Homemade Steamed Bao Buns

Homemade Steamed Bao Buns

Bao, bau, baozi, mantou, bakpoa, paoare, siopao, or humbow; you probably know them best as Steamed Buns or Boa Buns.  They’re those soft fluffy white pockets filled with a sweet or savory filling.

Baos or whatever you call them originated in Northern China where wheat instead of rice is widely grown.  They’ve been around for hundreds of years.  Legend has it that Baos originated during the Three Kingdom Period when a Chinese general needed to cross a raging river with his army.  To ensure safe crossing the people on the other side of the river demanded that the general sever the head of 50 men; instead the general used large meat filled dough balls which satisfied the demand.

Meat filled bao buns have always been a favorite in the Philippines where they are called Siopao, they’re also popular in Hawaii where they’re known as Manapua.  Both places have a large Chinese  population who introduced this delicacy many years ago.  In fact many countries with large Chinese communities have a version of this popular food.  Recently their popularity has increased worldwide.

Baos can be shaped into balls, as they were in the legend, or they can be folded like taco shells.  They can be filled with your favorite savory meats such as char siu or sweet roast pork, pork belly, and chicken curry; or they can be filled with sweets such as black bean paste, taro, or custard.

One of my favorite bao fillings is  Korean Fried Chicken, crispy fried chicken bites dipped in a sweet and spicy sauce garnished with fresh chopped cilantro, sliced onions, and cucumbers.

Click here for the Korean Fried Chicken recipe!

Another favorite filling is Boneless Kalbi Short Ribs, thin slices of beef short ribs marinated in a sweet and salty sauce.  Then grilled and garnished with fresh green onions and sesame seeds.

Click here for the Boneless Kalbi Short Ribs recipe! 

 

But first things first, before you can fill steamed buns you must make them.  To make homemade buns you will need a steamer, I use bamboo steamer baskets, but you can use whatever you have on hand.  Other than that making steamed buns are pretty easy using ingredients that are readily available if you don’t already have them in your kitchen.

So let’s make bao buns, then you can fill them with just about anything you desire.

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Bao Buns – Steamed Buns

Ingredients:

3 3/4 Cups flour

2 Tbs. Sugar

2 Tsp. Instant Yeast

3 Tbs. Milk

3/4 Warm water

3 Tbs. Butter – softened

1 Tbs. Olive Oil

Directions:

Mix together flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in the bowl of your standing mixer or a large bowl if kneading by hand.

Place warm water and milk in a separate bowl, stir in butter until it melts.

Using the dough hook of your mixer gradually stir liquid into flour mixtures.

Knead for 10 minutes either in your mixer or by hand.

Turn dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or towel.  Leave in a warm spot until dough doubles in size, about 2 hours.

Once dough has doubled in size turn out onto a floured surface.  Gently knead dough for a couple of minutes then cut into 20 pieces which you will roll into balls.

Roll each ball with a rolling pin into an oval shape about 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″.

Place on parchment paper while  you roll the rest of the balls.

Brush dough ovals with olive oil.

Place a chopstick in the middle of the dough oval and fold over.  It should now be shaped like a taco shell with a space in the fold where the chopstick is.  The oiled surface should be inside of the fold.

Slip chopstick out, place on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper, and fold the rest of the ovals.

Cover pan with plastic wrap or towel making sure plastic doesn’t touch the dough as it will stick.

Leave to rise for another hour.

When dough has risen bring water in large pot or wok to a boil.  Place about 3-4 buns into a steamer basket and steam for 10 minutes.

Remove steamed buns from steamer basket and keep it on a plate in the oven to keep warm.

Fill and serve!


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Cheesy Ensaymada – Filipino Brioche

Cheesy Ensaymada – Filipino Brioche

Ensaymada is one of my favorite Filipino treats.  It has been a popular Filipino roll for over 4 centuries ever since it was adapted from the Spanish pastry called Ensaimada which originated is Mallorca, Spain.

