong?

Tangzhong rose to fame thanks to a Taiwanese blogger, and I stumbled upon this technique while scouring Chinese blogs for the fluffiest milk bread recipe.

To make tangzhong, you mix a small amount of flour with a good amount of liquid (usually milk or water) and heat the mixture over low to medium heat until it thickens into a paste-like consistency. This precooking process locks in moisture, resulting in a dough that’s less likely to end up dense once it’s baked.

I really enjoy using this method. Normally, I struggle with sticky dough when kneading. But with tangzhong in the recipe, I’ve noticed that the dough is much easier to handle and doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl, even with all the humidity in the house. Just to give you an idea, the temperature where I live usually ranges from 28°C to 35°C, and as far as I know, the humidity hasn’t dropped below 50%.

I also gave the dough a rest after mixing in the tangzhong. I found it really helped to relax the dough and made it easier to get that perfect elastic texture for shaping. I’ll probably stick with this method whenever I bake bread in the future.

I got a filling...

Now, let’s dive into the heart of this bread: the filling. Pan de Coco earns its name from the coconut and brown sugar filling tucked inside.

While many recipes call for desiccated coconut, I opted for freshly grated coconut in my version. Using fresh coconut meant I didn’t need to add as much milk and sugar compared to if I had used desiccated coconut.

But what if you don’t have freshly grated coconut on hand? No problem! You can easily substitute desiccated coconut, just remember to double the milk and sugar since dry coconut tends to soak up more liquid than fresh. 

This recipe makes enough filling for about 12 tablespoons. I’ve experimented with adding a bit more than a tablespoon, and while it’s doable, sealing the buns afterward can be a bit tricky, so just a heads-up. A tablespoon of filling gives a nice balance between filling and bread anyway. I had some extra coconut lying around at home, so I doubled the filling and enjoyed the leftovers all by themselves. So tasty!

Ready to make this recipe?

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Filipino Pan de Coco

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  • Author: A Bee In My Bonnet
  • Prep Time: 3 hours
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours 25 minutes
  • Yield: 12 1x
  • Category: Filipino, Asian, Bread
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Filipino

Ingredients

Scale

For the Tangzhong:

  • 2 tablespoons bread flour
  • 120 ml milk (1/2 cup)

For the Dough:

  • 360 grams bread flour (3 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 73 grams sugar (1/3 cup)
  • 120 ml milk (1/2 cup)
  • 1 egg, large
  • 57 grams butter (1/4 cup), softened

For the Filling:

  • 110 grams grated coconut (1 cup)
  • 120 ml milk (1/2 cup)
  • 110 grams brown sugar (1/2 cup)
  • 28 grams butter (1/8 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

For the Egg Wash:

  • 1 egg, large
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Instructions

For the Tangzhong:

  1. In a small saucepan, add milk to the flour and mix well to combine.
  2. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly to avoid lumps, until a thick paste is formed.
  3. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

For the Dough:

  1. In a bowl, combine flour, yeast, salt, and sugar.
  2. Add the tangzhong, milk, and egg to the dry ingredients.
  3. Knead until a shaggy dough is formed, about 5 minutes if using a stand mixer on low speed.
  4. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
  5. After the initial resting, add the butter gradually while kneading slowly. Knead the dough for 15 minutes or until the dough is soft and elastic.
  6. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it into an oiled bowl. Cover and let it rest for 1-2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size.

For the Filling:

  1. Meanwhile, while  the dough is resting, combine all the filling ingredients in a small pan.
  2. Cook over medium heat until the coconut has absorbed all the liquid.
  3. Remove from head and set aside to cool.

Shaping the buns:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
  2. Transfer the dough onto a floured surface. Punch down to slightly deflate the dough.
  3. Divide the dough into 12 pieces.
  4. Flatten each piece before spooning a tablespoonful of filling onto the middle of the dough.
  5. Pinch the corners of the dough to seal the filling, rolling it into a ball before transferring to a prepared baking sheet. Do the same for the rest. Cover and let it rest for 15 minutes.
  6. Mix the egg and the milk for the egg wash. Lightly brush the tops of the buns with the wash. Sprinkle any topping afterwards (optional).
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the buns are golden brown.

 

Notes

  • If you are using active, dry yeast, don’t forget to activate it first. Heat the milk until lukewarm (not hot as that will kill off the yeast) and add the sugar. Dissolve the yeast and wait for 5-10 minutes before adding to the other dry ingredients.

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