Bread | Buns + rolls | Chinese treats | Recipes | Tangzhong method | Yeast breads

Cute sweet potato caterpillar buns -tangzhong method (vegan friendly)

March 20, 2014

Spring is coming along and that means all the little garden critters are about to come out and play. And what better way to welcome them than to make some caterpillar buns? When I was vacationing in Hong Kong, I saw a bakery presenting bread this way and I thought they were the cutest so I decided to make something similar myself.We ended up making these caterpillar buns two different ways because we just felt like being fun that way. We also decided to go with a yam infused bread along with a mashed yam filling because we felt like we’ve been doing too many sweet buns lately and wanted a bit of a change.

(Note: We used our bread machine to make the dough but if you don’t have one you can refer to my original japanese milk bread recipe for the more hands on version.)


Ingredients (makes 6-8):

1/3 cup mashed yam
1 beaten egg (or 3 tablespoons more oil)
1/2 cup soy milk
2 tablespoons honey (or agave or sugar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cup bread flour
2 teaspoons yeast
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 cup Tangzhong


40 mL bread flour
1/2 cup water


2 cups mashed yam
mini chocolate chips

Let’s go!

1. Make the tangzhong by putting the 40 mL bread flour and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk the tangzhong until it thickens and swirls form. Then remove from heat and stir it for another 30 seconds so it can thicken a little more.


2.  Put all the loaf ingredients into your bread machine according to your manufacture’s instructions for bread dough. For ours we would add in the milk, mashed yam, egg (or extra milk/oil), honey, salt and oil first. Followed by the tangzhong.


3.  Then we would top our liquid ingredients with our flour before forming a little well on top of the flour for the yeast. It’s CRUCIAL important to not let your yeast touch your wet ingredients or it won’t rise! Let your bread machine do it’s thing and knead your dough together by using your “dough” setting. Our dough took 2 hours to complete (this includes the mixing, kneading and rising processes).


4. While your dough is rising, prepare your yam filling by peeling and dicing your yams then boiling until they soften up. Then transfer your yams into a bowl and mash them with a fork or potato masher. You can also sweeten your yams by adding sugar or add spices like cinnamon but we chose not to.


5. When the dough is done rising, divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll them into balls.



A) Flatten each dough ball into 1/2 cm thick circles. Place two tablespoons of the filling in the middle of each piece of dough. Fold the dough over the yam filling to cover it then seal it in by folding the edges of the circle into the center and pinch to form a tight seam.


B) Place three buns beside each other so that they are touching and in a row on your baking sheet. Place 2 mini chocolate chips on one of the buns for your caterpillar eyes. Let rise covered for 20  minutes in a warm place.



A) Roll each dough ball into an oval then add a heaping tablespoon of  filling along one of the longer sides of the oval. On the side opposite, cut 8 strips a third of the way into the oval with a knife.


B) Fold the uncut side of the dough over the filling to seal it in. After, fold each strip over the roll making sure to leave a 1 cm gap between the strips. Tuck the excess strip ends under the roll to make sure everything stays inside. Let rise covered for 20  minutes in a warm place.


8. Bake at 350F for 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown.


9. Munch!


Even though lil’ bun and I aren’t too fond of savory fillings, we actually enjoyed this sweet potato one because we felt like it was in between both sweet and savory. Lil’ bun had a hard time eating the one she made because she “bonded” with her caterpillar bun a little too much when she was making hers but in the end she couldn’t resist after a while because it smelled so good. In hindsight I probably shouldn’t of called these caterpillar buns because it doesn’t make them sound all that appetizing but I really wasn’t sure what else to name them. Well call them what you want, because either way they’ll still taste amazingly delicious!


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