There or many versions of this Filipino roll which like a brioche is sweet and fluffy.  Many bakeries specialize in this yummy pastry, a couple of my favorites are Goldilocks and Red Ribbon.  Unlike the brioche which has no topping Ensaymadas are slathered in butter, dipped in sugar and sprinkled with cheese, in many cases “queso de bola” the Filipino name for Edam.

Since it’s a family favorite it’s no wonder that the aunties have their own favorite recipe.  In fact there are one or two aunties who are known for making Ensaymada, a treat which they bring to most family gatherings.

But one can’t rely on the aunties to make this favorite roll, specially since we all live so far apart.  That’s why I’ve started making Ensaymada at home, using auntie’s recipe of course!

The ensaymada dough is rolled and placed into tart pans, it’s the best way to ensure uniform size and shape.  I use these 5″ aluminum tart pans I buy from Amazon.  I’ve found it was the least expensive way to buy them.  And of course being Asian I wash and reuse them!

If I can’t find Edam cheese I use grated cheddar cheese instead.  The other ingredients are things you probably already have in the pantry and fridge.  It also calls for a dozen egg yolks, I know you’re left trying to figure out what to do with the egg whites!  How about making Pavlovas?  Here’s my Pavlova recipe, it’s definitely worth a try!

The Ensaymada recipe is pretty easy, but it does take several hours because the dough has to rise.  I usually start early in the morning and am done sometime in the afternoon, depending on how fast the dough rises.  I use the dough hook on my stand mixer to knead the dough, but you can also knead it by hand.

Homemade Ensaymada may take time and patience, but it is definitely worth the effort!

Cheesy Ensaymada

Ingredients:

1 Cup Warm Water

2 Tbs. Sugar

2 Tbs. Yeast

8 Cups Flour

1 1/2 Cup Whole Milk

1 Cup Sugar

12 Egg Yolks

1 Cup Butter softened

24 Tsp. Grated Edam

Topping:

1 Stick Butter softened

1/2 Cup Sugar

Grated Edam

Directions:

Mix Warm Water, 2 Tbs. sugar, and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer or a large bowl.

Let stand in a warm place for 20 minutes, it should be foamy.

Add 1 Cup of flour to yeast mixture and mix well.

Let stand in a warm place for 30 minutes, set your timer so it doesn’t over rise.

Add milk, 1 cup sugar, egg yolks, and butter to the yeast mixture, mix well.

Add remaining 7 cups of flour 1/2 cup at a time.  Mix well between additions.

Knead dough until flour is all combined, do not over knead.

Divide dough into 24 balls working 1 tsp. cheese into each ball.

Flatten each ball with a rolling pin to about 1/2″ thick then roll into a cigar shape that’s about 10″ long rope.

Coil rope into each tart pan.

Place in a warm place and let rise for 3-4 hour.  Top of roll will be above tart pan rim.

Pre-heat over to 325 degrees. Once it reaches temperature wait 10 minutes then put ensaymada in the over.  (I place tart pans on a large baking sheet and slide the whole sheet in the oven.

Bake 7 Minutes then rotate pan 180 degrees and bake for another 7 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool.

Remove from pans and brush tops with softened butter.

Dip each roll in sugar then sprinkle with shredded cheese.

Wrap each roll in plastic wrap.

Rolls may be frozen by placing wrapped rolls in a freezer bag.  Warm frozen rolls in microwave for about 1 minute.

They are delicious for breakfast!


Cheesy Ensaymada - Filipino Brioche
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Meat Filled Piroshki

Meat Filled Piroshki

For years now I usually write about travel on my Wednesday articles.  Lately due to the worldwide Pandemic travel has become difficult and many times ill advised.

Many of us have chosen to stay home this summer perhaps planning our next trip whenever we feel safe enough to venture further away from home.  In our case I’m not really sure when that will be, specially since cruising is one of our favorite vacation travel.  Sadly the cruising industry has canceled cruises thru September and will likely cancel cruises thru fall and possibly the rest of the year.

