I love the texture of soft pillowy steamed buns. When we started the restaurant, we bought mantou for our “sliders”. We’d cut them with scissors to open them up and fill them. In time as more people started to want bao, we knew we needed to start making our own. It was a daunting task since the process of making them was so time consuming, but 7 years later I think we got it down to an art.
The recipe here is fairly large for a home kitchen, but these bao freeze well and you can pop them out whenever you need them. You also need enough dough for your mixer to get a good handle on. Now let’s get cooking!
For about 40 bao, you will need:
- 1300g all purpose flour
- 200g sugar
- 8g baking powder
- 5g baking soda
- 25g salt
- 35g instant yeast
- 60g vegetable oil
- 630g warm water
Now start by combining the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and instant yeast. Sift into your mixing bowl and get your mixer ready.
Start the mixer on low speed with the dough hook and add the water and oil. Knead for 15 minutes, or until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
After kneading, rub a little oil on the surface of the dough and let sit covered in a warm place for about an hour or until the dough doubles in size.
At this point, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll into a 1/4″ sheet. Most other recipes ask you to roll the dough into a snake, portion off 50g balls, roll the balls into flat circles and then roll again into ovals to fold.
All you need is a 3.5″ circle cutter or something similar and proceed to cut the circles out from the sheet. You can re-roll the scrap dough and cut more circles if you like. Once you have the circles, roll gently into ovals and fold in half.
Place the bao into your steamer on a sheet of parchment paper or steamer liners. Steam gently for 15 minutes. Once they’re done just set aside to completely cool before storing, or serve right from the steamer. Filling possibilities are endless. At the restaurant, we have a few feature fillings like braised 5-spice pork belly, Chicken karaage, and pulled pork.
So take this recipe, make it yours, and have fun in the kitchen.