Bamboo Charcoal Cheese Bun…Sootball

About a couple of years ago, Burger King launched the BK Charcoal Black series with a selection of two burgers, in the chain’s Singapore outlets. I did not immediately try the new creation as I am not an avid fan of fast food, but it showed how fashionable it was to have your food tinted in jet-black, either using squid ink or bamboo charcoal. It was written in some online articles that bamboo charcoal had been used in cooking more than 3000 years ago in ancient China. Some claimed health benefits in consuming bamboo charcoal, but it is still scientifically debatable.

Anyway, I was fascinated by its exotic black appearance, and so I decided to make some mini bamboo charcoal cheese buns. But then, a round bun looks plain and ordinary. How can I make it look more striking and adorable? Aha! The Susuwatari which appears in the animation Totoro and Spirited Away! They are small spherical black creatures magically conjured from soot with big round eyes and feed on colourful hard candies. That’s right, I am going to make my bamboo charcoal buns look like Susuwatari, or I prefer to call it the Sootball. 😉

Bamboo charcoal cheese bun

Here is the recipe for the Sootball – bamboo charcoal cheese bun.

Ingredients (make 20 mini buns)

A. Bread 

Bread flour 270g
Wholemeal flour 30g
Bamboo charcoal powder 7g
Yeast 1 tsp
Salt 1/4 tsp
Sugar 30g
Milk powder 30g
Water 140g
Egg 50g
Butter 30g
Cheese of your choice 200g (*I used a mixture of Parmesan, cheddar & mozzarella)
Italian herbs to taste

B. The eyes (Recipe adapted from Carol’s Bread Laboratory)

Butter 20g
Cake flour 40g
Icing sugar 10g
Water 1 tsp
Black sesames – prepare sufficient amount for the eyes


  1. In a mixing bowl, place all the dry ingredients together, including bread flour, wholemeal flour, bamboo charcoal powder, yeast, salt, sugar and milk powder.
  2. With the dough hook attachment running, add in egg and water. Knead at low to medium speed until they form a dough and clear the side of the bowl.
  3. Then, add in butter and continue to knead until the dough is elastic. You can do a windowpane test to examine if you have sufficiently knead your bread dough by stretching a small piece of the dough. If you are able to get a translucent membrane without breaking it, that means the gluten has well-developed.
  4. Cover the dough loosely and let it rise, for about an hour at room temperature. (Note: At this step, I actually placed the bread dough in a chiller overnight for a slow fermentation to develop a better flavour.)
  5. While waiting for the bread dough to rise, mix all the ingredients in B except the black sesames and form a dough. Flatten the dough and wrap with cling film. Chill it in the fridge for later use.
  6. When the bread dough has risen, punch down the dough to release excess air.
  7. Divide the dough into 20 pieces, about 30g each. Shape each portion into a ball, cover and rest for 10 minutes. (Note: the bread dough is quite sticky. Apply a little vegetable oil on your hands and work surface to avoid sticking.)
  8. Roll out or press each ball of dough into an elongated shape. Spread some cheese and herbs on top. Roll the dough and pinch the edge to seal. Again, shape each portion back into a ball and put on baking trays.
  9. Proof the dough until they double in size, for about 1 hour at room temperature.
  10. Preheat the oven at 200 degree Celsius.
  11. Take dough B out of the fridge, and roll out into a sheet of 2 – 3 mm thick.
  12. Using a nozzle with a diameter of about 15mm, cut 40 circles.
  13. Just before baking, stick 2 white circles on each charcoal bun. Put black sesame to make the eyes of the Sootball.
  14. Bake for 10 minutes or until cooked.

When I first tried to make the eyes for the Sootball, I used white chocolates. However, in Singapore’s hot and humid weather, it was not ideal because chocolates would melt very easily. I kept searching for solutions, and eventually found a recipe from a Taiwanese blogger, Carol. It was just the right kind of dough to make the eyes for my little Sootball!

Baking is a food experiment; I could fail countless times or simply I did not get the right ingredients and recipes. But, always stay inspired and motivated, so that we can be a tiny but mighty Sootball, which can lift objects many times their own weight and are able to quickly reform even they are crushed into soot.

Bamboo Charcoal Cheese Bun



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s