Sweet Steamed Buns

There are a variety of sweet fillings for the steamed buns (baozi) that are usually eaten for breakfast. Like the other baozi recipes on this blog, these can be made ahead and frozen, then resteamed from the frozen state.

equipment:

  • 24 squares of wax or parchment paper, 2×2″
  • steamer: for this recipe, if you have been rigging up a steamer as I discussed in the Steamers post, you will need to add some sort of rack to the pot over the plate – if you steam the buns on a plate, the bottoms will get too soggy

ingredients:

filling:

  • 3/4 c total (either choose 1 or use a mixture): blanched almonds, toasted pine nuts, unsalted roasted peanuts or peanut butter, toasted walnuts, toasted sesame seeds (white or black)
  • 2 T honey
  • 1 T light brown sugar
  • 1-2 T sesame oil

method:

  1. Grind the nuts and/or seeds in a food processor until very fine, then mix with the honey, brown sugar, and enough sesame oil to make a stiff paste.
  2. Divide the dough in 1/2, keeping one half in a bowl under a damp cloth.
  3. Roll or pat the first 1/2 into a rough circle, being sure to press out any air bubbles as you go. If your dough is the right texture, you shouldn’t need to add extra flour, but it’s okay if you need to flour the counter a bit.
  4. Poke your thumbs through the middle to make a doughnut shape, then cut that on one side to achieve a cylinder.
  5. Roll the cylinder between your hands and the counter until it is approximately 1 foot long.
  6. With a bench scraper or very sharp knife, cut the cylinder into 12 sections.
  7. Roll the dough pieces one at a time into a ball, then flatten each into a small circle.
  8. Place 1 T of filling in the center of a circle, then keeping your thumb roughly over the middle of the filling, start bringing the edge of the circle up to the thumb, crimping it into little pleats as you turn the circle slightly in your opposite hand. You should end up with a tiny hole at the top of a round bun – pinch this tightly closed.
  9. Place each bun on a square of paper and transfer to the steamer rack.
  10. Repeat steps 2-9 with the second 1/2 of the dough, then stack and cover the steamer racks.
  11. Allow the buns to rise 20 m.
  12. Steam for 8-10 m. Be careful when removing the steamer cover to catch the condensation on the lid with a towel – don’t let it pour onto the buns.

do ahead:

Unless you get up insanely early (like I do – well, usually!), you won’t want to be making these for breakfast the day you plan to consume them. The buns can be steamed and either refrigerated or frozen for another day – just pop them back in the steamer to heat through – from frozen it will take about 10-15 minutes. I don’t recommend microwaving them, although some people swear by wrapping an individual bun in a damp cloth or paper towel and microwaving it.

Savory Pancakes

This dish makes a great appetizer – you can serve it with soy sauce or a 1:1 mixture of soy sauce and hoisin or oyster sauce. I use shrimp in this basic recipe, but it’s a great way to use up tiny bits of leftovers: chicken, pork, bacon, beef, vegetables. Whatever addition you choose to use, make sure it’s precooked.

ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c water, stock, or broth (preferably homemade, low-sodium if canned)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2/3 c all-purpose or white whole wheat flour
  • 2 T cooked shrimp, finely chopped
  • 2 scallions, minced
  • 1 T oil

method:

  1. Beat the egg with the liquid and the salt, then whisk in the flour – don’t overmix, or the batter will be tough.
  2. Combine the shrimp and scallions in a separate bowl.
  3. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, then add 1/2 the oil and heat just until it shimmers, tilting the skillet to coat it thoroughly.
  4. Add 1/2 the batter, tilting again to distribute it evenly.
  5. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the shrimp and scallions.
  6. Cook until the edge of the pancake turns golden brown, then flip and brown the other side.
  7. Remove to a cutting board.
  8. Repeat steps 3-7 with the remaining oil, batter and shrimp mixture.
  9. Stack the pancakes and cut them into eighths to serve. You can either drizzle with a bit of light soy sauce or serve soy sauce on the side for dipping. Another good sauce/dip is a 1:1 mixture of light soy sauce and hoisin or oyster sauce.

