Chinese steamed buns is a main staple food in northern China and this Chinese sugar bun is a special member. Different traditional pork buns or buns, sugar is used as filling. Originally, when there is extra wrappers, people will use sugar as the filling. Then it is figured out that sugar buns are also excellent in taste. Besides the filling, those sugar buns are usually folded up as a triangle so it is also named as sugar triangle (糖三角) in Chinese.
I highly recommend beginner to try this sugar buns. They are so delicious and easy to make if one time proofing method is used. I have simplified the process maximumly so the whole make process can be quite easy and quick. You can enjoy those buns within 15 minutes of preparation and 1 hour in total. Comparing with two time proofing buns, this method is super good for commonly daily cooking.
A food flavor of the steamed buns comes from two parts, the well fermented dough and lovely filling. Sometimes, you will find the skin are not so smooth especially for beginners, which is mainly caused by the air inside the dough. It is ok to accept bumpy surface since it will not influence the taste very much. More kneading practice or longer kneading time can solve the problem. If you pursue a better looking, after divide the dough, knead the wrapper dough for another 1 or 2 minutes to remove the air bubbles. I will show the technique in the next bun video of black sesame buns. Portion re-kneading (second kneading) brings chewier texture and finer texture, but requires more time. If we skip the kneading process after dividing, the bun will be softer and fluffy with larger bubble holes inside. So it is all about the balancing of time and flavor. I get the comparison of the two versions
Cook’s note for wrappers
- I use a one time proofing method for the wrapper, which greatly save the time and make the buns more fluffy and less chewy. You can resort to a traditional Chinese pork bun or Chinese steamed buns method of two proofing method (二发法). By the way, the yeast is also increased so the buns can be well proofed within a short time. It is quite important to control the temperature and fresh fresh yeast if using one proofing method.
- In summer, you can use room temperature water, but warm water is quite necessary to activate the yeast in winter.
- I recommend the oven proofing method. Place the boiling hot water in oven to increase both the temperature and humidity. It is the best solution for proofing in cold days if you don't get a fermentation tank.
Note for the filling
- I use around 4 tablespoons of brown sugar with ¾ tablespoon of flour. The purpose of adding flour is to add some consistency so the filling won't run everywhere when eating.
- Then I place around 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds to enhance the flavor. You can use other nuts.
- The filling can be extremely hot after steamed. So be careful when eating.
To fold the special triangle, place the wrapper in hand and press one edges out(pinch half of the wrapper together) and then use both hand to press the wrapper to a basic triangle and then seal each side carefully.
Place the assembled buns in a lined steamer and set aside for proofing.
There are several tips for judging whether the buns are well fermented.
- Use your eye, the buns should be at least 1.5 time in size. Grow greatly and the pinched pleats will be weakened.
- Smell, the well fermented dough has a natural wheat aroma.
- Touch, if you slightly press the dough, it can return very quickly. You can feel it is fluffy.
Set up the steamer (both cold water and hot water can work ) and steam for 12 minutes after the water boils. Turn off the fire and rest for 5 minutes. I have shown how to check the buns before steaming. See, how sweet and lovely it is. The buns can be frozen after cooled down in air-tight bag.
Chinese Sugar Buns
For the sugar filling
- ¾ tbsp. flour
- 4 tbsp. brown sugar powder
- 1 tbsp. roasted sesame seeds
For the dough and wrapper
- 300 g all-purpose flour , around 2 cups
- 2 tsp. instant yeast around 3g
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 150 ml water , + 10ml more for adjusting
- 1 tbsp. vegetable cooking oil
- a small pinch of salt
To make the filling
- Mix brown sugar with flour and sesame seeds. Slightly crush to remove any bumps.
- Add flour, salt, sugar, vegetable cooking oil and water in a large bowl. The dough should be kneaded for 8 to 10 minutes until very smooth in surface and becomes white (because we only knead once). Shape the dough into a long log and divide into 10 portions.
- Place around ¾ tablespoons of filling in center. Assemble the dough as triangle. Rest the buns in room temperature for 1 hour (20 degree C in room temperature) until they are 1.5 times in size and can recovery very quickly if you press the skin. In winter days, I love to place them in an oven with a plate of hot boiling water at the bottom. This can speed up the proofing in cold weather.
- Set up the steamer with cold water and steam for 12 minutes. Then rest for another 5 minutes. Enjoy hot!
Great photos and recipe! My grandpa makes these all the time. Note: this recipe is already vegan; there's no need to use a different kind of sugar.
Thanks Mandy for your note. This is usually on my grandmother's menu too.
Actually, some companies use charcoal from bones to filter the sugar in the purification process. Sticking to unrefined sugar will avoid that pitfall.
Is it possible to use normal brown sugar? Not sure what this powdered type is and if I can find it in Germany... I would love to try this recipe after loving your mantou recipe a lot 🙂
You can use normal brown sugar of course. Just make sure the sugar is grounded. And thanks for loving the steamed bun recipe. Happy cooking ahead.
Finally tried this. By now I actually had some powdered brown sugar I found in a Chinese shop this summer. All I can say is these are so lovely as well!! I might take double or at least more filling next time but that's just personal preference. My family loved them too. I never came across this type when I stayed in Shenzhen somehow
It is not strange that you never found it in Shenzhen because I did not come across it too. Sugar buns are traditionally food from Northern China. But since I am a foodie and travel a lot within China, I make them at home.
I just had these at the Sichuan Cuisine Museum in Chengdu! Your recipe tastes just the same- delicious!
They are really so delicious,although made with very simple ingredient. I am glad that you love them.
What kind of flour fthat you use in sugar filling
All purpose flour.
How do I keep them best? I only have time to make it today, but I won’t be able to finish them. Please advice. Thank you!
Frozen in clean and air-tight bags and re-steam them for the next serving.
Mmmm... there used to be a noodle restaurant in Minnesota that would make a version of this with white sugar (with COVID reduced menus/staff, they aren't making right now), but we loved them so much. (Sometimes I think it was one of the big decisions when choosing where to eat!). Over the years I have tried to recreate and it was never the same. Until now. I swapped the brown sugar for white it worked! Same thick, sugary sauce. Thank you for this clever trick!
I know that sugar buns are quite comforting to someone. I love it very much too especially in colder days. I love the running texture of the brown sugar sauce and also the warm softness from the wrapper. Happy cooking and enjoy the lovely time.