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!
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.
What are Bao Buns?
Plain steamed buns (baozi, mantou) are a type of bread that is airy, fluffy, and subtly sweet adding a beautiful balance to savory or sweet fillings. Unlike standard bread, it is made without eggs or butter and is steamed instead of baked. Buns with fillings are most commonly made round with a dough that is made from bleached flour, yeast, sugar, and water. They have a fluffy and slightly chewy texture and can be filled with a variety of fillings such as pork, chicken, vegetables, and sweet bean paste. Another type of bun with fillings is the “taco-shaped” bun that we are using here. These buns are typically made by shaping the dough into a flattened oblong shape and then folded to form a taco-like shape. They are designed to be filled with cooked meat after cooking, unlike baos (baozi) which are typically filled with raw meat before steaming.
Where can I buy bao buns?
Bao buns are readily available at Chinese grocery stores or through online Chinese food grocery apps, usually in the frozen section. To make them at home, refer to my Bao Buns recipe. Keep in mind, homemade buns made with all-purpose flour may not look as white as store-bought buns which use bleached all-purpose flour. When buying store-bought bao buns, select ones that are not frozen clumped together for easier handling and neater presentation. They may be labeled as guabao, gwa pao, butterfly bao bun, bao bun, Taiwanese hamburger, or steamed sandwich buns.
Can I substitute out bao buns?
Peking Duck Wraps (Mandarin pancakes, Peking pancakes) are a traditional Chinese ingredient that are often served alongside Peking duck but can also be used as a substitute for bao buns. They are thin, pliable wheat-flour pancakes that may be used like a burrito. The pancakes are soft and slightly chewy and are not as calorie/carb dense as bao buns.
How do I store fresh 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!
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.
Super Easy Bao Buns
- 280 g all purpose flour plus extra for dusting
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 190 g whole milk chilled
- Prep | Cut 10 4×4 inch squares out of parchment paper.Set up a steamer over the stove and add water according to the type of pan you're using. For metal steamers or steamer baskets, typically, 1 cup of water is sufficient. However, if you're using a larger pan or a bamboo steamer, you may need to adjust and add more water. Ensure the water level is below the wire of the steamer basket, colander, or wire rack, so it doesn't touch the buns during steaming, which could make them soggy.
- Dough | Mix together chilled milk and yeast. Add the flour and stir with a spatula until the mixture becomes clumpy. Use your hands to knead the dough for about 12-15 mins. If you’re using a stand mixer with a dough hook, mix for 6 mins. Initially, the dough may feel sticky, but as you knead, it should become smooth. Cover the dough ball with plastic wrap or a lint-free towel and let it rest until doubled in size, 1 to 1.5 hours.
- Shape Buns | Transfer the dough ball from the bowl to a clean, lightly floured counter.Roll the dough ball into an oval shape. Fold the top half of the oval into the middle and gently press down to seal it. Next, fold the bottom half of the oval into the middle as well. Pinch together the opposite edges to form a ball. Roll out the dough ball and repeat the folding process two more times. Roll out the dough one final time until it is about 1/4 inch thick.To shape the bao buns, use the lid of a mason jar. Place the lid onto the flattened dough, press down firmly, and then twist until the lid releases from the dough. Repeat this step until there are no more scraps left.
- Cook | Arrange the buns on pieces of parchment paper, leaving about 2 inches of space between each bun, and place them in the steamer.Cover the steamer with the lid and steam the buns over low heat for approximately 8 minutes per batch.Enjoy as they are, or if preferred, fill them while they're still warm with your desired fillings. If you plan to make the buns ahead of time, store them in a freezer-safe ziplock bag or an airtight container. When you're ready to use them, simply re-steam the frozen buns until heated through.If you've tried this recipe, please let me know what you think in the comments below! Your feedback is greatly appreciated and it helps me improve my recipes for future cooking adventures. And if you enjoyed it, don't forget to give it a thumbs up or share it with your friends! You can help my channel by tagging @vocabularyoffood in your cooks. ۶(◠ 。◠)۶