Scallion Loaf

Getting tired of rice with Chinese food? This savory loaf makes an excellent accompaniment for Chinese dishes, it contains less fat than scallion pancakes, it’s baked instead of fried (so you have time to do other things while it cooks), and it makes a great savory breakfast as well!

ingredients:

  • 1 recipe yeast dough
  • 1 T sesame oil or neutral flavored oil, if you prefer
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 scallions, minced
  • 1 T sesame seeds, a mix of black and white is nice
  • 1 egg, beaten

method:

  1. Roll the dough into a square approximately 1/2″ thick.
  2. Brush the dough with the some of the oil, then sprinkle with some salt and scallion.
  3. Fold the right 1/3 of the dough over the middle 1/3, then fold the left 1/3 over that, pressing down gently with your hands.
  4. Brush the dough with the rest of the oil, then sprinkle with remaining salt and scallion.
  5. Allow the dough to rest for 5 m – this will make it easier to continue.
  6. Fold the top 1/3 down over the middle 1/3, then fold the bottom 1/3 up over that.
  7. Gently roll the loaf into a square approximately 12″ on a side. The oil will make this a bit tricky, but you needn’t make it perfect. If you let the dough rest 5-10 m, it will become less likely to retract when rolled.
  8. Place the loaf on a baking sheet, brush with the egg (be careful not to let the egg drip onto the pan – it’s a mess to clean up!), sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  9. Move to a warm, draft-free place to rise for 30 m. after 15 m have passed of this time, preheat the oven to 350.
  10. Bake the loaf for 12-15 m. If you want a more rosy brown color, you can brush the top with oil and CAREFULLY broil it for less than 1 m. Flip it over, brush the bottom with oil, and repeat the broiling process.
  11. Cut into wedges and serve.

Mandarin Pancakes

These thin pancakes are most often used for serving mooshu style dishes and Peking duck, but they make a great wrap for just about any stirfry, such as Vegetable Stirfry Wearing a Hat. The simplest way to make this is to use the food processor, in which case you may need less water than indicated.

ingredients:

  • 2 c all-purpose flour or you can use 1/2 AP flour and 1/2 whole wheat
  • 3/4 c boiling water
  • 1-2 T cold water
  • 2 T oil

method:

  1. Sift the flour, then gradually add the boiling water, mixing with chopsticks or a fork. If you’re using the food processor, pulse the flour a few times instead of sifting it, then with the processor running, add the boiling water in a thin stream. The dough should start to come together into a ball.
  2. Add the cold water until you have a soft but not sticky dough. You may not need to add any cold water if you’re using the processor.
  3. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is smooth and elastic – it will take about 1-2 m if you’ve used the processor, approximately 4-5 m if you are working by hand.
  4. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let it rest for 15 m – this will relax the gluten and make the dough stretchier.
  5. Knead the dough gently and then roll it between your palms and the countertop into a “snake” about 18″ long.
  6. Cut the dough into 18 pieces, then flatten each piece with your hand.
  7. Brush the top of 9 cakes with oil, then place the remaining cakes over them like you’re making a sandwich.
  8. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low.
  9. In the meantime, roll a pair of pancakes into a 5-6″ circle: the most successful way to achieve a circle is to only roll the rolling pin with your right hand from the center of the cake to the edge, turning it slightly as you go with your left hand (reverse if you’re left-handed). Flip the cake over once you’ve made a complete rotation and roll on this side as well.
  10. Place the sandwiched cakes in the skillet while you roll the next one. It should take less than 1 m for them to turn lightly brown in spots and take on a dry look. Flip and cook until the other side is similarly brown in spots. You may have to adjust the heat to keep the cooking even.
  11. When you remove the cakes, quickly separate each sandwich into single cakes while they are still hot, then fold into a 1/2 circle or into 1/4 circles, pile on a plate, and keep covered with a towel.
  12. Before serving, steam the plate of pancakes for 5 m and serve, keeping covered in between uses.

do ahead:

The pancakes can be made through step 9 a few hours ahead – refrigerate with wax paper layered in between each “sandwich.” Return to room temperature before baking. Or you can complete through step 11, refrigerate (covered with plastic wrap or in a covered container), and briefly steam before serving.

