Yesterday, in celebration of last week's Cheung Chau Bun Festival, we made our own lucky buns, Baozi, which are sweet Chinese steamed buns.
These bread buns are most often found with one of three different filings: red bean paste, lotus paste, or black sesame paste. They're easy to find at Asian grocery stores, and store bought ones need only to be steamed to be enjoyed. It's a quick and easy snack the girls enjoy, so we have bought a few and stored them in the freezer. The girls enjoyed these homemade ones so much, in fact preferred them to the store bought ones (Elle wants to make some every week...), I don't think we'll be buying many more.
We made these buns on a wet, foggy Nova Scotia day - not ideal conditions for making bread. I don't know much about the science of it (humidity? Moisture? Air pressure?), but I'm going to blame the weather for the fact that a recipe that claims to make 12 buns only made 8.
Most recipes call for Pao/Bao flour, which is a highly bleached flour, for those extra white buns. We used unbleached all purpose flour, which I read is interchangeable, except for the color of the finished buns. I was also on the fence about getting red food dye to draw on those Peace Chinese characters found on the buns at the festival, but since I am trying to diminish artificial coloring/flavoring in what we eat, I decided against it. My mind kept bouncing between the image of those gorgeous stamped buns we've seen pictures of, and the image of the girls biting into a bun to be left with red stained teeth, and the latter prevailed.
We didn't make our own filling (maybe some other day) since we still have quite a bit of black sesame paste left from when we made our Tang Yuan. You can find red bean paste, and lotus paste at Asian grocery stores.
Chinese Steamed Buns
1 1/2 tsp yeast
1/2 cup warm water, divided
1/4 cup sugar, divided
1 cup al l purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup pastry flour
1 tsp milk powder (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp butter, melted
Filling (we used black sesame paste)
12 squares of wax paper
Proof your yeast: Stir together yeast, 1 tsp sugar and 1 tsp all purpose flour. Pour 2 tbsp warm water over the yeast mixture. Let stand for 15 minutes until it's nice and frothy.
In the meantime, sift together the rest of the flour and sugar, as well as the pastry flour, milk powder, salt and baking powder. Add the yeast mixture, the rest of the warm water, and the melted butter. Stir together with a wooden spoon, and then start kneading. This dough needs to be kneaded for a good ten minutes, until it is smooth and no longer sticky. I didn't need to add extra flour, but it's a good idea to have some on hand in case you do.
Once the dough is smooth, put the ball of dough in a well oiled bowl, cover it with a towel, and put the bowl in a warm place. Let the dough rise for at least one hour or until it has doubled in size.
When the dough has doubled, gently punch it down, and knead it for another five minutes. Divide the dough in half and roll, then divide again into 12 (or in our case, 8). Flatten each piece of dough into a circle that fits into the palm of your hand (well it fit inside the palm of Pea's hand, who is much bigger than Elle). Place approximately 1 tsp of filling in the center of the dough, and pinch the edges up around it. Place edge side down on a square of wax paper.
Steaming: be sure to have the water on full boil before placing the buns in the steamer baskets, and steam for 15-20 minutes.
The girls loved these buns, and were so happy I let them eat two right before bed. They grabbed their buns, and we curled up on the couch to read
Chinese folk tales Harry Potter.
As for making a batch every week, that will depend on whether either of the girls are willing to do the necessary kneading.