These Kaya Puffs are a twist from the traditional Kaya Koks you’ll find in traditional bakeries in Singapore. Instead of an oil and water dough, these puffs are made with buttery pie pastry. This gives the puffs a to-die-for fragrance, along with a superbly buttery and flaky texture that’s complemented by the generous kaya within. Kaya and butter, what could be a better combination? [Go straight to recipe]
Being a kaya lover, living in Singapore is a really, really good thing.
Kaya spread can be found in virtually any dessert from roadside bakery waffles to fluffy six-pack kaya buns, kaya cupcakes, and more.
And of course, we can’t forget the iconic kaya toast. A classic Singaporean dish, slices of toasted, crisp kaya butter toast are perfect when paired with a solid cup of kopi and dunked into bouncy soft boiled eggs.
These Kaya Puffs are inspired by the traditional Kaya Koks/Puffs which you might have seen selling at traditional bakeries in Singapore.
Kaya Koks are traditional Chinese pastries made using lard or shortening. The pastry that is used to make them requires two different kinds of doughs—an oil dough, and a water dough. Laminating both doughs together gives the puffs their characteristic flakiness.
Our Kaya Puffs Recipe puts a spin on the traditional pastry. Instead of the Chinese pastry that requires lard/shortening, we use a pie dough that’s made by rubbing butter into the dry ingredients.
Pie dough is more commonly used for Western pastries such as apple pies. The use of butter and the rubbing process gives these puffs a superbly flaky texture, and a buttery fragrance.
Kaya is a rich, sweet custard primarily made from coconut milk, eggs, and sugar. You could say it’s the local version of the pastry cream and chocolate custards/puddings our Western counterparts have.
The sugar used in kaya helps to make it sweeter and thicker. Pandan leaves are also commonly used to make the kaya spread more aromatic.
You might be wondering why certain kaya spreads are brown, while some others are green.
Hainanese kaya is brown in colour, attributed to the addition of caramel at the end of the cooking process. This gives the kaya a beautiful, rich caramel flavour.
Nyonya kaya on the other hand, is green in colour. The colour comes from the use of pandan leaves.
Beside these common varieties, there are actually many other types of kaya spreads, differing in the type of eggs used and their consistency.
Kaya is a flavour you can’t find in any other food, and it’s always fun to incorporate it into other desserts!
These Kaya Puffs might look difficult, but it’s not as complicated as you think!
In fact, we think it’s simpler to handle as compared to the traditional Kaya Kok which requires layering two different doughs. While many recipes require you to start with softened butter, this recipe will require you to use chilled butter. The chilled butter will then be rubbed into the dry ingredients to form crumbs, which will form a dough when liquid is added.
You can do this rubbing in process using the back of a fork(s), your fingers, or a pastry cutter. It is a common technique used for making shortcrust pastry.
After a crumb mixture is formed, water is added to bring everything together. Gently mix and knead very lightly until it comes together to form a soft dough. Don’t over knead, otherwise your pastry might get tough.
The next step would be to refrigerate the dough. This helps to firm it up for easier rolling, and to chill the butter in the dough for that desirable flaky end result.
Rolling the pastry dough to a thickness of 2mm might be challenging if this is your first time working with pastry, but practice makes perfect!
To make it easier, work in a cooler environment and keep your rolling pin chilled prior to using. A marble rolling pin like ours would be useful for keeping doughs like this cold. These steps will help to prevent your dough from getting warm and soft too quickly.
To bring out the kaya flavour in these kaya puffs, fill them with a generous amount of kaya. You can use any kind of kaya according to your preference.
Remember to leave just enough space on the edges of the pastry sheets for sealing. Sealing the puffs properly will prevent the kaya from leaking out when they’re baked.
We made rectangular puffs, but if you prefer them round, cut the dough out in circles instead! There’s also no fixed size for these kaya puffs, so feel free to make them however big or small you want. Bigger puffs will require a slightly longer baking time.
To achieve a shiny golden-brown sheen on your kaya puffs, we recommend not skipping the egg washing step.
Brushing a layer of beaten egg onto the puffs prior to baking gives your puffs an appetising look and golden brown colour. For added flavour and texture, sprinkle some desiccated coconut on top of the puffs after egg washing.
When these buttery, flaky kaya puffs come out of the oven, we bet it’ll be hard to hold yourself back from biting into one of them ASAP. Indeed, these kaya puffs are best served warm, especially when they’re fresh from the oven!
For pastry dough
190g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
240g all purpose flour
20g granulated sugar
~1.5 heaped teaspoon kaya per pie
All purpose flour (for dusting)
Desiccated coconut for garnish (optional)
1 egg, beaten (optional, for egg wash)
In a mixing bowl, mix together the all purpose flour and granulated sugar until well combined. Add in the cold butter and use a fork/fingers to break and rub the butter into the flour mixture until coarse crumbs form. Make sure no flour mixture is left.
Add water and use a spatula to mix the dough until it comes together.
Use your hands to combine the dough together and form a square block. Cling wrap completely and let it chill in the refrigerator for at least 30-45mins.
Lightly dust a clean surface with some flour for rolling the dough out.
Remove the dough from the cling wrap and place it onto the dusted surface. Lightly dust the top of the dough and ensure that the entire dough is lightly covered in flour to ensure ease of rolling. Cut the dough into half and set one half aside.
Roll one half of the dough out. Dust your rolling pin and both surfaces of the pastry whenever necessary, when it gets sticky/warm.
Gently roll the dough out to about 2mm thickness (gently pat the dough to feel the thickness of the pastry, making sure it’s even and thick enough to handle, but thin enough so that it'll crisp up during baking).
Lightly dust the surfaces of the dough again and use your rolling pin to transfer the dough to your parchment-lined baking tray. Place another sheet of parchment on top.
Repeat steps 3-5 for the other half of the dough and place it onto the same baking tray, on the top piece of parchment paper covering your first layer of dough. Cover the entire baking tray with cling wrap to prevent the dough from drying out.
Refrigerate for about 10-15mins. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 185°C.
Lightly dust your work surface again. Place one sheet of chilled dough onto your work surface.
Use a knife to divide the sheet of dough into 4-6 long rectangles, then gather the trimmings into a ball and set aside.
Scoop about 1.5 teaspoons of kaya onto each rectangle, placing them onto one half of the rectangle. Leave some space around the edges.
Fold each rectangle in half, over the kaya filling. Seal tightly using your fingers and crimp the edges with a fork. (If you have trouble sealing the pies, lightly dab a little water onto the edges of the pies before sealing and crimping)
Place puffs onto the lined baking tray. Using a knife/fork, poke holes onto the top of each pie for steam to escape.
Repeat steps 8-12 for the other sheet of dough.
Gather all the leftover trimmings and roll it out into another sheet of dough. Place it onto a parchment-lined tray and cover with cling wrap before refrigerating it for another 10-15mins.
Meanwhile, brush the top of the other puffs with egg wash. Sprinkle generously with desiccated coconut (optional). Bake for 15-20 mins until the pies are golden brown.
Once dough from step 14 has been chilled, repeat the rolling, filling and baking process.
Storage: Best served warm; store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-5 days. Reheat at 150°C in a conventional/toaster oven for a few minutes until completely heated through.
The sweetness and decadence of these kaya puffs will surely energize your sleepy mornings. Make these puffs on the weekend for a week’s worth of delicious breakfasts and suppers. For that ultimate kaya butter toast and kopi combination, try it with our White Chocolate Chip Espresso Muffins.
Trying this recipe out? Make sure you hashtag #bakestarters on Instagram so we can see your wonderful creations!
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