I would be lying if I tell you I made this on 1st May. No, I made this a few weeks ago, in preparation for my steamed buns event. I actually bookmarked quite a few bao recipes with good reviews from other bloggers, nearly 10 of them, with the intention of trying out all. But after a while, I realised that I had to be selective, so I narrowed down to just 2 to 3 recipes for making the Hong Kong style of smiling bao. These 2-3 recipes contain ingredients that I happen to stock at home, namely, double-action baking powder, HK flour or cake flour and shortening, these are the key ingredients to making the Hong Kong Style Char Siew Bao, the kind that splits into a smile on top. There were a couple of other recipes which intrigued me, but they either required the use of kansui (mixture of potassium carbonate and sodium carbonate) or ammonium bicarbonate, so those were immediately striken off the list, as there was no way I could get hold of those exotic ingredients here. :)
I have seen Lydia Teh's recipe being referenced in quite a few blogs, so hers was the first that I tried. Her recipe was quite special, she used HK flour (or cake flour), wheat starch, icing sugar, shortening (or vegetable oil) and baking powder (the normal type, not double-action) and yeast of course. What was special about her recipe was that she sprinkled the dissolved baking powder over the dough instead of adding it at the beginning. For those of you who can't get double-action baking powder overseas, this is the recipe to try! But you have to get your hands on yet another difficult-to-get ingredient, which is wheat starch, otherwise known as tung mein fun, tung fun or 澄粉. Now, which ingredient is more difficult to find overseas, double-action baking powder or wheat starch? The former of course!
By the way, wheat starch is NOT wheat flour, NEITHER is it corn starch NOR potato starch NOR tapioca starch, please don't get it wrong! Wheat starch is a type of flour often used for making dim sum and is responsible for the translucent skin of shrimp dumplings (har kow). If you can't get wheat starch from the supermart, then I can only advise you to skip this recipe and try another one. It is apparently quite easily available in Belgium, I got mine from a chinese supermart in Antwerp Chinatown.
Some of you may wonder what are the differences between Hong Kong flour, cake flour and plain flour/all-purpose flour? Well, if I start discussing what are the differences in detail, this post will get very very lengthy. Just suffice to say that all these flours differ in their gluten levels. Cake flour is 6-8%, HK flour is 8-10%, plain flour or all purpose flour is 10-12% whereas bread flour is 12-14%.
HK flour (otherwise known as Water Lily flour 香港水仙面粉) is highly bleached. Why do you need to bleach the flour? Well, freshly-milled flour is unbleached and is yellowish naturally. Bleaching whitens the flour, breaks down the gluten level further and makes the flour softer, hence HK flour is most suitable for making asian dim sum especially this HK style of fluffy super-white char siew baos. You sometimes hear pau flour used interchangebly with HK flour. Well, pau flour is mostly synonymous with HK flour but if it is the premix type of pau flour, then it contains extra ingredients such as yeast. Cake flour is made from soft wheat flour and is also bleached most of the time. It has even lower gluten level than HK flour and is suitable for making cakes, biscuits and cookies with a tender and delicate structure. So if you wanna make super-white buns, whiter than the face of Michael Jackson, make sure you use HK flour, pau flour, or cake flour, because they are all bleached low-gluten flours.
I am very happy with the results of this recipe, it produced soft, smooth and fluffy char siew baos, surprisingly white with a very good texture and the texture was still as good even on the 2nd and 3rd day, just as long as you keep in the fridge and warm it up before eating. You can probably tell that I am a newbie at bao-making by just looking at the pleats of my buns, but I hope you can forgive me, I am still learning. Practice makes perfect. :)
Ok, I know I am very long-winded and you have already dozed off. So let's get started and get our hands dirty!
Hong Kong Style Smiling Char Siew Bao (港式叉烧包) (makes 16 buns)
(Fillings recipe is adapted from my char siew bao recipe)
250g char siew, chopped
1 onion or 2 shallots, chopped
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp light soya sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
150ml water + 1.5 tbsp corn starch
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp castor sugar
1-2 tbsp oil for frying
1. Heat up a wok and add in 1-2 tbsp oil for frying. Add in chopped onion or shallots, followed by chopped char siew, oyster sauce, light soya sauce and sesame oil. Season with salt and sugar.
2. Fry for 1-2 min, then add in the cornstarch solution and continue to stir until it thickens. Remove from heat and set the char siew aside to be cooled. Divide into 16 portions.
(Bao dough recipe is adapted from Lydia Teh of mykitch3n)
Ingredients (Bao Dough)
8 g or 2.5 tsp instant dry yeast (I used Bruggeman, belgian brand)
160 ml lukewarm water
0.5 tsp white vinegar or lemon juice (optional)
280 g Hong Kong flour or cake flour (I used cake flour)
100 g wheat starch
90 g icing sugar
30 g shortening or vegetable oil (I used shortening. Do not use peanut oil or olive oil if you are using vegetable oil)
10 g or 2 tsp baking powder
10 ml cold water
Method (Bao Dough)
1. Sift together HK flour/cake flour, wheat starch and icing sugar in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the middle.
