Bao Buns

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Overview
We had these in a restaurant about a week ago (just before Melbourne’s 4th COVID-19 lockdown) and wondered how hard they were to make…

Freshly cooked still in the steamer

We literally know nothing about the history of these, true origins, but just know that you could probably put anything in these babies and they’d taste amazing. The restaurant served them with a slow-cooked pork hock, some pickled cucumbers, pickled mushrooms, spicy dukkah-like dry mix, sour cream and pan juices.

Time:
Preparation around 2 hours including rising
Cooking time around 15 minutes

Ingredients
½ cup of warm milk fresh from the cow if you have it, but heated in microwave is fine.
⅓ cup of warm water (out of the tap hot is fine)
1 tbsp dry active yeast
3 tsp sugar for activation, 3 tsp sugar for dry ingredients
3-4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 spray oil
2 ½ cups plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
⅓ tsp salt (to taste)

Equipment
Mixer, steamer, 4″ cutter

Method
1 – Add liquid, yeast and sugar together and stir to activate. Let it sit around 10 minutes to really get going. This is the most important part of the recipe. If you don’t activate your yeast, you will end up with a flat result.

2 – Add remainder of dry ingredients to mixer bowl.

3 – Once yeast is activated, turn on mixer and add liquid, leaving mixer at minimum speed. Dough should come together to be firm and not sticky. If you find it is a little sticky at this point, add flour to remove stickiness just to bread point.

4 – After around 5 minutes, dough should be elastic and well formed. Remove mixer hook and leave to rise in the mixing bowl, covered with some plastic wrap. You can also move to a pre-oiled bowl and allow to rise in that instead. If you have a sous vide oven then set it to around 28° C and let rise until tripled in size. This will be around an hour in the sous vide, but a warm spot by the window can also work. Don’t let the cats get it.

5 – Prepare the steamer, by lining with baking paper.

6 – Once risen, take the dough out and roll out onto lightly floured surface into around ¼” thick slab, then use cutter to create 4″ circles of dough. Lightly spray the top of the dough circle with oil, or brush on. Then fold in half with the oil in the middle and set in the lined steamer. You should get around 8-10 decent sized bao buns. You could use a smaller cutter and get more, but I prefer bigger buns.

7 – Allow the dough in the steamer baskets to rise a further 30 minutes.

8 – Get your steamer water boiling, and place the risen dough half moons on top. Steam for around 10 minutes, then remove the lid and let top surface dry for around 2 minutes.

9 – Take the Bao Buns from your steamer and serve with whatever filling comes along. We had ours with pulled pork, pickled purple cabbage, chilli jam, pickle relish, spicy sprinkles and sour cream. Yum!

Notes: This milk bread recipe can be used in many different areas and ways. Fill the buns with your favourite filling before the final steam (e.g. pork buns), or try something else. It is relatively easy to do and tastes amazing. Just please remember to activate your yeast properly as this is what makes the buns so super fluffy.

Enjoy!