Wednesday 7 March 2012

the missing link

Over the years, a few of my blogger pals have left the blogging scene, links to their blogs or recipes no longer work. One of them is MH...someone who shared with me her experience with making steamed buns. She had also taken the time and effort to type out a char siew pao recipe for me. Even though she has stopped blogging, I still keep the recipe as I know, someday, I will get to try it.

Since I am now in a bread making frenzy, instead of making steamed buns, I made the baked version of the char siew bao...

Just like my previous raisin loaf bread, I made these bread buns using the tangzhong or water roux method. I was in fact very inspired by MH's bread posts when she showed her bread made with tangzhong. So far, the tangzhong dough gives me the best result...bread buns with texture that is soft and springy, almost like commercial ones...minus the additives. When I pressed my finger onto one of these voluptuous-looking buns, it springed back immediately ;)

A close up of the nice, even texture of the bread crumbs. I used my bread machine to knead the dough for a total of 40mins. By right, for bread buns, 30mins of kneading should be sufficient, but the dough was still quite sticky so I left the machine to run for another 10mins. The dough was pretty easy to handle once I dust it very lightly with some flour. The bread dough used slightly less sugar compared to sweet buns dough, but used one whole egg and more butter. Since I did not have any left over eggs, I didn't bother to brush the top with egg wash. The buns were nicely browned anyway.

The char siew filling was rather delicious. I used 'rather' and not 'very' simply because the store bought char siew was a little saltish to me. However, the 'sauce' that coated the char siew bits was good, not too sweet, not too saltish. These homemade buns were so good that I finished two when they were still warm. They were great for breakfast too, as I am sure my boys won't feel hungry before the recess bells ring!

MH, if by any chance you are reading this, thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe!

Char Siew Bread Buns (叉烧小餐包)

(makes 9)

* filling:
1/2 tablespoon oil
2 shallots, flatten
200g char siew,diced
1 1/2 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds

seasoning (mix together):
80ml water
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon tapioca flour
1/2 tablespoon corn flour
1 teaspoon plain flour

* dough:
tang zhong (water-roux):
20g bread flour
100ml water

bread dough:
195g bread flour
90g cake flour
12g milk powder
30g caster sugar
6g salt
6g instant yeast

60g egg, lightly beaten
65g water
75g tang zhong (water-roux)

45g unsalted butter


to make char siew filling:
* Heat up oil on medium heat, saute shallots till fragrant. Discard the fried shallots. Pour in mixed seasoning, immediately stir the mixture as it boils. Keep stirring until it thickens. Takes about a few seconds. Add char siew, sesame seeds and mix well. The finished mixture should dry up and becoms sticky (for easy wrapping). Dish up and leave to cool.

to make tang zhong:
Place 20g bread flour in a saucepan. Add 100ml water, mix till smooth, making sure there are no lumps of flour. Cook over medium to low heat, stirring constantly with a hand whisk to prevent it from burning. Within 1 to 2 mins, the mixture will start to thicken, stop when you see traces in the mixture for every stir you make with the hand whisk. (Take a look at the video clip here.) The 65degC tang zhong is ready. Immediately transfer the hot tang zhong into a bowl and cover it with a cling wrap, making sure the cling wrap sticks onto the surface of the mixture. This is to prevent a film from forming on the surface. Leave to cool completely before using it.

to knead dough by bread machine:
* Place water, egg, tang zhong (use 75g), sugar, salt, bread flour, cake flour, milk powder in the pan of the bread machine (according to the sequence as stated in the instruction manual of your bread machine). Make an indentation on the flour and add in the instant yeast. Select the Dough function of the bread machine and press start. Leave the lid of the machine open (this is to prevent over heating). After about 10mins of kneading, add in the 45g of butter. Let the machine continue to knead the dough. After the kneading cycle has stopped (20mins), Stop and Restart the machine. Continue to let the machine knead for another 20mins. Remove dough from the bread pan.

* Place dough in a lightly greased (use vegetable oil or butter) mixing bowl, cover with cling wrap or a damp cloth and let proof in room temperature (around 28 to 30 degC) for about one hour, or until double in bulk.

* Remove the dough from the bowl and give a few light kneading to press out the gas in the dough. Divide the dough into 9 equal portions (60g each). Roll each dough into smooth rounds, cover with a damp cloth or cling wrap and let the doughs rest for 10mins.

* On a lightly floured work surface, roll each dough into a round disc (I used my hands). Press out any trapped air as you flatten the dough. Wrap each dough with one heaped tablespoon of the char siew filling. Pinch and seal the seam tightly. Place seam side down on a greased (or lined with parchment paper) baking tray. Space doughs two inches apart to allow them to expand. Cover with damp cloth or cling wrap and leave doughs to proof for the second time for about 40mins, or until double in size.

