The Bread Baking Babes having been baking (or should I say steaming, this time?) again and this month it's Xiang Cong Hya Juan Bao! That's quite a mouthful if you don't know Chinese (I don't) but these are very pretty looking steamed buns made with dough that has both yeast and baking powder.
I remember saving a recipe, quite a few years ago, for some steamed Chinese lotus buns. Not only did I never get around to making them, I don't even know where that recipe disappeared to!
I have been joining the BBBs as a buddy for a little while now and thought I ought to try these ones too.
This month's recipe was chosen by Karen of Bake My Day from the Global Baker by Dean Brettschneider. He says,
"Everywhere you go in China you see people eating steam buns, also known as mantong Typically Chinese, a sweet bread is combined with a savoury filling, such as red bean paste and barbecued pork, but take care and avoid using too much filling or the bun will fall apart during the rising and steaming stage. The baking powder helps to open up the texture and gives a little tenderness to the eating quality of the buns. If you can, use imported Chinese flour from a specialist Asian food market or store".I used the same recipe, just converted measurements into cups and spoons! I also substituted a part of the all purpose flour with rice flour as I felt it would improve the texture of the buns, and upped the amounts of both yeast and baking powder to 1/2 tsp each.
It took me while to figure out the shaping procedure and I'm still not sure I've really got it right! I must mention it is indeed very important to keep the filling a bit on the lesser side, or else it will leak out.
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp butter, at room temperature
good pinch of salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
150 ml chilled water, placed in the refrigerator overnight
rice bran oil, for brushing on dough
40 g finely chopped spring onions or chives
25 g finely chopped red chillies ( I used chilli flakes/ crushed black pepper)
salt to taste
To make the dough, place all the ingredienst into a large mixing bowl and, using your hands, combine to form a very, very firm dough mass. Don't be tempted to add any water or the steam buns will be flat after steaming.
Place the dough on a work surface and, using your rolling pin, roll out to a thin strip, fold this in half and roll again. Repeat this 10-15 times with a 30 second rest in between each time. This is a way of mixing a very firm dough, the dough will start to become smooth and elastic as a result of the rolling process.
Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave in a warmish place (23-25C) for 15 minutes. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll out each piece to a 25cm square.
Brush the dough surface lightly with oil and sprinkle the chopped chives and chillies evenly over the dough. Season with salt.
Fold the dough in half and then cut into 2.5cm strips so that you end up with 10 folded strips. Stretch each strip and, starting at the folding edge, twist the two pieces of each strip over each other to form a rope.
Take the twisted rope and tie into a double knot, tucking the loose ends underneath. Place each bun with ends facing down on a lightly oiled steaming plate (idli trays are also excellent for this) and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Prove for approximately 30-45 minutes in a warm place.
Bring a wok or saucepan of water (or steamer) to the boil with a bamboo steamer sitting on top. Remove the bamboo steamer lid and place the buns on the paper in the steamer 3-4 cm apart to allow for expansion during steaming. Replace the steamer lid and steam for 20 minutes.
I used my idli tray, one bun in each depression, and the buns were perfect. Repeat until all the buns have been steamed and are firm to the touch.
This recipe makes 10 buns. Serve with a soya based sauce.
I made these twice, first using red chilli flakes to spice them up and the crushed black pepper the next time. These buns are a bit bland otherwise. They also are much better with a sauce or something to dip them into before eating.
I made a slightly spicy sweet and sour sauce with soya sauce, green chilli sauce, some tomato ketchup (yes, I did say ketchup!), a bit of smooth peanut butter and salt and sugar adjusted to taste. I just added a little water to adjust the consistency and cooked everything till it came to a boil.
We found them quite soft and a bit chewy. I did like them and was happy to finish off the ones no one wanted, though I won't say they were fantastic. My husband and daughter didn’t particularly like them.
Having said that, I think this was more because we are used to steamed food which is traditionally made from rice flour and very soft. These buns, on the other hand, were chewy and yet not like bread as we know it so perhaps they're more of an acquired taste.
So I would recommend you try them (perhaps half the recipe) and you might just like them.
These steamed buns are being YeastSpotted!