Yes we’re sad and even restless.  We haven’t been able to visit our daughter and her family in Italy since last fall.  And yes we miss traveling.  That’s why I’ve been trying to bring a little bit of our travels in to our home.  What better way to “re-live” some of our favorite vacation spots than thru food.  I’ve decided to share some of our favorite cuisine which we discovered during our travels.  Because isn’t food a big part of traveling anyway?

So for the next little while on my Wednesday post I’ll share a recipe for a favorite food we discovered during our travels.  I hope it will inspire you to try something different and maybe make plans to visit one of the countries!

Today I’ll share this Piroshki recipe.  Piroshkis are very similar to American meat pies, British Pasties, Middle Eastern Fatayer,  and even Empanadas from Mexico, Spain, and other Latin countries.

Piroshkis are a popular street or comfort food in Russia and the Ukraine.  They’re fried or baked oblong buns (I prefer the fried) filled with a variety of fillings including beef, chicken, pork, mushrooms, and cheese.  In Russia they’re considered a main course when eaten with a soup or salad.  It’s often served with sour cream.

Today I’ll share a recipe for Beef or Chicken filled Piroshkis.  They’re not too difficult to make and if you’re not used to working with yeast breads this is a fine recipe to start with as it’s fairly simple.

Meat Filled Piroshkis

Ingredients for the dough:

4 cups flour

1 Tsp. Active dry yeast

1/4 Cup warm water

1 Cup Milk

3 Eggs

1/2 Cup Olive Oil

2 Tbs. Sugar

1 Tsp. Salt

Filling Ingredients:

1 Lb. Ground Beef, Turkey, or Chicken

1 Large Onion very finely chopped

1/2 Cup Mushrooms very finely chopped

1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese

1 Tsp. Salt

1 Tsp. Pepper

2 Tbs. Fresh Dill

1 Tsp. Dried Dill

1 Tbs. Fresh Garlic – minced

Oil for frying

Directions:

First prepare dough as follows:

Dissolve yeast in the warm water and place in a warm place until it’s frothy – about 10 minutes.

In a medium saucepan on low heat pour in milk and let warm up.

Whisk in the eggs, oil, sugar, and salt.  This mixture will be warm and lumpy.

Remove from heat.

Place 1/2 of flour in bowl of stand mixer (or large bowl if mixing by hand).  Using the dough hook gradually stir in the milk mixture until fully combined.

Alternately add yeast mixture and rest of the flour, be sure you mix well between additions.

Mix well.

Knead until the dough forms a ball and does not stick to sides of bowl.  You may have to add some more flour (1 Tbs. spoon at a time) to get the dough to the proper consistency.

Cover with a cloth and set aside in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size. About 1-2 hours.

Meanwhile mix all the filling ingredients together in a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

When dough has doubled in size place the ball into a lightly floured surface.

Pinch of pieces of dough to form a ball about 2″.

Flatten dough and using a rolling pin roll each ball into disks about 4″ in diameter.

Place a heaping Tbs. of filling in the center of dough.  Form filling into a line across the diameter.  Fold dough over meat and pinch both ends to seal.

Place filled piroshki on to a sheet with the seam side down and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.

Heat enough oil in a pan deep enough so that the piroshkis will be at least halfway immersed in oil.

Place piroshki in hot oil seam side down.  Fry until golden brown.

Gently flip over and fry other side.

Drain cooked piroshki on paper towels before serving.

Meat Filled Piroshki
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Pretzel Bites

Pretzel Bites

I love pretzels in any shape or form, what I’m not too thrilled about is the price of pretzels at the mall or the re-heated frozen pretzels they sell for a ridiculous price at the movie theaters.  That’s why I’ve been making my own pretzels for the past year or so.

In the beginning I thought pretzels were really hard to make at home.  The Alkaline Water Bath that gives pretzels that unique pretzel flavor and signature chewy crust seemed daunting.  So to avoid a procedure I thought would be messy and difficult I first made pretzels that didn’t require this dipping process.  Those pretzels were very good and seriously really easy to make!  Instead of the Alkaline Water Bath these pretzels were brushed with egg wash which gave them a shiny surface.  Click here for that no bath basic pretzel recipe!

