I can’t even properly express how excited I am to share this recipe for Salted Egg Lava Buns with you all! After a few frustrating tries, you’d think I’d have developed a sort of “allergy” when it came to testing recipes for this particular bun already. Well this is one of those times when my stubborn streak actually worked out for me.
The upside to failed attempts is that you kind of learn to spot when a recipe feels “right” as you read through it; but until you make it you can never know for sure. So after steaming these babies, I still had to close my eyes and take a deep breath before breaking one open.
And omgeeee! My heart sang at the sight of that molten lava golden goodness!
My previous attempts didn’t make it to the blog because none of them produced this kind of ooze. Taste-wise they were good enough, but without that lava pop what would’ve been the point? So back to the drawing board I went until I finally made THE ONE. It was so momentous I even remembered to share it on my Instagram stories, which isn’t a habit I’ve learned to pick up just yet.
The first time I ever had a Salted Egg Lava Bun was in Hong Kong many years ago. It was love at first bite, which is why I was adamant to learn how to make them even if some Chinese restaurants already serve them here in Manila. Now that I know how, they might even become a once a month habit. But more than that, I was really excited to write about my experience making these Salted Egg Lava Buns. They’re so much easier than I expected!
The cool thing is you don’t actually need any fancy equipment– not for making the filling or kneading the dough, and not even for baking since all you’ll need is something capable of steaming.
Before I proceed, I just wanted to talk about the yellow hue of my salted egg filling versus the ones you usually get from the restaurants. I don’t know if there’s a difference between the color intensity of imported salted egg yolks and Philippine salted eggs yolks, but the coloring of my salted egg filling is, to me, more natural looking. It’s not the usual dark shade of yellow, and yet I like these Salted Egg Lava Buns the way they are.
And they taste pretty awesome, which is very important obviously.
As always, the complete instructions are in the recipe box below, but I also wanted to walk you through the process with some extended commentaries.
The day/night before you want to eat or serve these buns, you have to start making your filling already. I got my salted egg yolks by boiling uncooked salted eggs in their shells for about 10 minutes. Then it becomes easy to crack the eggs open, slice through the white, and retrieve the yolk. Some recommend steaming just the yolk to keep it soft, but I find that the yolks are soft enough to mash even through boiling.
You mix your mashed egg yolks with condensed and coconut milks, softened butter, and some milk powder. What you’ll get is a golden colored mixture that is thick but also runny, so you pop it in the fridge to stiffen a bit.
After about an hour, the consistency of the mixture will become a bit more manageable, and you will be able to scoop 12 equal mounds onto a parchment lined baking paper. This recipe makes 12 buns, so you need 12 fillings. I highly recommend using a smaller ice cream scoop to make life easier. Avoid melting the filling by handling it with your warm hands okay?
The filling will only really harden after a spell in the freezer. Overnight would be best. I didn’t have an ice cream scooper that was small so I used a tablespoon instead and had to pop the mounds out with a stick. That explains why these look so rough. But it doesn’t really matter since these will turn to lava inside your buns. 😀
Once your filling is ready, it’s time for the buns. The recipe for the dough is also very easy, and it produces white buns that have very good texture.
You make it by mixing together cake flour (the substitute for Hong Kong bao flour chefs use), baking powder and instant yeast, sugar, water, and finally, vegetable oil. As is my habit, I first mix this using a wooden spoon just until I get most of the flour wet and the dough turns kind of shaggy. The dough is incredibly easy to handle really, which is why I decided to use my hands to knead instead of using the stand mixer.
After about 10 minutes of kneading inside that bowl you’ll get a smooth, non-sticky, elastic dough that you can easily shape into a perfect ball, like so:
I greased the same bowl I kneaded the dough in and put the round back inside to proof, until double in size. It took me less than an hour because it’s so incredibly hot in Manila right now.
Once doubled, the dough is usually ready. But if you really want to test it, poke it with your finger. If the indentation you made doesn’t bounce back then it’s good to go. Now you want to punch it down to remove all that gas.
Next, just shape the dough into a log and divide into 12 portions, 42 grams each. I’ve been using my new digital scale a lot these days because it is awesome.
And then you want to roll the 12 portions of dough into balls and let it rest/proof for 10 minutes. This helps relax the gluten and makes it easier to roll out the dough for filling. Otherwise the dough will bounce back and that is super annoying haha!
