So, one thing that happens when I watch too much Big Bang Theory is that I start craving Chinese food (or takeout in general, but usually Chinese). And one thing that's grown on me over the years is the idea of dumplings - steamed, fried, whatever. Samosas are great. So are bao. So, several months after our wedding, I decided to pull out the bamboo steamer we got and have a go at making bao.
Now, you can fill these with whatever you want. There's a specific kind of pork filling you can make, and it's delicious, but I went with what I had on hand: ground venison, and some leftover bison pot roast. It worked wonderfully. But, vegetarian is an option. Vegan is even an option, because the dough has no dairy or eggs.
The dough is an important starter. This was pretty much my first time working with yeast, so I was a bit nervous - but I'm hoping this will be a "gateway dough" into making more complex breads. Stay tuned!
To make the dough, combine the dry ingredients in one bowl, and in a measuring cup, combine the warm water with the yeast. Let the yeast sit for a minute or two to wake up and start doing its thing. Then mix the oil into the water and yeast, and pour that mixture into the dry ingredients ...
Stir until a loose sort of dough forms, then turn out onto a floured surface and knead a bit. Not too much, you don't want to make the dough tough. I'd say three to five turns is enough. (For those who have not kneaded dough before, here's the idea: you flatten the dough out by pressing away from yourself and fold it over. This makes it long and thin-ish, so you turn it a quarter turn, press away, and then fold it in half again. And so on. You can find a good video of it here.)
Then you put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl (put some oil on a paper towel and squish that around), then put the dough in a warmish place to rise for 35-45 minutes.
Look at that! But don't just sit around while the dough is rising. There are things to do. First! Question: how much scrubbing does it take to get dried bits of bao dough off a bamboo steamer? Answer: I have done this before, and determined that you do not want to know. So you will want to put cabbage leaves on the bottom of your steamer.
Place your dumplings in the steamer like so, only further apart (you'll see why in a moment). Put on the lid, place the steamer in a skillet with maybe a half an inch of water, turn the heat up to medium-high, and let the dumplings steam for about 8-10 minutes, and ...
(This is why I recommended you do less. As my second
shot through, this batch was for a house party. Thankfully,
they were all very laid back and so did not mind slightly
marred dumplings. I love my friends. In any case, if you
do this, it is NOT the end of the world - there may be holes on
the sides of some dumplings, but they will still taste to DIE for.)
Here's the dough recipe! It is from here, where you can find a recipe for the steamed pork as well. You will need:
- 1 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (about 14 2/3 ounces)
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment?