Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Steamed Bao

Here's the thing about being on an allergy free diet, especially to corn or to soy. Cannot eat out without a risk of getting a food allergy reaction. When I had cravings, oh boy, you betcha I wasn't in good company. One of many meals I missed when I couldn't eat out was dim sum. I luv the little dishes and the fun of picking out my favorite dishes. Of course, these little dishes definitely come with MSG and so many other ingredients I cannot pronounce. But I really wanted to eat the little dishes without getting Camden's sick. So for my 2012 New Year's resolution, I wanted to master the art of making dim sum.

After searching, scanning, and reading many dim sum recipes in cookbooks and on the internet, I came across a few recipes that looked promising. I highly recommend a cute children's book called Dim Sum for Everyone by Grace Lin. Check out the back of the cover and the back pages where there are drawings of ingredients and little dishes. For cookbooks, I highly recommend Dim Sum: The art of Chinese Tea Lunch by Ellen Leong Blonder. The ingredients are easy to find in Asian markets, and her instructions are easy to follow.

Of course, making the dim sum to eat at once was impossible. Too many techniques. Too many little dishes. I did it a few times, and it took a lot of planning. Did I master the art of making dim sum? Not even close. These little dishes are really difficult to master. BUT I did accomplish a few things like steaming bao buns. Since I already master the art of making bread (from my 2011 New Year's resolution), making bao buns is like boiling water. Yup, it's that easy.

Steamed bao is one of Brek's favorite homemade breads. When my mom came to live with us last year, I made steamed bao for dinner one night. Between steamed bao and chicken lunch meat, she was very impressed. She kept asking me how did I managed to pull these off. Well, I told her, I can pretty much bake and cook anything. It's the matter of researching the recipes and techniques, and taking the time to test the recipes.

Are you wonder what is the difference between the pizza dough and the bao dough? Baking powder and among other things. The ingredients are what make the difference texture in the steamed bao. So let's start measuring, mixing, and kneading the dough.

Steamed Bao
adapted from Dim Sum: The art of Chinese Tea Lunch by Ellen Leong Blonder
makes 15 buns (2 to 2.5 oz each)

Starter ingredients:
1 cup (8 oz) warm water (105° to 115°F)
2 teaspoons yeast (Red Star)
1/2 cup (2 oz) granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups (6 oz) all-purpose flour

Dough ingredients:
2 cups (8 oz) all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 Tablespoon (0.5 oz) coconut oil
1 Tablespoon (0.5 oz) rice vinegar
  1. To make a starter, mix all of the starter ingredients together in a large bowl. Set aside until the mixture is foamy, about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on a room temperature.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Whisk the oil and vinegar into the starter mixture.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the starter mixture.
  5. Knead the dough on the non-stick mat until it comes together, about 3-4 minutes. (See my pizza dough recipe's step 5 for the kneading technique.)
  6. Place the dough back into a bowl.
  7. Cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rises in a warm and draft-free place until double in size, about an hour. NOTE: I usually make the dough in the morning, then I'd let the dough sit at the room temperature until I am ready to make dinner. 
  8. In the meantime, cut out 15 one-inch square of parchment papers and set aside.
  9. When the dough is ready, punch it down and knead it for a minute.
  10. Divide the dough into 15 equal parts or using the kitchen scale, measure the dough to 2 to 2.5 ounce each.
  11. Shape each dough into a ball by continuously fold the side of the dough to the middle. Keep doing this step until the dough feels smooth on top.
  12. To steam the bao dough without a filling, place it on a parchment paper and place it in the steamer. NOTE: The steamed bao will double in size. Make sure the dough are about an inch apart when placing them in a steamer. 
  13. To steam the bao dough with a filling, flatting the dough with your finger, add the filling, then pinch the edges to seal. Place the dough seam side down on a parchment paper and place it in the steamer.
  14. Steam the dough for 12 minutes. NOTE: Start the clock when the steam is visible.  
  15. Serve the bao warm. Keep them in the steamer to keep warm. Store the leftover bao in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Reheat them using a steamer.
TIPS: You can pretty much use any steamer to steam the bao. I use the stacked steamer. For presentation, I place them in the bamboo steamer before serving. The stacked steamer can be purchased at the Asian grocery stores, and it is really inexpensive. I bought a medium-size steamer for about $30.

The possibilities to having different steamed bao versions are endless. Split the unfilled bao in half, then add any favorite filling, from deli meat to pulled pork, just like you would use with regular sandwich bread.

Allergy Info: The steamed bao is free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), nuts, and fish. Make the filling according to your allergy free diet.

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