Growing up my mother and my grandmother made shortcut steamed buns. They purchased large packs of refrigerated Pillsbury biscuit dough. The filling was homemade, usually ground pork with various seasonings. I used to help by cutting sheets of college ruled lined notebook paper into little squares. I'm not sure about the toxicity of lined notebook paper. We all ended up fine...well perhaps just a little strange but none of us had notebook paper ink poisoning. I'm using parchment paper instead of the notebook paper. The buns do not stick to the parchment.
These buns vary from country to country. The Chinese versions are usually filled with char sui or roast pork. The Thai version is called salapao and made with rice instead of wheat flour. The filling takes on a different flavor. In the Phillipines it is called siopao and often filled with a chicken adobo or an asado type filling. My favorite is the Vietnamese version called banh bao. I like the flavor. I often find Chinese flavors a little too boring for my Xipsongpanna taste buds. A close second is the chicken version found at dim sum. These are smaller in size and the filling is made with chopped cooked chicken and dominated with ginger.
I ventured to duplicate the dim sum ginger chicken version this time around. I wanted to practice before attempting the Vietnamese version. (Plus I suspected the Vietnamese version used a type of flour or combination of flours that I did not have at home.) Even for these dim sum versions, I didn't have the bleached wheat flour. I only buy unbleached all purpose and unbleached bread flours. I had bleached cake flour but I wanted to stick with the recipe I found. The buns are not snow white in color. They have a slight yellow tint. They still tasted wonderful. I shaped them two different ways. The first is like a hostess snowball. The second is more traditional where the edges are gathered together at the peak. The are supposed to slighly come a part or "smile" and reveal part of the filling. The snowballs are easier to do. The traditional smile is hard to achieve but you get more fluffy dough at the top.
I looked at a few different recipes. I liked this one http://www.shesimmers.com/2009/02/plain-chinese-steamed-buns-sword-heroes.html but I wasn't sure about the tablespoon of yeast to less than two cups of flour. The yeast to flour ratio seems a bit high.
Dim Sum Ginger Chicken Steamed Buns
Makes 24 medium-sized buns
1 tablespoon yeast
1/4 cup baker's sugar
2/3 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup lukewarm water
4 1/2 cups bleached all purpose flour (unbleached is fine but the color will not be snow white)
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup baker's sugar
3 tablespoons butter, margarine, vegetable oil, lard or shortening
1. Make a sponge starter by mixing all sponge ingredients together. Let the mixture stand for 30 minutes.
2. Prepare 24 3"x3" pieces of parchment paper.
3. Once the sponge is ready, add to the mixing bowl the dough ingredients. Add to the mixture just enough lukewarm water for the dough to form a ball. Using a dough hook, knead dough about 8 minutes. Alternatively you can knead by hand. I usually aim for about 15 minutes when kneading by hand. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 1 hour.
4. While the dough is rising, hardboil six eggs and prepare the filling. (See below for instructions on making the filling.)
4. Cut small pieces of dough with a dough cutter or scissors. You can roll the dough into a log and cut it into 24 pieces but I like to live dangerously and cut off pieces. I ended up with different size buns but I didn't care too much. I wanted large and small buns.
5. Roll the dough into a five inch circle. Fill each circle with 1/4 slice of hardboiled egg, chicken filling, and two slices of chinese sausage. Place each bun on prepared parchment square.
6. Place on baking sheet and allow to rise in proofing box (aka oven with light on).
7. Allow buns to rise about 45 minutes. Prepare the steamer. Fill the bottom with water and bring to a boil. Place buns on the steamer tiers, leaving about 1 to 2 inches of room in between each bun. They will expand a bit. I have a smaller size two-tiered aluminum steamer. My mother and grandmother have larger ones. I can only fit four buns on each layer. I also have smaller bamboo steamers, a steamer insert for my pasta pot, and a steamer basket for my rice cooker. I get fairly good result with those steamers and I do use them when I need to steam most things. But my ideal steamer is the aluminum one. I only break it out for large steam jobs. This steamer has a domed lid so the water from the steam collects on the lid and then slides down the side. There are grooves on the perimeter of the steamer tray to collect the water. The water doesn't drip on your food. If you are using a regular without the high-tech moisture catcher system, you want to cover your buns with a damp towel. The towel will collect the condensation.
5. When the water comes to a boil, steam the buns for about 10 to 15 minutes. You will have to steam in batches. Check water level often. You don't want to burn the bottom layer.
I'm not completely satisfied with the filling. I think next time I will leave out the garlic, fish sauce and oyster sauce. I didn't measure any of the seasonings. I used two 1-pound bags of boneless skinless thighs from Costco. They are a little more expensive but so darn convenient.
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
Green onions, sliced
Hardboiled eggs, sliced
Chinese sausage sliced
1. Mix all of group 1 ingredients together and let marinate for about 3 minutes. Pour everything into a dutch oven and cook until chicken is no longer pink and liquid is absorbed.
2. Remove chicken pieces and dice.
3. Mix in group two ingredients.
All wrapped in saran wrap and ready for the freezer.