Thursday, March 9, 2017

baked char siu bao (roasted pork buns).


My weekends are for tackling cooking projects.  Not all of them are labor intensive 48 hour adventures but on occasion I get that itch to tackle an over-the-top project that's been on my to-do list for some time.  

(Like croissants which 3 years later are still on my to-make list. )

Char Siu Bao are one of those weekend long projects.  They aren't particularly difficult (though the length of the recipe may lead you to believe I'm lying) but I find it best to draw the preparation of them out over a couple of days.   It makes the whole thing more relaxing and stressful.   

If you've never had char siu bao (otherwise known as a roasted pork bun) you're in for a real treat. Extremely tender (and very light and fluffy) dough encases shredded a sweet and spicy shredded pork that people find irresistible (I find it seriously irresistible).    I love them for their portability but also because the dough which utilizes a process called tangzhong is super soft which means you can reheat them in the microwave and they stay tender (it's kind of magic).   

So yes, making these is a project, but it's a project that's well worth it.     

Baked Char Siu Bao
Recipe from Crepes of Wrath and Serious Eats

These freeze brilliantly so don't worry if you can't eat them all!   

For the Char Siu Pork

3 pounds boneless pork butt or shoulder, cut into large pieces
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon chili oil
1 tablespoon black bean paste
1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice
1 3-inch knob of ginger, grated on a microplane or finely minced
4 garlic cloves, grated on a microplane or finely minced

For the Char Siu Filling

1 pound of your roasted pork, diced into ¾-inch cubes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely diced
6 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon black bean paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 cup minced chives 

For the Tangzhong

3 tablespoons bread flour
1/2 cup water

For the Dough

1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Roast your pork - Cut your boneless pork shoulder or butt into 5 or 6 pieces and place it in a sealable back or container. Whisk together all of your marinade ingredients, and pour it over the pork. Marinate for at least 3 hours, or as long as overnight. When ready, preheat your oven to 300 degrees F, place your pork in an oiled baking dish, cover with foil, and roast for 2½ to 3 hours, until the pork is very tender and shreds easily. Remove the pork from the oven, uncover, and let cool slightly. You will only need about ⅓ of your pork for the buns - the rest makes for great leftovers! Toss it with some roasted or stir-fried broccoli and you've got lunch for the rest of the week.

Make your char siu filling - Chop ⅓ of your roasted pork into small cubes and set it aside. Finely dice an onion, heat your vegetable oil in a medium-sized pan over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Whisk together your water, cornstarch, vinegar, hoisin sauce, sugar, black bean paste, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Add your pork to the onion, and add your sauce to the pan. Stir to combine, and cook for 5-8 minutes, until the mixture has darkened and thickened - be careful not to burn the filling, as the sugar will quickly caramelize. When ready, remove the pork from the heat and set aside until ready to use.  Can be made 1 day ahead and stored in the fridge until ready to assemble.

For the Tangzhong - In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, mix together the water and bread flour. Cook, stirring constantly, until thick and lightly golden. Remove from heat and transfer the tangzhong to a small container. Cover with plastic and chill for at least 1 hour.

For the Dough - Warm 1/2 cup of milk and pour in the yeast. Let stand until frothy, about 10 minutes. Combine the yeast-milk mixture, the Tangzhong, and the remaining dough ingredients in a large bowl, and stir until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Remove from the bowl and knead on a lightly floured work surface until stretchy, about 10 minutes longer. Spray the dough all over with nonstick spray and return to the bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on top of the dough to prevent it from drying out and set in a warm, draft free area until doubled in size, about 1 hour (or overnight in the fridge).

Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 16 even pieces. Roll the pieces into balls. Using the palm of your hand, press down each dough ball until flat. Place 2 tablespoons of filling on the center of each round. Pull up the edges and pinch together to seal. Transfer the filled buns, seam-side down, to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Re-cover with the coated plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly brush your bao with your beaten egg, then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes, then brush lightly with honey and sprinkle with chopped chives. Serve warm. These will keep well for up to 5 days - just heat them up for 15-20 seconds in the microwave before serving.