My family really loves those pretzels which I switch up with different flavors including a Cheesy Garlic Pretzel and a cinnamon sugar one. But delicious as they are they lack that true pretzel texture and flavor.  So I decided what the heck, let me try to make “real” pretzels.  I didn’t want to be too ambitious, I seriously thought the bath dip was very difficult, so I figured I’d start with Pretzel Bites.  Dipping small pieces of dough had to be easier and less messy than dipping and entire pretzel!

Once I got the Alkaline Water Bath going, which by the way is just a fancy name for a Baking Soda dip, I discovered this step was pretty easy.  And believe me the end results were so worth the extra effort!  The Pretzel Bites turned out EXACTLY like the ones sold at the mall!  My homemade Pretzel Bites had the same flavor and texture; they’re crust has a bit of crunch when you bite it yet it’s chewy too.  In short they were perfect.  My grandsons love them!

So next time you have a yen for Pretzel Bites don’t run to the mall just whip up a batch at home!  Believe me you won’t regret it.  Here’s the recipe!

Pretzel Bites

Ingredients:

2 1/2 Cups Flour

1 1/2 Tsp. Yeast

1/2 Tsp Salt

1 Tbs. Butter, melted

2 Tsp. Brown Sugar

1 Cup Warm Water

Kosher or Coarse Salt for the topping

2/3 cup Baking Soda in 10 Cups water for the Bath

Directions:

Mix together flour, yeast, 1 Tbs. of the melted butter, brown sugar, and water. If using a stand mixer use the dough hook attachment to mix.

Once the ingredients are well combined knead with dough hook for about 5 minutes or by hand for 12 minutes.

Dough should be very soft and smooth but not sticky.  If too sticky add more flour 1 Tbs. at a time until it’s no longer sticky.  If the dough is too dry add more warm water 1 Tbs. at a time until it’s soft and smooth.

Move dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a cloth or plastic wrap.  Let rise until it’s doubled in size, about 30-60 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine baking soda and water for the bath in a large pot and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile punch down dough and divide into 10 equal pieces.

Let rest for 5 minutes uncovered.

Roll each piece into long rope on a lightly floured surface.

Cut each rope into 1″ pieces.

Drop pieces into boiling baking soda bath 2-3 pieces at a time.  make sure they aren’t crowded together or at sticking to each other.

Let dough sit in the baking soda bath until they float.

Remove each floating dough piece from baking soda bath and place on baking sheet about 1/2′ apart.

Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until they are golden brown.

Remove from oven and serve either by themselves (they’re delicious) or with your favorite dipping sauce like mustard, cheese, marinara sauce or ranch.

 

 

 

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Steamed Chicken Adobo Buns – Adobong Siopao

Steamed Chicken Adobo Buns – Adobong Siopao

siopaoThe steamed or baked asian bun.  What exactly is it.  Well Filipinos call it “Siopao”, in China it’s called a “Bao”, and in Hawaii we call it “Manapua”.  These names all refer to the same thing.  That soft spongy ball of dough filled with a variety of fillings like sweet char siu pork, chicken curry, Chinese sausage, or sweet black bean paste; then steamed or baked to perfection.

Siopao, Bao, Manapua, or whatever you want to call it is a family favorite.  It can be an appetizer, a snack, lunch, dinner, or dessert.  It all depends on what it’s filled with.  It’s the perfect picnic food.  Easy to pack and very easy to eat.  Don’t forget it’s delicious too!

In Hawaii and all over Asia these steamed or baked buns are sold out of food trucks, in restaurants, and even at neighborhood convenience stores like 7Eleven.  Everyone has their own favorite place where they’ll swear make the best buns.  In Hawaii my all time favorite is the Aiea Manapua & Snack Shop, this little hole in the wall joint  that has been serving the most amazing char sui and shoyu chicken manapuas for years.