When you roll out these balls of dough, you want to try and make the center portion a little thicker than the outside. This way, you can rest assured that your filling won’t suddenly spill out from a shell that is too thin.
And rolling the ends a little thinner will also ensure you won’t have a bun with a very thick bottom. Remember that you will pinch the dough around the filling to seal and then flip it over so the seams are hidden. 😉
We’re almost at the finish line! Place your formed and filled buns on top of cut-up parchment paper squares. The last thing you want is to have all your hard work go down the drain because the buns get stuck to your steamer! You have to space the uncooked buns apart like this because they will still rise once they’re heated.
This is the steamer that I used. I didn’t even realize we had one of these until I started experimenting on Salted Egg Lava Buns. The bottom layer is where the boiling water is at, then the two layers on top is where I placed my buns.
Using this three-level steamer, I waited for the water to boil before I added on the top two layers. I steamed for only 10 minutes, because I was scared that the buns would explode if I steamed for too long. As you can see, the buns did grow significantly. You’ll know the buns are ready once the dough looks cooked through.
And of course, the best part:
The gif is a little dark, but hey, you get the picture right? Who’s ready for some molten lava goodness?
- 5 pieces cooked salted egg yolks*
- 55 grams condensed milk, or more according to taste
- 50 grams unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- 50 grams coconut milk
- 30 grams milk powder
- 300 grams cake flour or superlite Hong Kong flour
- 3 grams baking powder
- 3 grams instant yeast
- 45 grams caster sugar
- 160 mL water, or more as needed
- 15 grams vegetable oil
- 1. If using boiled salted eggs, separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. Mash the cooked salted egg yolks until fine.
- 2. Place mashed egg yolks together in a bowl with the condensed milk, butter, coconut milk, and milk powder. Mix until smooth. Adjust the amount of condensed milk if you want a sweeter custard. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Prepare a small baking pan and line with parchment.
- 3. Once the custard has chilled, use a spoon or small ice cream scooper to divide the custard into 12 mounds on the lined baking sheet. Each mound should weigh about 22 grams each, if using a scale. (The custard will not harden too much from the fridge so it's best not to use your hands to shape these mounds. Any warmth may melt the custard back to a liquid state. I find a small ice cream scoop works best for this step.)
- 4. Cover the baking tray with plastic wrap and freeze until hard, at least 6 hours but preferably overnight.
- 5. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, yeast, and sugar. Add in the water and vegetable oil.
- 6. Mix using a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms. Now go in with your hands and knead the dough inside the bowl until it becomes smooth, non-sticky, and elastic. It will take about 10 to 15 minutes. (You can also use a stand mixer with the dough hook attached. It will take less time.)
- 7. Shape dough into a smooth ball and place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover and allow to proof in a warm dry place for 45 minutes or so, until the dough has doubled in size. You can also check if the dough is ready by poking the surface gently with a finger. If the indentation stays and doesn't bounce back, it's ready.
- 8. Punch down the dough to release the air, then take it out of the bowl and place on your work surface. (The dough won't be sticky, but I worked on top of some parchment paper just in case.) Gently knead into a log shape to make it easier to divide into 12 portions. Using a weighing scale, each portion of dough should be 42 grams.
- 9. Shape the dough portions into balls and space them on the counter about 2 inches apart from each other. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest for 10 minutes. This rest helps relax the gluten so the dough doesn't bounce back when rolled.
- 10. Using a rolling pin, roll out each ball of dough into a disc with the center a little thicker than the edges. (Apply more pressure as you roll towards the edges to make it thinner.) Take the frozen custard from the freezer and place in the middle of dough. Wrap the dough around the filling then pinch to seal. Make sure to pinch it properly so the filling doesn't leak out during steaming. Place the dough seam-side down on small squares of parchment or cupcake liners.
- 11. Steam the buns over high heat for just 10 minutes. Steaming too long will cause the buns to explode. Avoid opening the lid while steaming so the buns won't collapse also. The buns are done when it looks cooked through and have doubled in size. Enjoy warm for the full oozy effect!
- *I boiled my salted eggs in their shells for about 10 minutes, then separated the yolks from the whites by slicing the eggs open. The original recipe suggests steaming the yolks to keep them soft.
- On leftovers and storage: If for whatever reason you have leftovers, these buns can be re-steamed the next day with no problems. They will still be lava-like inside even if you store them in the fridge or freezer. Buns can be frozen for up to 3 months, individually wrapped.