I did it! I have finally convinced myself that I am able to make these Chinese steamed buns. I have been wanting to make these for ages but I don't seem to be able to find a cookbook that clearly explains how to go about making the doughs and steaming the buns. Most recipes simply state 'steam buns in steamer for XX mins', without giving the specific details. I am no good with anything that has got to do with the stove top, and so I really need clear instructions. Some recipes yield too many buns, I don't have to feed a village, so they have never been shorlisted in my to-do list.
Thanks to a recent trip to the library, I picked up a book by chance...the title "三杯面粉" (3 cups of flour) on the cover first caught my attention. A quick flip through the pages I was delighted to discover it was something that I have been looking for, forever! This book is all about Chinese pastries, snacks and buns, it even comes with a chapter on baking breads and simple cookies!
I started off with the basic dough recipe to make buns with red bean paste as fillings...or what we call tau sar bao (豆沙包) over here in this part of the world. Making the dough is not very much different from making bread dough. You mix flour, sugar, yeast, baking powder, oil and water to form a dough. Although the dough was quite easy to knead by hand as it was not wet and sticky, I still took around 20mins or so to get it well kneaded. The recipe uses vegetable oil (I used canola oil) instead of the usual shortening which I thought is a healthier choice. The extra ingredient...baking powder, helps to leaven the dough to make the buns fluffy. As it is not stated whether double-acting baking powder is required, I used single-acting ones. Most recipes require the use of double-acting powder, but the usual baking powder I used appeared to work just as fine. The only thing I don't agree with this book is that the dough is to be left to proof for only 15mins. I did it my way and let it proof close to an hour till the dough doubled in size.
With those short pointed ears, these buns do look more like some big fat cats. I found out later that it has got to do with the angle when holding the scissors to snip the ears, the scissors has to be positioned as close to the surface of the dough as possible in order to make a long snip.
Anyway it was fun making these buns and they were certainly as delicious as the first batch I made.
I am dedicating this post to MH over at My Home Kitchen. I have to thank her for opening the doors to making Chinese buns. I was very inspired by the mouth-watering char siew baos she made. She has shared with me her recipes and also showed me how to turn my wok into a steamer by using a cheap steam rack. Without her regular prompting and nudging, I double I would ever make this step forward. Thank you MH!
If you happen to be like me, end the procrastination and give this a try. If I can make these, I am sure you can do even better!
Steamed Buns with Red Bean Paste
300g Hong Kong pau flour
3g baking powder
3g instant yeast
30g caster sugar
15g vegetable oil
240g red bean paste
- Sieve Hong Kong pau flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Add yeast, caster sugar and mix well.
- Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture, add in water and mix to form a dough. Transfer dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead dough until it becomes smooth (about 5 mins). Knead in the vegetable oil and continue to knead for another 10-15 mins or until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Take a piece of dough (about the size of a table tennis ball) and stretch it, you should be able to stretch it to a fairly thin membrane without tearing off easily, if not continue to knead for another 5 to 10mins.
- Roll dough into a smooth round, place in a lightly greased mixing bowl, cover with cling wrap and let it proof for about
1 hr or until it doubles in bulk15mins. (Updated: it is not necessary to proof for 1 hour or until double in bulk for this stage. Just leave it to rest for 15 mins will do.)
- Punch down the dough and give a few light kneading to release the trapped air bubbles. Divide the dough into 12 portions (about 40g each). Roll each portion into a smooth round.
- Flatten each dough into a small disc with your palm or a small rolling pin, make the edges thinner and the centre portion thicker. Wrap each dough with 20g of red bean paste. Pinch and seal the seams. Place dough seam side down on a square piece of parchment paper. Cover loosely with cling wrap and leave buns to proof for 20-25 mins.
- Place buns in a steamer* and space them apart so that they do not touch one another. Steam at medium to high heat for 12mins (make sure the water is already boiling before steaming). When ready, remove the lid carefully to prevent water from dripping over the buns. Remove immediately and serve warm. Keep any leftovers in fridge (covered with cling wrap or store in airtight containers) and re-steam till hot before serving.
Note: I placed the buns on a steam rack and steam them using my wok.
Recipe source: adapted from 三杯面粉 by 連愛卿