Steamed buns might fall under the category of things people will assume you are crazy to make. Really, they are much easier than the potstickers I was planning on making, for which I would also be considered crazy by many. I didn't have it in me to form more than two dozen potstickers, so reading the recipe for steamed buns seemed like a good compromise, and also something I've been wanting to make for a while.
A Chinese steamed bun, often called baozi and other names, is a simple yeast dough encasing a savory filling and served with a dipping sauce. Other varieties have the crimped and twisted side up, but I'm not quite as skilled. They also aren't as big, some of them. Don't stop at savory fillings, though, as I've seen some with a sweet filling, and you can only imagine how endless the possibilities are, like the time I read Martin Yan's Chinatown and saw a recipe for banana wontons, or the sweet wontons at the Thai restaurant I downtown (it really isn't all that glamorous, downtown) have yet to actually order.
You have the option of either steaming or baking these buns, though I opted for steaming since I wanted the chewiness you don't necessarily get from baking; I figured it would be more on the fluffy side and I didn't want that.
After steaming, these get a bit shiny and they almost look raw, but if you press them it'll feel spongy and not like rising dough at all. In fact, these exploded and were huge, and I could have actually made twenty-four instead of a dozen, and even then I'd have spent less time prepping than it would have taken me to form dozens of potstickers.
The instructions state to place each bun, after filling and shaping, on a square piece of foil, though I used wax paper. You could also use parchment paper, which I forgot I bought more of recently. If you use either wax paper or aluminum foil, I'd spray each square lightly with cooking spray because these stuck just a bit.
Did I achieve the chewy texture for which I was hoping? Yes! And I was thrilled. It's always fun when something comes out right the first time. And I should mention that while it was chewy, it wasn't the type of chewy-rubbery where the bun slips off the plate because you can't actually cut through it.
Served with jasmine rice and an somewhat sweet-sour orange dipping sauce.
Let me talk a bit about the recipe I used, from a cookbook called Chinese Cook Book. I remember my mom having this book since I was little, and that I would thumb through the aging copy looking at the delicious recipes for delicious Chinese food from different regions. One day, we found a new copy of the same cookbook for $4, so we snapped it up. It's the book I turn to first when I'm contemplating making a Chinese meal, even if I cross-reference with Google. It's become a part of me, this Chinese Cook Book. The recipes aren't complicated unless it's just how they are intended to be, there's a section on cooking techniques, equipment and traditional ingredients. It talks about entertaining and the meals pertaining to it (i.e., family, celebratory, etc.) you might choose to make, how much to serve, and includes a few menus from which you might choose. Sections for appetizers, soup (I haven't yet made sizzling rice soup, but I can, and that's always comforting to know), different meats, rice and noodles and bread, and even a few desserts like caramel fried apples, date and sesame wontons, almond cookies and a refreshing pear compote.
In short, the "super buy" sticker on the front of book, appropriately covering the 's' in 'Chinese', sums it all up.
I will be submitting this post to YeastSpotting.
From Chinese Cook Book
for the buns ~
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (about 110°)
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
about 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
Beef filling (directions follow)
melted butter (for baked buns)
- In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water; blend in sugar and oil. Let stand in a warm place until bubbly, about 15 minutes. Add salt and 3 1/4 cups of flour and mix until dough holds together. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes (I kneaded the dough for about 5 minutes, though just 1 would be fine, covered for 10 minutes, and kneaded for another 5 minutes). Place in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- Combine sauce ingredients in a bowl; set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a wok or wide frying pan over high heat. When oil is hot, add beef and stir-fry until browned, about 5 minutes. (It will probably be necessary to drain most of the fat that came out -- simply place a colander over a pie plate, dump in the beef, and let sit there a bit). Add the onion to the empty wok and continue stir-frying until onion is limp, about 2 minutes. Stir in sauce mixture, add the beef back in, and cook, stirring, until sauce bubbles and thickens. Cool.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute. Shape into a rectangle. With knife, cut rectangle in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise 6 times to make 12 equal pieces (or cut each half in half, then each half-half in three. Got it?). Toss lightly with flour and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes.
- Roll each piece into a round about 4 1/2 inches in diameter. Press outside edges of dough to make them slightly thinner than the rest of the round. Place about 2 tablespoons filling in center of each round. Pull edges of dough up and around the filling and twist to seal.
- For steamed buns, place each bun, sealed side down, on a 3-inch square of foil (or wax paper, lightly sprayed with cooking oil, or parchment). Cover and let rise in a warm place until puffy and light, about 30 minutes. Set in a steamer over boiling water. Cover and steam for 12 to 15 minutes. When done, tops of buns should be glazed and smooth. Serve warm; or let cool, wrap, and freeze. To reheat, steam frozen buns until hot, about 10 minutes.
- For baked buns, place buns about 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Cover and let rise in a warm place until puffy and light, about 30 minutes. Brush tops with melted butter and bake in a 350° oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare pork filling; let cool and set aside.
for the ground beef filling (supposed to be pork) ~
1 pound ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 medium-size onion, chopped (do not mix with beef)
stir fry sauce ~
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry, white wine, or chicken broth (water if you haven't any)
1/4 cup water