2. Fill the well with lukewarm water, vinegar and yeast. Use a spatula, gently stir the water to dissolve the yeast then slowly bring together the flour mixture.
3. Add in shortening or vegetable oil and knead for 10-15 min until a soft smooth dough is formed. (I kneaded for 15 min using the dough mode of my bread machine. The end result should be a smooth non-stick dough.)
4. Cover dough with plastic clingwrap or damp kitchen towel and let it rise for 30 min or until doubled in size in a warm place. (I proofed my dough for 40 min.)
5. Dissolve baking powder in COLD water, sprinkle over dough and knead until well combined. There is no need to rest the dough after adding in baking powder, but if time allows, rest it for 10 min to get fluffier buns. (I used my hands to give the dough a thorough knead for 2 to 3 min. Note that the 2 tsp of baking powder fizzled and became foamy when dissolved in cold water. The baking powder became cakey and grainy and I had to add a few extra drops of cold water to dissolve it, just a few drops, don't add too much. The key is you have to keep stirring the baking powder solution, until the baking powder is fully dissolved, before you add it to the dough. If the baking powder failed to dissolve, either because you didn't stir well or you didn't knead well, then you would end up with yellow specks on your baos. Luckily for me, there were no yellow specks!)
6. Divide dough into 16 equal portions and flatten with a rolling pin to make a 12 cm circle, with the corner of the circle thinner than the centre. Place 1 heaped teaspoon of fillings in the centre, pleat it and seal it tightly, about 9 to 10 pleats per bun. (My dough was about 640 grams, after dividing by 16, each piece of dough was about 40 grams each. After wrapping up the fillings and steaming, each bao weighed about 65 grams! This dough was not sticky and very pliable, there was generally no need to flour the work surface. Note: If you would like to learn how to wrap a chinese bun, this video will teach you how.)
7. Place each bun on a 8 x 8 cm square piece of baking paper with the sealed side facing up. Cover with plastic clingwrap and let it rest and proof for about 15 min in a warm place. (I proofed mine for more than 15 min because I was too slow in pleating the buns, so some of them had been rested longer and hence risen higher than others.)
8. In the mean time, heat up a steamer in advance. After proofing for 15 min, arrange the buns into the steamer, leaving about 1-inch gap in between buns. Spray water mist over the buns and steam at HIGH heat for 12 min. (I did not spray the buns. I used an aluminium stacked steamer, and 14 buns were spread over 2 levels, and due to lack of space, 2 other buns were steamed separately in a wok.)
9. Remove buns from steamer and transfer them to a cooling rack to prevent soggy bottom. The buns are best eaten hot. When you need to eat one, just warm it up in a steamer for 5 min or in a microwave for about 1 min.
1. My char siew baos were very soft, smooth and fluffy, and quite whitish, not 100% white but pretty white for me. And they all broke into a nice smile just like the famous HK style char siew bao! I used a 8% gluten level cake flour from Thailand called Royal Fan Wheat Flour and I used Crisco shortening. If you want steamed white buns, you have to use both : bleached HK flour/cake flour and shortening. If either one is replaced, you will end up with yellowish buns.
2. You may replace shortening with vegetable oil, that will generally not affect the taste, but the buns will be yellowish.
3. If you don't have HK flour, pau flour or cake flour, here is an easy substitution from JoyofBaking. You may substitute cake flour with bleached all-purpose flour (note the word bleached), 1 cup of sifted cake flour (100 g) is equal to 3/4 cup (84 g) sifted bleached all-purpose flour plus 2 tbsp (15 g) corn starch. But if you use unbleached all-purpose flour, then your buns will be yellowish. If you use all-purpose flour without any corn starch added, the flour gluten level will not be low enough and the buns will not be as soft and fluffy, so it is not recommended.
4. Wheat starch is an important ingredient in this recipe, there is no substitution that I know of. So you don't have wheat starch, you would have to give this recipe a miss.
5. The steamer must be preheated and the water must be boiling before you put in the buns. Also do not open the lid when the buns are still steaming. When you open the lid, be careful that the condensation don't drip onto the steamed buns. You may cover the lid of the steamer by wrapping a tea towel around the lid to avoid condensation from dripping onto buns.
6. Lydia Teh advised to spray the bun surface with water mist so as to produce smooth buns after steaming, I didn't do that but my buns were still pretty smooth. She also advised to add a few drops of vinegar in the steaming water so as to produce whiter buns, I didn't do that so I am not sure how true that is.
7. If there are yellowish specks or spots on your steamed buns, and you are using HK flour/cake flour and shortening, that can only mean one thing, your baking powder is not fully dissolved. See my advice above in blue under step 5.
|Thanks to His Majesty for being my model for this photo. For once he didn't fidget!|
I am submitting this post to Aspiring Bakers #31 - Bao Ho-Chiak (May 2013) hosted by none other than myself, Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders. :)
This post has also been submitted to YeastSpotting.