Bao buns

Bao buns are so posh, a couple of years ago they were the sandwiches of multiple Michelin starred chefs, last year they began to appear in trendy cafes. Soft and pillowy, these Asian buns are not only great cooked filled with spicy pork and veges or shrimps and chives at your local takeaway, but as the fancy chefs discovered a new take on the classic ‘sandwich’.

Bao are easy to make, the whole process takes 2-2.5 hrs. I used bamboo steamers bought cheaply from the local Asian shop, but any steamer can be used, the advantage of these is that they stack and if I buy more I can cook more bao at a time 😉

Ingredients:

  • 525g plain flour (nb not hi-grade, many recipes substitute in some cornflour but I have not tried this)
  • 1½ Tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 50ml milk
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 200ml water (not cold not hot, just barely warm) 1You may need to adjust this, depending on your flour, I did, adding a couple of Tbs more water during the mix. But I guess you may even find you need to add flour!

And (half way through):

  • 1 tsp baking powder

Method:

Mix the dry ingredients, except NOT the baking powder, add the wet ones, and mix. When the dough forms knead long and well (I cheated and did both mixing and kneading in our breadmaker on dough setting). As always add more flour if the dough is ‘too hard’ and add more water if it is ‘too soft’ – once the dough is in the goldilocks zone stop meddling (the reason meddling is ever necessary is because different flours and they say even the weather can throw the proportions out a little bit.

Set the dough to rise in a warm place until well doubled (1-2 hours). Tip the dough out and flatten it, sprinkle over the baking powder, knead for 3-5 mins. Roll into a ‘sausage’ and cut into 16-18 similarly sized pieces. Roll each into a ball, flatten into a circle on a floury board and with a rolling pin (or large bottle) roll out  to a thin oval (rather longer than you’d think – the aim is to have enough when it is folded to make a decent bun). Brush the top with oil, fold in half and place on small squares (cut a bit larger than you expect the finished bao to be) of greased baking paper.

Place these carefully in the steamer leaving room for them to more than double again. Leave to rise, again doubling, about 1.5 hours.

Put the steamers on top of a saucepan of well boiling water, steam for 8-9 minutes. They should split easily, though a knife may sometimes help. Fill with something tasty, oily and salty. (I love bacon, lettuce and tomato with plenty of mayonnaise.)

Notes   [ + ]

1. You may need to adjust this, depending on your flour, I did, adding a couple of Tbs more water during the mix. But I guess you may even find you need to add flour!

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