Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Chinese red bean paste steamed bao (豆沙包)

I've already declared my love of Asian pastries multiple times. There is nothing in the world like walking into an Asian pastry store and smelling the wonderful aromas of fresh baos and other baked goods. I wish we had a pastry store around us, but alas, I am a good 2 hours away from the nearest one. I was craving some bao recently and did the next best thing - I made my own.

I was a bit skeptical about making these since it takes quite a skillful hand (not to mention a lot of patience) to make such beautiful pastries. I tried making a simple red bean bao with my first attempt and figured that I could just build my skills from there.

Lo and behold, these baos turned out really well. The exterior was perfectly fluffy and light like a bao should be, and the interior was filled with my favorite filling - red bean paste. Addie ate pretty much the entire batch of these bao and wanted to make another trip to the Chinese store so I could make her some more. The "skin" of these bao seems like it would be perfect for some savory bao as well - like a pork and cabbage filled one or ones with Chinese chives and shrimp.

I'm super excited about these bao and will try making a few other varieties this year. As you can see from my photo above, the skin on my bao was a bit too thin in some places. Be careful not to roll the dough out too thin or else it will break and cause your filling to leak out. And I hope you enjoy these bao as much as my family did.

Chinese red bean paste steamed bao (豆沙包)
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water, divided
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (if you have bao/ pao flour, use that instead; you can find it in your local Asian grocery store), divided
  • 1/2 cup self-rising flour*
  • 2 TBSP unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 can of sweetened red bean paste
* I did not have any self-rising flour, so this is the substitution I used: 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 2/3 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions
In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix together the yeast, 2 TBSP of the warm water, 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of the all-purpose flour. Mix well until no lumps remain. Allow the mixture to sit for up to 15 minutes or until frothy.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment (or in a large bowl if mixing by hand), whisk together the remaining all-purpose flour and self-rising flour (or the substitution if using). Add in the remaining warm water, sugar, the yeast mixture, and the melted butter. Mix on low to medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic. If mixing by hand, knead the dough for about 10 minutes until the dough is soft and smooth.

Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and allow it to rise in a warm spot for about 1 hour or until doubled.

Once the dough has doubled, punch it down and transfer it to a floured work surface. Knead the dough gently for about 2 minutes. Roll it out into a log and evenly divide it into 12 portions.

Roll 1 portion of the dough out into a ball and flatten it with the palm of your hand. Stretch the dough out with your fingers to form a circle, but make sure that the dough doesn't stretch out too thin or else your bao will break once steamed. Scoop about 1-2 TBSP of the red bean paste into the center of the dough. Gather the sides up into the middle and pinch to seal. Repeat with the 11 remaining dough pieces.

C out 12 pieces of wax paper squares (about 2x2 inches) and place them in your steamer. Place one bao on top of each piece of wax paper. Space them generously because the bao will expand after they have been steamed.

Steam the bao on high heat for at least 15 minutes. Serve warm. If the bao isn't going to be eaten immediately, they can be stored in the refrigerator (or even the freezer) and re-steamed or microwaved.

Yield: 12 steamed bao

Source: Smoky Wok

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