Monday, February 17, 2014

chinese steamed buns.

I want to preface this post by saying these are better, way better then what you can get in your neighborhood Chinese restaurant. I've spent weeks thinking about them, analyzing recipes, buying the ingredients, only to be distracted and taken away from the kitchen (this wedding has really taken over). Finally, this three-day weekend allowed me the luxury to conquer the steamed pork buns that have eluded me for weeks now. 

These buns are insanely fluffy (I would happily rest my head on a pile of them) which makes them perfect for cradling a sweet and salty ground pork filling.  I love how perfectly portable they are.  How dainty they look from the outside and how surprisingly flavorful and spicy the inside is (especially when served with extra Sriracha on the side).  We are obsessed with them which is why Tyler and I polished off half a dozen during our awesomely lazy day-off.    

Chinese Steamed Buns
Recipe adapted from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads

Makes 12 Buns

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) dry yeast
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup nonfat dry milk
1 cup hot water (120 – 130 degrees)
1 tablespoon shortening or butter
½ teaspoon baking powder

By Hand or Mixer: In a mixing or mixer bowl measure 2 cups flour and add the dry ingredients, except the baking powder.  Stir to blend, and fashion a well in the flour.  Pour the hot water into the well and drop in the shortening or butter.  Let stand for a moment to soften the shortening or butter.  With a wooden spoon or mixer flat beater, stir vigorously for 2 minutes.  Sprinkle in the baking powder.  Add flour, ¼ cup at a time, mixed into the body of the dough until it forms a rough but elastic mass that can be lifted from the bowl.  If using a mixer, attach the dough hook.  Be careful not to overload the dough with flour as it needs to be soft to stretch over the filling. 

If by hand, lift the dough to a floured work surface and knead with a strong rhythm of push-turn-fold.  Add sprinkles of flour if the dough is sticky but keep it on the moist side rather than making a hard ball.  If under the dough hook, the dough will clean the sides of the bowl and form a ball around the hook.  If it sticks to the sides, add small portions of flour.  Knead for 10 minutes. 

By Processor: Attach the steel blade.  Measure 2 ¼ cups of flour into the work bowl and add the dry ingredient except the baking powder.  Blend.  With the processor running, pour the water through the tube; add shortening or butter.  Stop machine and sprinkle in the baking powder. 

Add flour, ¼ cup at a time with the processor on.  The amount of flour is sufficient when the dough cleans the sides of the bowl and rides on the blade.

Process with the machine running for 50 seconds.  The dough will be somewhat sticky when taken from the machine but a dusting of flour will make it possible to work.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and put aside at room temperature to double in volume, 45 minutes.  

To Prepare: Punch down the dough and divide into 12 equal pieces.  Form each into a ball and then flatten each into a 4” circle.  Place a spoonful of filling (recipe below) in the center of each circle; gather the dough over the filling, make small pleats, and twist the dough tightly closed. 

Place each ball on a circle or square of wax or parchment paper on the steamer rack.  Let the balls rest for
10 minutes but no longer.  Be precise about the timing. 

While the buns are resting, bring the water in the wok or conventional steamer to a boil.  Lower the rack into the steamer.  Cover and steam for 15 – 20 minutes.  Be certain the water does no boil away during the process. Lift the rack out of the steamer.  Let cook for a minute or two and take out the rolls.  Serve warm. 

To reheat the buns, cover with foil and place in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. 

Char Sui Pork
Recipe adapted from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads

1 teaspoon sesame oil
½ pound ground pork
¼ cup minced chives
2 ½ tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 tablespoon Sriracha
½ teaspoon Szechuan pepper (optional)
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
¼ cup water
Salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan, heat the oil and stir-fry the ground pork until cooked through, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the chives, sugar, soy sauce, ginger, Sriracha, and Szechuan pepper.  Stir to combine.

Mix the flour and cornstarch with the water.  Stir into the pork mixture.  Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes until the mixture thickens.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.  Put aside to cool.  

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