Sunday, January 2, 2011


Bao are pillowy, steamed buns stuffed with filling.  They're a little time-intensive, so I only make them a few times a year, but they do reheat well, so I recommend making a big batch and freezing them.  They can be reheated either by steaming until heated through, or by wrapping in a damp towel and microwaving for a few minutes.  The texture is a little better in the steamer, but the microwave route makes for easy work lunches.

Dough ingredients:
2 1/2 t yeast
1 c warm water
1 T sugar
2 T vegetable oil
1 t salt
about 2 3/4 cups flour

  1. Combine yeast, sugar, oil, and salt in a mixing bowl, and pour water over it.  Let sit until very foamy, about 10-15 minutes.
  2. Add flour and knead 8-10 minutes (or mix for about 4 minutes in a stand mixer).  Dough should be as soft as possible without being sticky.
  3. Let rise in an oiled, covered bowl, about 1-1.5 hours or until doubled.  (While dough is rising, prepare filling.)
  4. Punch down dough and knead for about a minute.
  5. Divide dough into 12 balls.  Working a few at a time, roll each ball into a 4.5 inch circle and dab a little oil in the center of the circle.  Add 1-2 T of filling, then gather and crimp the edges together over the filling, pinch firmly, and twist to completely seal in the filling.  (This will work best if you roll the dough circles so the edges are thinner than the centers.)
  6. Place buns in a steamer basket over boiling water, cover, and steam for about 15-18 minutes, then cool on a cooling rack.
Notes on filling:
I don't use a recipe for my bao filling, and therefore never make it the same way twice.  My favorite fillings so far include pineapple-coconut, cherry pie filling, and barbecue soy sausage.  Any simple stir-fry will also work well, as long as you chop the ingredients into very small pieces.  You also don't want anything with a thin liquid, unless you're way more skilled at sealing the buns than I am.  If your stir-fry is too liquidy, either cook off the liquid, drain it, or thicken with a little cornstarch.   

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