* Dab finger tip with some water, then dab with black or white sesame seeds, then 'stamp' it on the surface of the bun. This step can be omitted. (Note: I do not apply egg wash on the buns.)

* Bake in pre-heated oven at 180 deg C for 15 mins or until golden brown (if necessary, tent the surface with foil if the top browns too quickly closer to the baking time). Remove from oven and transfer to wire track to let cool. once cool, store immediately in an airtight container.

Recipe source: 
fillings: Delightful Snacks and Dim Sum, Agnes Chang
bread dough: 65度C汤种面包, 陈郁芬


Angelic Heart~ said...

You have wonderful buns here. Do you keep some for me?:P it's quite sometime i didn't make buns due to time consuming,very busy recently...

Small Small Baker said...

Your char siew bao really yummy looking! Now that you mention, MH removed her blog already? I remember we started to blog around the same time in year 07-08. Now so few of us remaining.

Anonymous said...

Hello HHB, i have never bake bread before but would like to try to make these buns for my parents. I dont have a bread machine. Would the steps, time of kneading still the same as stated in your blog entry?

Anonymous said...

Hello, I really enjoyed reading your posts. Your blog inspired me to bake more for my family. Thanks! =)

Anonymous said...

The close up photo of the bread makes me drool.. yummy yummy ^_^

Happy Homebaker said...

Angelic Heart, they were all gone, next time I will keep some for you ;)

SSB, yes, the links to her blog post don't work. If not for the love of baking, I would have already quit blogging!

Hi Anonymous, you may take a look at my blog post here
for the instructions on kneading the dough by hand, the recipe was taken from the same book.

爱丝特, they are really yummy :)

happybowl said...

yum yum buns

Min said...

Lovely bread, they are nicely brown :) I would like to try this recipe too, looks very yummy lo!

MH said...


I'm still here lah! :D Thanks for remembering me! :) I didn't blog now as I'm busy "coaching & nagging" my 2 kids (P4 & P5)... 其实我经常来拜访,只是来匆匆去匆匆,无法流言。真抱歉!

I've not used my oven for quite sometimes...sigh but I'm more into cooking: making snacks like lor mai kai, whipping out different chilli sauce, cooking wanton mee,handmake 面粉粿 that won't stick together when cooked,etc etc. I've a long list of cooking recipes to try. :)

As always, your pictures look so pro and nice.真另人赏心悦目!食指大动。Agnes Chang 的食谱书里有不少的“好料”,有时间的话,不仿试一试。:)

MH said...


Edith said...

Hello MH, long time no see too.

HHB, you are right. Many bloggers that blog years back are no longer active. It is a pity to see them go as some of them are really good.

I love this bun, reminded of those moments that I just started work and the office staff will always buy these when we worked late.

ablogaway said...

Hi, may I know what type of bread machine you're using? Do you have any recommendation on bread machine? Thanks!

Happy Homebaker said...

MH, glad to hear from you! I understand how busy you must be with the coaching and too ;) I wish I could cook better, I am still doing kiddish meals, lol!

I know about the 流言, thanks to the not so smart 拼音输入法!

edith, it is not so easy to maintain a blog that is probably why many have stopped blogging. I am glad that you are still keeping your blog, even though I hardly leave comments, I read your blog regularly :)

ablogaway, I bought my new bread machine when I was in China, it is the same as my previous one which I got from Carrefour several years back. It is a very basic bread maker, but I doubt you can get it here. There are more expensive ones which you can get from departmental stores such as Tangs...

CE said...

Hi this post is using bread machine but I wish to ask about yr oven instead. I want to get the same oven as yours so would like to know after or during baking, do the surrounding cabinets and drawer feels hot inside? Cos if so, then I would not be able to store food in the cabinet/drawers near it. Thanks in advance.

Jade @ Made said...

interesting! you always amaze me with your work, very impressive looks so good!

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi CE, the cabinet on the left side of my oven doesn't feel hot, even when I turn on to more than 200degC. The other side, which has no cabinet, the 'wall' doesnt feel hot at all. Yes, I was just as concern. The drawers below are ok, except the one just above. The shelf just above the oven feels warm, so for that area, I used it to store my old oven, baking trays and racks. I can't bear to throw the old oven has got lots of sentimental value ;)
btw, I bought my oven from a HDB neighbourhood shop, it is much cheaper...

Widi Dede said...

yummy so tasty...!!! Good work and thanks for the recipe

Just FYI, there’s an event for bloggers and the prizes are iPad2 and Cash Find the info here

Smitha said...


Jayne said...

