Pillow soft bao bun with savory fillings can be super appealing. This Asian-style bao bun has enjoyed popularity across the world now.
I will show you a foolproof method of how to make perfect, smooth, and pillow-soft bao buns. Once mastered, you can use it to wrap anything you want, assembling both as savory or sweet buns.
Where do bao buns come from
It is believed that bao bun comes from Taiwan, where people add red braised pork belly inside to make a very famous Taiwanese dish- Gua Bao. Then bao bun has developed as a storm across the world.
In mainland China, these bao buns have already existed for quite a long time too. We call it a lotus leaf hamburger, similar to another Hamburg type from Shanxi cuisine.
We love to serve bao bun with different types of fillings, all stir-frying dishes and braised dishes can be filled inside.
Making bao buns at home
You may think it is difficult to make a perfect bao bun at home. However following my foolproofing method, the process can be super easy. We only need to proof the dough once. And there is just limited kneading needed for the whole process.
Once master the process, go ahead and explore some of your favorite fillings. We will introduce some fabulous filling ideas in the serving suggestion section.
Ingredients for fluffy bao buns
All-purpose flour (or you can mix with ⅓ of cake flour for an even fluffier texture).
Yeast will provide enough bubbles and make the bun fluffy and soft.
Cold water (or chilled water if the temperature is higher than 28 degrees C). Cold water can prevent the yeast from working before we finish the shaping process, thus giving the bao bun a smooth surface.
Oil can work as a moisture in the dough. You can use lard, which is the most classic Chinese method, butter or vegetable cooking oil.
Sugar, with the limited amount of sugar, you will taste no sweetness in the final bao bun but it can improve the capacity of yeast, making the bao bun more fluffier.
How to make bao bun at home
Making the dough
I suggest using a stander mixer for all single-proofing dough, not only because it can save you lots of time and energy, but also prevents the hand temperature from passing to the dough.
Mix yeast and sugar in water and let them melt for a while.
Pour the liquid into the flour. Knead for around 1 minute, add vegetable cooking, and continue kneading for 10 minutes.
Slightly dust the operating board, then shape the dough into 6 portions.
Knead each small piece for a couple of minutes until very smooth, and then roll out the wrapper into an oval shape.
Place a piece of parchment paper in the middle and fold the other half up to form a half-oval shape. The parchment paper will prevent them from sticky together.
Proof Bao buns
After assembling all the buns, place them in the lined steamer.
If you are not in a hurry, cover the steamer lid and let it proof until 1.5 times in size. Or you can place the steamer in an oven with a cup of hot water.
I will also recommend one of my proofing judging methods: we place a small piece of dough in a cup with room-temperature water. As the fermentation progresses, yeast in the dough produces bubbles, causing the dough to expand and become lighter. So when the proof is ready, the small testing dough will float on the surface.
Another method is to watch the size. It should be around 1.5 times the original size. It will takes around 40 minutes to 1 hour in 25 degree C room temperature.
Steam the buns
When the proof is dough, add cold water to a pot or wok. Place the steamer on. Make sure you begin with a high fire to bring the content to a boiling and then slow down the fire to the middle slow.
Steam for 13 minutes and then remove from the heat. Let it stand for another 5 minutes before assembly.
Although red braised pork belly is the most popular and common choice for bao buns, there are still lots of other interesting fillings.
- Mapo tofu- if you are a hot and spicy food lover, placing mapo tofu with bao buns is a brilliant idea.
- Shredded stir-fries or salad including moo shu pork, moo shu chicken, Beijing-style shredded pork.
- You can also use scrambled eggs.
How to store, reheat, and freeze
- If you make a larger batch, steam all of them first, then place them in the air-tight bag after cooling completely.
- You can keep those bao buns in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for 1 month.
- Re-steaming is the only recommended method to bring the pillow-soft texture back.
Fluffy Bao Buns
- 300 g all-purpose flour + 2 tbsp. more for dusting
- 1 and ½ teaspoon instant yeast
- 2 tbsp. sugar ,optional
- 150 g water or 20ml more if needed
- 1 tbsp. vegetable cooking oil
Basic dough for Bao Buns
- Add sugar and yeast to the water. Stir well and set aside for 5 minutes. If you do not want sugar, just skip it. Since we are using the single proofing method in this recipe, the key is not to activate the yeast before we finish the shaping process. So if your room temperature is higher than 18 degrees C. Use chilled water.
- Add the liquid to the flour in a stand mixer bowl. And we start to make the dough. (If you plan to hand-knead, pour the water with yeast slowly into the bowl with flour and stir with a chopstick).
- Knead for 1 minute at slow speed and then add oil. Then continue kneading for at least 10 minutes at slow speed until the dough is super smooth, elastic, and whiter in color.
- I recommend using a stand mixer for single-proofing dough, as the warmth from hands can raise the temperature of the dough, leading to premature fermentation and further case the failure of the smooth surface.
- If you don't have a stand mixer, wearing a plastic wrapper can stop the temperature from passing through the dough.
Divide the shape
- Slightly dust the operating board to avoid being sticky.
- Further, shape it into a long log. Try to make it as even as possible. Divide the log into 6 portions.
- Knead each small piece for a couple of minutes until very smooth, and then roll out the wrapper into an oval shape.
- Place a parchment paper in the middle and fold the other half up to form a half oval shape.
- Please the buns into a lined steamer. If it is warm, cover the lid and start the proofing process.
- If it is very cold, remove the lid, place it in an oven, and place it in a large cup of hot boiling water. Cover the lid of the oven and let it rise inside.
- It may take around 30 minutes to 1 hour for the proofing method. Check frequently until the buns are 1.5 times in size.
Steam the buns
- Use high fire first and then lower the fire after you see the vapor coming out from the lid. Steam for 13 minutes.
- Remember to let it stand for another 5 minutes before opening the lid. Here we are, super easy, simple, and fluffy steamed buns.