Over the long weekend my lovely friend Noelle came to visit me and we planned out a little "Asian Vacation" which included making our own Chinese steamed buns. A few years ago while working on our bachelor degrees Noelle and I were feeling particularly stressed out and strapped for cash during finals. We decided that although we couldn't afford to actually go away anywhere we could go to China town and pretend that we were on vacation. We wandered the aisles of the supermarkets looking at the interesting snacks and noodles and it wasn't hard to make-believe that we had left Canada (and our studying) behind.
This time our Asian Vacation was even more fun because we had some money, no finals or essays, and a big list of Asian restaurants to try. We went for ramen, dim sum, Korean tapas, and then ended the weekend with these delicious buns...and lots of wine.
The buns are made with a simple white flour dough enriched with sugar and a bit of vegetable oil. It is kneaded until soft and elastic and then left to rise until it doubles.
Rising times vary depending on the temperature of your kitchen so a handy trick it to rise your dough in a large pyrex measuring cup instead of a bowl. Stick a piece of tape to mark where the dough starts out...
..and when it's twice the size you can move to the next stage. The recipe says 2.5 - 3 hours but in my warm kitchen it took only two hours to double. While the dough finished it's rise Noelle cooked up some pork tenderloin that had been marinating in Chinese bbq sauce (Char Sui) that we had picked up from an Asian grocery store.
And each half is divided into quarters, and then each quarter is halved until you have 16 pieces (8 from each half). To make the dough easier to roll out and fill it is best to roll the pieces into balls, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 10-15 minutes.
To fill the buns (with whatever filling you want!) you first roll out a piece of the dough into a circle on a very lightly floured surface. Press around the edges with your fingers to make them thinner than the center of the circle.
Then pinch it all together to seal it. If you've managed to get your pleats all pretty then leave the bun seam side up to rise. If not then just flip it over on it's seam to rise and no one is the wiser.
After 30 minutes of rising the buns are ready to be steamed over a pot of boiling water on medium heat. If you don't have wax papers to place under the buns on the steamer just spray your steamer with some non-stick spray. It works perfectly to prevent sticking and tearing.
After 15 minutes of steaming the buns are soft, fluffy, sweet, savory, and ready to enjoy. If you are steaming in batches make sure to wipe the condensation off the inside of the steamer lid between steams so that it doesn't drop on the buns when you lift it and cause them to deflate.
Chinese Steamed Buns
from All Recipes)
For the sponge:
1 Tbsp dry instant yeast
1 tsp White Sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup warm water
For the dough:
1/4 cup warm milk
1/4 cup warm water
1.5 cups all purpose flour + 1 - 2 Tbsp extra flour for kneading
2 Tbsp white sugar
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp baking powder
Filling of choice
Step one: Make the Sponge
Combine the sponge ingredients in a large mixing bowl, cover and let rise for 30 minutes until very bubbly.
Step Two: Make the Dough
Add all the ingredients for the dough except the baking powder to the sponge. Knead either with a dough hook or by hand until the dough is smooth and elastic. After kneading for three- four minutes add the additional 1 - 2 Tbsp of flour if the dough is still quite sticky. My dough needed one extra tablespoon to make it smooth. In a mixer the dough will take about ten minutes and it will take a bit longer by hand.
When the dough has finished being kneaded place it in a clean, lightly oiled bowl (or large pyrex measuring cup) , cover, and let rise until doubled. 2 to 3 hours.
Step Three: Divide the dough
After the dough has doubled press it out into a rectangle, sprinkle with the 1/2 tsp of baking powder and knead by hand for five minutes to incorporate.
Cut the dough in half. Then each half into quarters, and each quarter in half. You will end up with 16 pieces (8 from each half). Cover the pieces with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes to relax the gluten.
Step Four: Filling and Steaming the Buns
Roll out a piece of dough into a circle and press the edges of the dough with your fingers so that they are thinner than the middle of the dough. Place a Tbsp of filling on the circle and pleat the sides around the filling. Pinch the pleats together to seal the bun and let it rise for 30 minutes either seam side up or seam side down (your choice).
Meanwhile bring a wok or a pot of water to a rapid boil. Reduce the heat before placing the steamer with the buns in it but keep the water boiling. After the buns have risen for 30 minutes place them inside the steamer with the lid on for 15 minutes.
If you are steaming in batches be sure to wipe the condensation off of the inside of the lid between batches so that it doesn't drop on the buns and cause them to deflate.
Serve the buns while warm and fresh! If you have leftovers wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, stick in a plastic bag and store in the fridge. Warm them up in the microwave in 10-20 second increments with a hot glass of water to provide a bit of steam