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But in some places siopao or baos are not so easily found and there fore you may have to make it at home whenever you’ve got a yen for some.  Or sometimes you just want a unique filling that they don’t sell in the stores.  That’s why we have this tried and true Siopao recipe that we use to make homemade steamed buns.  In this recipe I will fill it with another Filipino favorite, chicken adobo.

You can use the my Chicken Adobo recipe just substitute boneless chicken thighs instead of bone in chicken parts.   Or you can fill it with Pork Adobo, it’s the same recipe as the chicken but uses pork butt instead of chicken.  Or you can fill it with your favorite meat or veggies.  Really the recipe for the bun is the same regardless of the filling you choose to use.  Click here for chicken adobo recipe.

So today I’m sharing the recipe for the steamed bun dough.  You can fill it with anything you want.

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Ingredients:

1/4 cup warm water

1 packet active dry yeast

2 tbs. sugar

1 1/2 cup warm water

1/2 cup sugar

4 1/2 – 5 cups flour

3 tbs. oil

1 1/2 tsp. salt

Directions:

Place the 1/4 cup warm water in a small bowl or measuring cup

Add dry yeast packet and 2 tbs. sugar

Do not stir just swish it around so the yeast is wet and the sugar disolves

Set aside for about 10 minutes or until it is frothy

Place the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl, but do not add all the flour.  Start with about 4 cups, you can add the remaining flour as you knead to get the correct dough consistency.  You may not need all the flour.

Add the activated yeast mix and mix well to form a medium soft dough.  Add remaining flour in small increments until you achieve the correct consistency.

Knead the dough by hand or with an electric mixer using the dough hook attachment.  Knead until the dough is very smooth and elastic.

Turn into and oiled mixing bowl.  Roll the dough in the bowl to cover with oil.

Cover with plastic film and leave to rise in a warm place until it doubles in size.

Punch out excess air and divide into about 24 balls.

Flatten each ball into a flat circle on a lightly floured surface.  Flatten dough to about 1/4″ thick.

siopaoPlace a heaping tablespoonful of filling in the center of the flat dough then draw edges towards the center and crimp or twist closed.

Place each ball on a small square of parchment paper, crimped side down and let rest until it doubles in size.

Be patient because properly risen dough will turn into light and fluffy buns!

When dough is properly risen steam each bun on high heat for 15 – 20 minutes.

Serve warm or cold.  Store left over buns in the fridge in zip lock bags.  To reheat either re-steam or cover with a damp paper towel and heat in the


siopao
Chicken Adobo Siopao
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Chicken Adobo Siopao
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Yeast Starter
Dough
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Instructions
Yeast Starter
  1. Place the 1/4 cup warm water in a small bowl or measuring cup Add dry yeast packet and 2 tbs. sugar Do not stir just swish it around so the yeast is wet and the sugar disolves Set aside for about 10 minutes or until it is frothy
Dough
  1. Place the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl, but do not add all the flour.  Start with about 4 cups, you can add the remaining flour as you knead to get the correct dough consistency.  You may not need all the flour. 
  2. Add the activated yeast mix and mix well to form a medium soft dough.  Add remaining flour in small increments until you achieve the correct consistency.
  3. Knead the dough by hand or with an electric mixer using the dough hook attachment.  Knead until the dough is very smooth and elastic.
  4. Turn into and oiled mixing bowl.  Roll the dough in the bowl to cover with oil.
  5. Cover with plastic film and leave to rise in a warm place until it doubles in size.
  6. Punch out excess air and divide into about 24 balls.
  7. Flatten each ball into a flat circle on a lightly floured surface.  Flatten dough to about 1/4" thick.
  8. Place a heaping tablespoonful of filling in the center of the flat dough then draw edges towards the center and crimp or twist closed.
  9. Place each ball on a small square of parchment paper, crimped side down and let rest until it doubles in size.
  10. Be patient because properly risen dough will turn into light and fluffy buns!
  11. When dough is properly risen steam each bun on high heat for 15 - 20 minutes.
  12. Serve warm or cold.  Store left over buns in the fridge in zip lock bags.  To reheat either re-steam or cover with a damp paper towel and heat in the 
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