My first attempt at getting closer to Eastern cuisine had to do with fried dumplings or should I better say potstickers (you can find the recipe here). Now, I will take it one step further and I will make homemade bao buns.
What is a bao bun?
The bao buns (or more correctly baozi) are steamed buns and come from China. Or from Taiwan? Their origin has been lost over the centuries.
The legend says that the bao buns were first made by the Chinese military strategist Zhuge Liang in the 3rd century BC. I prefer not to say more about the legend, it is a little bit creepy. Or should I?
The legend of bao buns
The military strategist Zhuge Liang accompanied by his army, had to cross over a river, which was impossible to wade through. A local barbarian told the strategist that he should sacrifice his soldiers to the river in order to successfully came across the river. More specifically he should throw on the river their heads. Told you, it’s creepy.
But, Zhuge Liang didn’t want to sacrifice his soldiers. So, he decided to sacrifice buns filled with meat. The buns were steamed and sized as a human head. So they threw the buns into the river, the river found these much more delicious and let them pass. And they lived happily ever after.
Bao buns in 2020
Nowdays bao buns can be stuffed with shrimp, sautéed pork, beef, fresh vegetables and herbs, as well as pickles such as cabbage pickles or cucumber pickles. The filling of a bao bun can be anything, even leftovers.
Bao buns recipe notes
If you are already familiar with rising doughs you will know that one of the most important things is yeast. Yeast shouldn’t be destroyed in order to help our dough to rise. The temperature of the liquid ingredients can easily destroy a yeast. Liquid ingredients should be lukewarm. If you have a thermometer use it, the temperature should note exceed 36 °C.
Don’t even think that e.g. 12°C is also below 36 °C. The temperature of the liquids should be more than 30°C and less than 36 °C. If you do not have a thermometer, use your hand. The liquids should be lukewarm.
Also, attention should also be paid to the temperature of the room where the dough will rest. The temperature should not exceed 40 °C. If you choose to rise the dough in the oven be careful not to use air mode, as the air will dry out the dough. While, it is wise to cover the dough with a greaseproof paper.
In addition to the temperature, attention should be paid to the kneading of the dough. It will take you about 15 minutes in order to end up with a soft dough that doesn’t stick to your hands. You better use a stand mixer.
Last but no least, it is very important the water level during the steaming. Boiling water should not touch the bottom of the bamboo steamer in which the bao buns are arranged. We don’t want to boil the buns, we want to steam them.
For making homemade bao buns you will need a bamboo steamer to steam the buns. Make sure the size of the steamer is large enough to fit into your pot.
If you do not have a bamboo steamer and you are not sure you are a bao buns fan, do not go for it. You can also use a strainer that you can attach to a fireproof bowl. If you choose the strainer solution, use the lid of the pot to capture the steam and make sure the water does not touch the buns.
Homemade bao buns
- 300 gr all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp dry yeast
- 165 ml lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 tsp lard or butter
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 3-4 tbsp vegetable oil
- In the mixer bowl mix the flour add the yeast.
- Add the fat to the lukewarm water (caution, the water should not exceed 36°C) and then pour it into the bowl with the flour. Stir with the mixer hook.
- Stir for 5 minutes and then add the sugar and salt.
- Continue mixing at medium speed for about 10 minutes. We should end up with a soft dough that does not stick to our hands.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover the dough with a greaseproof paper and then the bowl with a clean towel.
- Allow the dough to rise for 60-90 minutes. The room temperature should be between 35-40 °C.
- After the dough has doubled in size (if not, wait for more), cut the dough into 8 equal pieces. Each piece should be around 60 grams.
- Make 8 balls and allow them to rest for at least 30 minutes. Sprinkle them slightly with vegetable oil, cover with greaseproof paper and a towel.
- By using a rolling pin roll out the balls. Fold each bun in the middle. To prevent the dough from sticking (even though we spread some vegetable oil earlier) add a small piece of greaseproof paper in between. Let them rest for another 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile prepare the steamer. Cut pieces of greaseproof paper equal to the size of the bottom of the steamer. In order to allow the steam to pass through, makes small holes on each piece. Lay them on each tier of the steamer.
- At each tier of the steamer add 2 or 3 buns. Be careful, each bun not to touch the other one. I rolled out the ball a little bit more than the usual, so they came out bigger. I had to add only two in each tier.
- In a pot where the steamer fits, add water so that it does not touch the surface where the buns are.
- Once the water has boiled, reduce the heat to simmer and add the steamer. To be able to trap more steam, it is advisable to add the lid of the pot. If you add the lid, cover it with a clean towel. The towel will absorb the drops created by trapped steam.
- Simmer for 10 minutes, remove the steamer from the pot and leave it aside with the lid closed for 5 minutes. Our bao buns are ready.
- Add the rest of the buns to the steamer and repeat the process.
So, this was my version for homemade bao buns. I would highly recommend trying them since they are extremely tasty, light and easy to make. Just remember to pay extra attention to the temperature of the liquid ingredients so as not to damage the yeast.