Hi there. I've been thinking of getting a bread machine. Do you have recommendations? The choices in the market boggles by mind! LOL. If it's inconvenient to write here, I would appreciate communication via email regarding this. My handmade homemade breads have satisfied me greatly but a bread machine can really take a lot of the work off.

Dawn said...

These look so good. I have been in a bread baking frenzy too but I keep repeating the same bread, French Loaf. Will try out your recipe soon although I've never used the water-roux method before.


We just recently came across this blog and simply <3 it. Thanks for the yummy recipes. Feel free to visit our blog, we just posted an icelandic-dish recipe:).

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Jayne, I bought my new bread machine when I was in China, it is the same as my previous one which I got from Carrefour several years back, for about S$70. It is a very basic bread maker, and I doubt you can get similar ones here any more. There are more expensive ones which you can get from departmental stores such as Tangs...

However, it really depends on your usage. I only use it mainly for Kneading. I prefer to shape the dough and bake it in my oven, because if I were to bake it using the bread machine it tends to give a thicker crust. If you already have a standing mixer like a KitchenAid, then u don't need to get a bread machine.

Anonymous said...

I love how your buns look. So neat and not glossy. How do you manage to wrap the fillings so evenly? My bun fillings are always not in the middle of the buns and the char siew sauce sometimes leaks out during the final proofing stage. HHB, I really admire your skills in baking!


Happy Homebaker said...

hi Butterfingers, I didn't brush the surface with egg wash, so the buns didnt look glossy. for wrapping, what I did was, I place the filling in the middle of the dough, gather the edges up and pinch to seal. this way, the filling will be right in the middle of the bun. The char siew filling I made is quite dry and sticky so it doesnt leak. I don't have much skills, can only do very simple bakes!

Anonymous said...


Can i know what oven you r using currently.?
Wish that i can bake the same as u~

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi, I am using a Bosch oven HBN331E2J. You can read about it here:

Anonymous said...

Why do you have two different systems of measurment for water - 100 ml for tang zhong and 60g of water for dough?

What is the equivalent of 60g of liquid to ml since I can't find the conversion anywhere in the web?

Thank you.

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi, 100ml of water is 100g as density of water is 1g/cm3. I used grams for the dough as it is easier since I measure everything in the bread pan with a digital weighing scale. but note that not all liquid has the same density, so 100g of oil is not 100ml. Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for being so kind and patient but I couldn't hide my frustration. I couldn't replicate what is shown in the picture. It seems the recipe is lost in translation.

I wonder how your readers who tried, managed. I was scrolling down on them, it seems they are more preoccupied with photography than cooking. All liked what they saw or have yet to do it. No one has really get their hands on.

You have so many systems of measurement. There's one for char siew using spoons which is the least hassle.

But when it comes to the starter or tang zhong and the dough, that's when things got awry. You are using grams and milliliters. My kitchen is not high tech like yours, you can afford sophisticated gadgets. Imagine buying a precise weighing machine that reads down to the nearest 5 gm.

Converting mg to cups and teaspoons or tablespoons for flours is daunting.

If you go to the wrong conversion site in the web, you got the wrong numbers, your baking is screwed just what happened to mine. The dough turned out hard and the seams were prominent, they couldn't be mended. The end product turned out hard on the outside and compressed, not fluffy and no air holes (swiss cheese-like) inside. I tried to find out what's wrong. And here's also the problem - when you specified the contents for the tang zong, it is 20 gm of flour and 100 ml of water. Since the conversion site and also you even specified in my query that 1 ml is = to 1 gm. ergo that would be a total 120 gm or ml of tang zhong. But when you specified combining the tang zhong with dough, the tang zhong suddenly changed to 75 g?!? Should I throw away the rest or when the water and flour were combined, somehow evaporation ensued? Tracing where the fault lies, I totalled all the flours and the water contents as you originally prescribed and it gave the ratio of 297.5 gms of flours to 162.5 ml of water or 1.83. When I analyzed my conversion because I wanted to use cups instead, using the convertion from mg or ml to cups and tablespoons via computer, I got a ratio of 4.17. That means mine had more flour to water, and that's where the problem lies. Also the 65 gm of egg was just too impractical that I just rounded it off to 1 egg but never I realized that it could have been the equivalent to 1.5 eggs, to make it more moist and bouncy looking. Disposing the half part of egg is just too silly.

I am so amazed by you, since you are not a professional chef but you were able to juggle all those measurements, you must be good in math. And you ended up with the best looking product, the char siew is moist and it even didn't leak while resting. Mine did. You must be exceptionally good, everything for you is one take that I doubt you did it by yourself.

So be it, I would like to suggest that to make it user friendly to those who would seriously follow your recipe, that the measuring system would be universally understandable to all, no need to convert if they don't have the necessary gear. The least common denominator would be tablespoons, teaspoons, and cups, covering all ingredients. I see in cooking schools, people and professional bakers don't want to be burdened by too much gadgets around them.