Vegetable-Stuffed Steamed Buns

We often buy frozen steamed buns at our local Asian market, but a special treat is to have the homemade version. The vegetable-filled version, cai bao,  makes a great savory breakfast.

equipment:

  • 24 squares of wax or parchment paper, 2×2″
  • steamer: for this recipe, if you have been rigging up a steamer as I discussed in the Steamers post, you will need to add some sort of rack to the pot over the plate – if you steam the buns on a plate, the bottoms will get too soggy.

ingredients:

filling:

  • 10 oz fresh or frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 c cooked noodles, chopped into roughly 1/2″ lengths (preferably rice noodles or bean thread, but even spaghetti will do)
  • 3 scallions, minced, or 1/2 leek, minced
  • 1/4 c garlic chives, chopped or regular chives, chopped (optional)
  • 1 T light soy sauce
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt, to taste

method:

  1. If you’re using fresh spinach, blanch and shock it, then squeeze out all the liquid you can. If you’re using frozen spinach, thaw it and squeeze it well.
  2. Combine all the filling ingredients, seasoning to taste with salt – you may not need to add any.
  3. Divide the dough in 1/2, keeping one half in a bowl under a damp cloth.
  4. Roll or pat the first 1/2 into a rough circle, being sure to press out any air bubbles as you go. If your dough is the right texture, you shouldn’t need to add extra flour, but it’s okay if you need to flour the counter a bit.
  5. Poke your thumbs through the middle to make a doughnut shape, then cut that on one side to achieve a cylinder.
  6. Roll the cylinder between your hands and the counter until it is approximately 1 foot long.
  7. With a bench scraper or very sharp knife, cut the cylinder into 12 sections.
  8. Roll the dough pieces one at a time into a ball, then flatten each into a small circle.
  9. Place 1 T of filling in the center of a circle, then keeping your thumb roughly over the middle of the filling, start bringing the edge of the circle up to the thumb, crimping it into little pleats as you turn the circle slightly in your opposite hand. You should end up with a tiny hole at the top of a round bun – pinch this tightly closed.
  10. Place each roll on a square of paper and transfer to the steamer rack.
  11. Repeat steps 2-9 with the second 1/2 of the dough, then stack and cover the steamer racks.
  12. Allow the buns to rise 20 m.
  13. Steam for 8-10 m. Be careful when removing the steamer cover to catch the condensation on the lid with a towel – don’t let it pour onto the buns.

do ahead:

Unless you get up insanely early (like I do – well, usually!), you won’t want to be making these for breakfast the day you plan to consume them. The buns can be steamed and either refrigerated or frozen for another day – just pop them back in the steamer to heat through – from frozen it will take about 10 minutes. I don’t recommend microwaving them, although some people swear by wrapping an individual bun in a damp cloth or paper towel and microwaving it.

nutritional data:

Yikes – to be added later – outta time this morning if I want to get my laps in before work!

Lotus Leaf Buns

A nice variation on the plain Steamed Buns – the result looks a little like a Chinese croissant! You can take this recipe a step further and add a filling to the bun when you fold it over (sweet or savory would work) – just be sure not to add too much, or it will ooze out all over! Another great recipe to make with the kids.

ingredients:

equipment:

  • 24 squares of wax or parchment paper, 2×2″
  • steamer: for this recipe, if you have been rigging up a steamer as I discussed in the Steamers post, you will need to add some sort of rack to the pot over the plate – if you steam the buns on a plate, the bottoms will get too soggy.

method:

  1. Divide the dough in 1/2, keeping one half in a bowl under a damp cloth.
  2. Roll or pat the first 1/2 into a rough circle, being sure to press out any air bubbles as you go. If your dough is the right texture, you shouldn’t need to add extra flour, but it’s okay if you need to flour the counter a bit.
  3. Poke your thumbs through the middle to make a doughnut shape, then cut that on one side to achieve a cylinder. (figs. 1 & 2 below)
  4. Roll the cylinder between your hands and the counter until it is approximately 1 foot long. (fig. 3)
  5. With a bench scraper or very sharp knife, cut the cylinder into 12 sections. (fig. 4)
  6. Roll the dough pieces one at a time into a ball, then flatten each into a small circle.
  7. Brush the top 1/2 of the circle with a bit of oil. (fig. 5)
  8. Fold the circle in 1/2 from bottom edge toward top edge. (fig. 6)
  9. Slash the dough down the center, then 2 more times on each side of the first slash. Your cuts should be deep enough to break the surface “skin” of the dough but not go through to the fold. (fig. 7)
  10. Pull the corners slightly down toward you. (figs. 8&9)
  11. Place each roll on a square of paper and transfer to the steamer rack. (fig. 10)
  12. Repeat steps 2-9 with the second 1/2 of the dough, then stack and cover the steamer racks.
  13. Allow the buns to rise 20 m.
  14. Steam for 8-10 m. Be careful when removing the steamer cover to catch the condensation on the lid with a towel – don’t let it pour onto the buns. (fig. 11 below)

figure 1

figure 2

figure 3

figure 4

figure 5

figure 5

figure 6

figure 8

figure 7

figure 8

figure 8

figure 9

figure 9

fig.10

fig.10

do ahead:

Unless you get up insanely early (like I do!), you won’t want to be making these for breakfast the day you plan to consume them. The buns can be steamed and either refrigerated or frozen for another day – just pop them back in the steamer to heat through – from frozen it will take about 10 minutes. I don’t recommend microwaving them, although some people swear by wrapping an individual bun in a damp cloth or paper towel and microwaving it.

nutritional data:

These figures assume 24 buns per recipe, 2 per serving. I used the numbers for white unbleached enriched all-purpose wheat flour (but the pictures above are of buns made with white whole wheat flour).

  • Total calories 142, calories from fat 26
  • Total fat 3 g, saturated fat 0 g
  • Cholesterol 0 mg
  • Sodium 21 mg
  • Total carbs 25 g, dietary fiber 1 g, sugars 1 g
  • Protein 3 g

Steamed Buns with Sugar

This is simple recipe for buns that you can make ahead and freeze, then quickly steam to reheat – served with a little warm soy milk, it’s a great quick breakfast for kids (of all ages) on cold mornings. The kids can also get involved in the making of the buns – no intricate coordination required!

ingredients:

  • 1 recipe yeast dough
  • brown sugar, approximately 1/2 c

equipment:

  • 24 squares of wax or parchment paper, 2×2″
  • steamer: for this recipe, if you have been rigging up a steamer as I discussed in the Steamers post, you will need to add some sort of rack to the pot over the plate – if you steam the buns on a plate, the bottoms will get too soggy.

method:

  1. Divide the dough in 1/2, keeping one half in a bowl under a damp cloth.
  2. Roll or pat the first 1/2 into a rough circle, being sure to press out any air bubbles as you go. If your dough is the right texture, you shouldn’t need to add extra flour, but it’s okay if you need to flour the counter a bit.
  3. Poke your thumbs through the middle to make a doughnut shape, then cut that on one side to achieve a cylinder. (figs. 1 & 2 below)
  4. Roll the cylinder between your hands and the counter until it is approximately 1 foot long. (fig. 3)
  5. With a bench scraper or very sharp knife, cut the cylinder into 12 sections. (fig. 4)
  6. Roll the dough pieces one at a time into a ball, then flatten each into a small circle.
  7. Place 1 tsp brown sugar (unpacked) in the center, then fold the sides of the circle up to make a triangle: your thumbs will make the bottom edge, and each hand makes a side edge. (fig. 5)
  8. Pinch the edges VERY tightly, or your filling will leak as it melts. (fig. 6)
  9. Place each roll on a square of paper and transfer to the steamer rack. (fig. 7)
  10. Repeat steps 2-9 with the second 1/2 of the dough, then stack and cover the steamer racks.
  11. Allow the buns to rise 20 m.
  12. Steam for 8-10 m. Be careful when removing the steamer cover to catch the condensation on the lid with a towel – don’t let it pour onto the buns. (fig. 8 below)

figure 1

figure 2

figure 3

figure 4

figure 5

figure 6

figure 7

figure 8

do ahead:

Unless you get up insanely early (like I do!), you won’t want to be making these for breakfast the day you plan to consume them. The buns can be steamed and either refrigerated or frozen for another day – just pop them back in the steamer to heat through – from frozen it will take about 10 minutes. I don’t recommend microwaving them, although some people swear by wrapping an individual bun in a damp cloth or paper towel and microwaving it.

nutritional data:

These figures assume 24 buns per recipe, 2 per serving. I used the numbers for white unbleached enriched all-purpose wheat flour (but the pictures above are of buns made with white whole wheat flour) and light brown sugar.

  • Total calories 157, calories from fat 6
  • Total fat 1 g, saturated fat 0 g
  • Cholesterol 0 mg
  • Sodium 24 mg
  • Total carbs 34 g, dietary fiber 1 g, sugars 10 g
  • Protein 3 g

Mantou – Steamed Chinese Buns

This recipe used the basic Yeast Dough from my previous post and is the simplest preparation for the steamed buns that are often eaten for breakfast with hot, sweetened soy milk and sometimes a dab of fermented beancurd or chili paste. When I studied in Taiwan, most kids grabbed this breakfast from a street vendor and inhaled it on the way to school, a habit I also fell into very easily.

ingredients:

equipment:

  • 24 squares of wax or parchment paper, 2×2″
  • steamer: for this recipe, if you have been rigging up a steamer as I discussed in the Steamers post, you will need to add some sort of rack to the pot over the plate – if you steam the buns on a plate, the bottoms will get too soggy.

method:

  1. Divide the dough in 1/2, keeping one half in a bowl under a damp cloth.
  2. Roll or pat the first 1/2 into a rough square approximately 6″ along the sides, then roll it into a cylinder being sure to press out any air bubbles as you go. If your dough is the right texture, you shouldn’t need to add extra flour, but it’s okay if you need to flour the counter a bit.
  3. Roll the cylinder between your hands and the counter until it is approximately 1 foot long.
  4. Press down lightly to make a slightly squashed cylinder.
  5. With a very sharp knife, cut the cylinder into 12 sections.
  6. Place each roll on a square of paper and transfer to the steamer rack.
  7. Repeat steps 2-6 with the second 1/2 of the dough, then stack and cover the steamer racks.
  8. Allow the buns to rise 20 m.
  9. Steam for 8-10 m.

do ahead:

Unless you get up insanely early (like I do!), you won’t want to be making these for breakfast the day you plan to consume them. The buns can be steamed and either refrigerated or frozen for another day – just pop them back in the steamer to heat through – from frozen it will take about 10 minutes. I don’t recommend microwaving them, although some people swear by wrapping an individual bun in a damp cloth or paper towel and microwaving it.

nutritional data:

I have assumed that the recipe makes 24 buns and counted 2 buns per serving. These figures are based on white unbleached enriched all-purpose wheat flour.

  • Total calories 123, calories from fat 6
  • Total fat 1 g, saturated fat 0 g
  • Cholesterol 0 mg
  • Sodium 21 mg
  • Total carbs 25 g, dietary fiber 1 g, sugars 1 g
  • Total protein 3 g

Yeast Dough

Much of China features rice as its staple ingredient for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But in the northern part of the country, wheat products (mianshi) are much more prevalent and this is where many of the breads, rolls, noodles, and dumplings hail from.

This basic yeast dough recipe can be made into a number of rolls, but it is usually steamed or sometimes fried, rarely baked. Most Chinese kitchens to this day do not have an oven. (“One Cook’s Battles with Her Oven,” a very funny piece in Food & Wine’s March 2008 issue, talks about how a Chinese American family copes with this alien appliance.)

All-purpose or pastry flour both work well in this recipe. Once you are familiar with the texture of the dough, you can also play around with adding some whole grain flours, such as oat, corn, whole wheat, or “white whole wheat”. Avoid high-gluten (bread) flours, as they will result in a tougher product. You may need to adjust the amount of liquid used to achieve the correct texture.

Below I give the lazy man’s version of making the dough, in a food processor – this way is faster and a whole lot cleaner, but if you either don’t have a food processor or like the therapeutic effect of making bread by hand, be prepared to tinker with the amount of water you add – you’re likely to need a bit more.

ingredients:

  • 3 c flour (see note above)
  • 1 tsp dry yeast
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 c + 1/4 c warm water
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

method:

  1. Dissolve the yeast and sugar in 1 c warm (not hot!) water. Stir and let it rest (proof) for 5 m.
  2. Place the flour in the bowl of a food processor, turn the processor on, and add the yeast mixture in a thin stream. When all the liquid has been added, the dough should come together in a ball that goes around the bowl a few times. If you need to add more liquid, use the remaining 1/4 c, adding very slowly just until the ball forms.
  3. Put the oil in the bottom of a mixing bowl, take the dough out of the processor and place it in the mixing bowl. Run it around the bowl, in effect greasing the bowl and the bottom of the dough.
  4. Turn the dough over, cover with a damp kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place for approximately 1.5 hours or until it doubles in size. I have found that a gas oven with a hot pilot light is perfect for this purpose. Or you can turn your electric oven on warm (no more than 170F) for a few minutes as you proof the yeast, turn it off while you make the dough, and place the bowl in the oven to let the dough rise.
  5. When the dough has doubled, punch it down into a flat circle, add the baking powder, fold the dough around it and knead for approximately 5 m, or until very smooth. (There are all kinds of ways to tell when kneading is done – in culinary school I was told it should feel and look like a baby’s bottom! If it starts to look stringy or the outer layer/skin breaks, it’s overdone, and you should let it rest a bit before using it.)
  6. You’re now ready to try your hand at making mantou, steamed buns, or baozi, filled buns!