I went a little crazy with the bao today. Three varieties: char siu (BBQ "pork"), nai wong (coconut custard), and a 1/2 batch of mini bo lo (pineapple buns). This is an all day event, as there's quite a bit of waiting around for the sponge starter. Sponges allow for extra yeast fermentation and give the dough a distinct flavor; think like a very, very mild sourdough. I brought a bunch over to my parents for Father's Day.

Of the char siu, semi-whole wheat variety.

Dough recipe
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1 c. warm water + 1/2 c.
4 1/2 c. unbleached AP flour (can also substitute 1/2 with whole wheat pastry flour)
1/4 c. unrefined cane sugar
2 tbs. Earth Balance
canola oil

Start your sponge by stirring the yeast into 1 c. of warm water. Then add 1 c. of the flour and mix. Cover and set aside for 45 minutes to an hour.

About a half hour into your sponge, melt the EB and sugar into the 1/2 c. of water in a small saucepan. Set aside and let cool.

Once your sponge is ready, add it to the remaining flour and add the liquid mixture as well. Begin mixing with a silicone spatula, then use your hands when it starts to hold together. Knead the dough for about 8-10 minutes then form into a large, flattened ball. Lightly grease a large bowl and set your dough inside, then flip the dough over so it is lightly oiled on both side. Cover with plastic or a damp cloth until it doubles in size. This will take another hour or so. The dough is ready when it no longer springs back when you touch it. (Sometime during all this waiting, prepare your filling. Also, use this time to cut out 24 - 3x3" squares of parchment paper.)

Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and form into a long log. Cut the dough into 24 pieces.

Char siu-style TVP (makes 24 buns)
1 c. textured vegetable protein
1 1/2 c. warm water
1 green onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbs. soy sauce
1 tbs. vegetarian "oyster" sauce (mushroom-based)
1 tbs. hoisin sauce
1 tbs. agave nectar
1 tbs. arrowroot powder
4 tbs. water
1/4. tsp. sriracha (optional)
1 tbs. canola oil

Soak the TVP in the warm water for about 15 minutes, or until softened (it'll depend on the size of your TVP.) Drain and set aside. Mix the sauce ingredients (soy sauce through sriracha) thoroughly and set aside.

Saute the green onions and garlic in the canola oil for a few seconds, then add the TVP. Stir over med-high heat for 1-2 minutes, then add the sauce mixture. Keep stirring and cook for 2-3 minutes more to caramelize a little. Pour into a dish and let cool.

Perfect circles are for squares.

Roll out one of the dough pieces into a 3 1/2 - 4" disc, or just use your hands. Try to make the center thicker than the edges, which will help your filling stay in the center of the finished bun. Scoop about 2 tsp. of filling into the center. Pinch together 3 sides to form a triangle.

Then pinch each of the 3 corners down into a pinwheel-like pattern, and twist the center of the bun to secure it. Set your beautiful bun on a square of parchment and place on a cookie sheet. When you're done filling all your buns, cover the cookie sheet(s) with a piece of plastic or a damp cloth and let rise for another hour. These will expand A LOT while steaming, so don't fret if they look a little small.

Dessert time!

Coconut custard filling (makes 24 buns)
1 package aseptic tofu (extra firm)
1/2 c. unrefined cane sugar
1/4 c. coconut milk (don't be a wuss...use full fat)
1/4 c. soy milk
3 tbs. arrowroot powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. coconut extract
pinch of salt

couple drops of yellow coloring (optional)

Blend the tofu, sugar, and coconut milk until smooth. Dissolve the arrowroot into the soy milk. Dump everything into a saucepan and simmer (and whisk!) over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until thick and it no longer tastes starchy. Pour into a bowl and refrigerate until cold.

Roll out a piece of dough and fill, as above. This time, pull together opposite sides to form 4 corners, then pinch all 4 seams tightly. Tuck the corners together and place seam side down on a piece of parchment. Do the cookie sheet and rising thing described above.

To cook:

Bring whatever steamer set-up you have handy to a boil, then steam your bao for 10 minutes. I could fit 4-5 bao per batch. Remove the bao and set on a cooling rack just until it's cool enough to handle, then stuff it in your face.

Best enjoyed fresh, or steamed again for 5-7 minutes to heat. Or cheat and pop them in the microwave for about 30 seconds with a (barely) damp paper towel on top. They freeze really well. Just defrost and steam/microwave to heat.




jonimarie said...

this tutorial is fantastic. thanks.

sugarbeetthree said...

Wow! And you did pineapple buns, too! D00d, will you make everything that I can name from here on out? Make vegan Golden Phoenix Claws! C'mon, it'll be easy!
Actually, I'm very impressed. And proud of you, though I don't know you at all!
Nicely done.

mel said...

Thanks! The tarts are definitely on my list. Never been a big fan of feet, though.