Before our vegetarian experiment began, Nate and I decided to make some steamed pork buns known as baozi in China. We spent a day in our kitchen and were a little nervous as to how they would turn out since we’re obviously not Chinese and have never tried to make any authentic Chinese food before. But before I show you how we made them, let me give you a little back story as to why we love them so much.
Last year, Nate went to Beijing, China for a year to teach English with an organization called TIP. While he was there, he taught English to English teachers from all over China to help them perfect their pronunciation, grammar, spelling, etc. so it would be easier for them to teach their students back in their hometown. I had the fortunate opportunity to visit him in Beijing. Almost every morning we would stop by this sweet woman who sold baozi and jaozi and bought some for breakfast. This was one of my favorite meals in my time there and we were anxious to recreate it.
So to start making the baozi, we had to make the dough. When we began I realized I did not have enough all purpose flour, so I improvised and used one cup all purpose and the other whole wheat flour. This made them much more dense and nutty in flavor, but we were able to work in whole grains!
Once we combined the dry ingredients with the water and yeast mixture, we mixed the dough into a ball and then placed it into an oiled bowl.
The dough was left to rise for 3 hours. In the meantime, we went to play some frisbee golf. I will add that if you ever play with me, make sure you stand behind me to avoid possible decapitation!
We came home to find our dough had doubled in size and it was time to make the dumplings!
We divided out the dough and started forming several small discs with the dough. We then mixed the ground pork with all the seasonings, and began placing it in the center of the discs. The fun part was forming the dumplings, even though we were CLEARLY inexperienced!
Once we had made all the dumplings, we placed them in our steaming baskets. I was a little nervous that the meat would not cook all the way through, so I was standing by with my meat thermometer! (My foodservice classes came in handy!)
And…..the finished product! Not quite as good as what we had in Beijing, but good enough for us!
I found the recipe on TheKitchn. I hope you can also try it out sometime. I just love kitchen adventures!
Steamed Pork Buns (Baozi)
yields 16 buns
For the buns
1 tablespoon (1 packet) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water, plus additional as needed
4 cups all-purpose flour (I like White Lily)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the filling
8 ounces ground pork
1/4 cup finely chopped Chinese cabbage or bok choy
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sherry or rice wine
For the buns, in a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Allow to proof until bubbly and creamy, about 10 minutes.
Sift the flour, sugar, and baking powder into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Add the salt. Turn the mixer on low speed, and pour in the warm water-yeast mixture until the dough begins to form a ball. If it looks too dry, add more water, tablespoon by tablespoon, until it forms a ragged clump. Continue to knead on low speed for 5 to 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth, shiny, and springy to the touch.
(Alternately, you can do this by hand: Dribble the water into a large bowl holding the flour mixture, using one hand to slowly mix it in a circular direction. When it forms the ragged clump, turn the dough out onto a floured countertop and knead by hand until the dough is smooth and shiny.)
Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl, flipping the dough to coat it in oil, and cover with plastic wrap. Store the bowl in a warm, draft free place until it doubles in size, approximately 2 to 3 hours.
Prepare the filling (recipe below). Cut 16 squares (approximately 3-inches each) of wax or parchment paper. Spray each square with cooking oil.
Punch the dough down, then divide in half. Roll each half into a rectangular log. Using a pastry cutter, slice each log into 8 pieces. Roll a slice into a ball, then shape it into a thin, flat disc (like a pancake). Try to keep the center of the disc thicker than the edges. (Once steamed, this keeps the bun from being too doughy on one side and too thin on the other.)
Spoon a dollop of filling into the center of the disc. Pull the edges up around the filling and pinch together to form a bun. Place the bun on a square of parchment paper and cover with a towel. Continue this process with the rest of the dough until all of the buns are filled. Allow the buns to rest for 20 – 30 minutes.
To cook, prepare the steamer basket. Working in batches, position filled buns (each still on its parchment square!) into the steamer, allowing room on all sides. (The cooked buns will be up to 50 percent larger.) I placed the buns seam-side down so they would have a smooth, round top.
Steam the buns for 15 minutes, then remove the pan and basket from the heat. Let sit for 5 minutes before removing the lid. Remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the buns and serve immediately. To reheat heat buns (they will keep for a few days in the refrigerator), pop in the microwave for 30 seconds or re-steam.
For the filling, combine the pork, cabbage, scallions, soy, sesame oil, and sherry in a large bowl. Set aside.