Thank you.

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi, I am sorry to know that you are so frustrated with the recipe. First of all, the recipe is taken from published cookbooks I followed the ingredients amount exactly. The ingredients for the dough is by weight, whereas the ingredients for the char siew filling is in teaspoons. The reason why the dough recipe uses weight because the amount of ingredient used has to be exact. By converting it into cups, it may not be accurate at all. For eg, the weight of a small egg vs a large egg can affect the dough. As for the tangzhong, it uses 20g flour and 100ml or 100g water. After cooking it, u will end up with less than 120g of tangzhong, and the recipe only needs 75g of tangzhong, there will be about 1 tablespoon leftover. As for the eggs, any left over can be used for brushing the top of the buns, or reserve for combining with more eggs for cooking other meals/dishes.

I think maybe it is the first time you have visited my blog, so I will like to clarify some points:

1. "I wonder how your readers who tried, managed. I was scrolling down on them, it seems they are more preoccupied with photography than cooking. All liked what they saw or have yet to do it. No one has really get their hands on."

I believe most of my regular readers and fellow bloggers have already made bread using this tangzhong method. Just do a google search and you will be able to find many bloggers have made similar bread buns like these. This recipe is not new to most of my regular readers. As such, their comments are mainly on the photography, just a form of showing encouragement among fellow bloggers.

2. "My kitchen is not high tech like yours, you can afford sophisticated gadgets. Imagine buying a precise weighing machine that reads down to the nearest 5 gm."

Just like to share with you, I do not own a high tech kitchen either. I do not have that many gadgets as you have imagined. I am still using a almost 30yrs old handheld electric beater (which I used mainly for beating egg whites), I used hand me down baking trays, baking pans. When I first started baking, I used a cheap weighing scale for measuring the ingredients. It can read up to 10g. I only convinced myself to buy a digital scale a couple of years back when I got some pocket money from doing some freelance job, and it was on huge discount. I have only basic utensils at home, I dont even have a blender/food processor. Before my home renovation, I have been using a small tabletop oven for all my baking. All my bakes entries before year 2011 was baked using that small oven.

Happy Homebaker said...

3. "You must be exceptionally good, everything for you is one take that I doubt you did it by yourself."

I started baking in 2006, and I first attempted making bread buns in 2007. My first attempt yielded very ugly buns but still good as I took a long time to read through many cookbooks before I attempted to make bread. I have made enough bread buns to make sure I seal the seams really tight. I have experience kneading dough by hand, struggling with wet sticky mess, working hard on it until it came together as a smooth dough. I had experienced with jam oozing out of bread buns too. But I think over the past 5 years, I have gained enough experience from numerous attempts to make homemade bread that it all seems easier or too good to be true.

I do not have anyone (at least not adults) to help me with baking. I have only my two kids, and nowadays they are too busy with school that they hardly have time to bake with me. I do not have a helper or maid at home, everything is done single handedly, from measuring the ingredients to washing the utensils and mopping the kitchen floor.

Actually I don't have to explain all the above, but I can't help to clarify things as I don't want anyone to get the wrong impression that baking requires expensive equipments.

I don't use maths when baking, at least I have never tried calculating the ratio of the ingredients. I simply follow recipes closely.

I am not able to convert the ingredients amount to cups and tablespoons as it won't be accurate especially for bread. I hope you understand my position. I am no professional baker and I followed the measurements from cookbooks. Most of the recipes I posted require a weighing scale because I have problem measuring ingredients with cups, as such I dont usually follow recipes that goes by volume.

I hope this bad experience will not affect your interest in baking. My aim for starting this blog is to share my experience with readers who share the same passion for baking. I really feel bad that this recipe didn't work for you. I understand how one feels when the recipe didn't work, I have experience it before, just that I am so upset that most of the time I have no heart to blog about it. I hope you will be able to find recipes from other sources or cookbooks that suit you better.

jagan said...

Perfect Moist bun. Thanks for the recipe. I have been trying to find this recipe for the past 4 months. Thanks a bunch.

Anonymous said...

Hi HHB, I've tried out this recipe and is yummy!!! Well liked and good comments from family and friends. Keep up the good job. Thank you HHB.

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi, happy to hear that your homemade buns are well received by everyone :)
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Unknown said...

Lovely buns. So happy to find your site by chance. I can tell you are very patient and sincere.
I have tried the steamed version bao, will try this recipe. Thank you.
One question pls - Did you make the char siew separately and then add the seasoning as sauce,
Thanks for replying. Keep up the good job.

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi, thanks for visiting :) No I didn't make the char siew I bought it from wet market.