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Super Easy Fool Proof Bao Buns Recipe

Super easy and fluffy homemade steamed bao buns. Bao buns are a steamed bread made without butter or eggs yielding a very light, soft, and airy texture. Since it has a delicate taste, it’s versatile accommodating almost any type of filling making it an easy addition to breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

white plate with four steamed Bao Buns filled with pork belly, cilantro, crushed peanuts, and pickled onions
Steamed Buns with Pork Belly

Why This Works

Steamed buns are very simple to make at home and are an excellent recipe to start with if you’re trying to get into baking because it doesn’t require much technique outside of mixing.

Useful Tips for the Perfect Bao Buns

What are Bao Buns?

Bao Buns also known as “gua bao” or “mantou” are a staple in Chinese cuisine. Bao buns are a steamed bread made without butter or eggs yielding a very light, soft, and airy texture. Since it has a delicate taste, it is versatile accommodating almost any type of filling making it an easy addition to breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This dough may be reshaped to make plain buns such as dinner rolls or scallion rolls. They may also be filled: ex. red bean buns, roasted pork buns (Cha Siu), Taiwanese black pepper buns, or pork buns.

How do I store Bao Buns?

Bao Buns are a very convenient bread to have around the house because it freezes easily and may be re-steamed whenever you are ready to use it!

a serving platter plated with four steamed bao buns

Tips

What is Yeast?

Yeast is a microorganism in the fungi family. It feeds off of carbohydrates such as flour and sugar and releases gases which causes fermentation. Yeast plays an important part in creating structure in bakes through the development of gluten and contributes to the texture of the final outcome.

What type of yeast do I need?

Yeast is available in fresh or dried form. Fresh blocks of yeast tend to be more expensive than dried and is more highly perishable. Fresh yeast tends to be used more by professionals in a bakery.

Opt for dried yeast that is stored in dark glass jars (found at the refrigerated section of the supermarket) because they are more reliable than the dry yeast in envelopes. The dark containers protect the yeast from the elements and extends its shelf life. Active dry yeast is available in regular or fast acting form. If a recipe does not specify which type of yeast is needed, use regular active dry yeast.

How do I use yeast?

The reason why most bakes fail is because the yeast that was used was no longer alive. Do not trust yeast that has been sitting in your pantry for a mysterious amount of time. Use yeast within 3 months of purchase after it is opened regardless of the date on the package. To test yeast, add 1 tsp of yeast into a small ramekin. Mix with 1 tbsp of lukewarm water no hotter than 115°F and sprinkle with a pinch of sugar. The yeast should react within 2-5 minutes. Visual cues of a yeast that is alive and usable is a prominent yeast aroma and the presence of foam or bubbles. Be careful not to overproof your yeast by getting it sit for too long as this can impact the rise of your dough and foster a strong yeast flavor.

white plate with four steamed Bao Buns filled with pork belly, cilantro, crushed peanuts, and pickled onions

Super Easy Bao Buns

Incredibly fluffy and soft homemade steamed bao buns (guabao)
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Proofing (up to) 1 hr 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr 50 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Asian, Chinese, Taiwanese
Servings 12 Buns

Ingredients
  

  • 300 g all purpose flour plus extra for dusting
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp dry milk powder
  • 1/4 fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp neutral oil plus extra for brushing
  • 140 g filtered water warm

Instructions
 

  • Prep | Cut 12 4×4 inch squares out of parchment paper.
  • Dough | Add flour, sugar, baking powder, milk powder, salt, active dry yeast, oil, and water into a bowl. Mix until crumbly. Firmly knead with one hand until smooth, 10 mins.
    If using a stand mixer, place the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment and mix on medium speed for 5 mins.
    Place the dough into the center of an extra large bowl lightly greased with oil, seal with plastic wrap or a lint free towel. Set in a draft free space like the oven, microwave, or book shelf. Proof until doubled, up to 1 hr and 30 minutes depending on your environment (e.g. wild yeast, humidity, temperature).
  • Shape Buns | Once the dough has proofed, dust the counter with a light coat of flour. Transfer the dough to the counter, then lightly dust the surface and rolling pin with another coat of flour. Using a dusted rolling pin, roll out until 1/4 inch thick.
    Using the lid of a mason jar, place the lid onto the flattened dough, press down firmly, and twist until released. Repeat until there are only scraps remaining. Reroll and repeat until all the dough has been used. Steam immediately to prevent the surface of the dough from drying and cracking.
  • Cook | Heat a large steamer at medium-high. Once the water starts boiling, place the buns lined with parchment paper onto the steamer, spacing them 2 inches apart. Steam the buns with the lid covered, 3-4 mins each batch. Eat plain or fill while they’re still warm. If you're using these later, freeze in a freezer safe bag and re-steam when ready for use.

Notes

When it comes to bread making, all the ingredients are serving a purpose so be sure not to make any substitutions.
Becareful not to roll the dough too thin or thick. If the dough is thicker than 1/4 inch thick, some parts will not cook evenly risking food safety. If the dough is too thin, the bun may burst after it is filled.
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