How to Make Soft Fluffy Asian Steamed Buns Every Time – You can now make soft fluffy Asian Steamed Buns at your very own kitchen and important tips you need to know to make ultra smooth steamed buns.
CHINESE STEAMED BUNS
Soft and fluffy steamed buns are favorite and well-loved food by many across Asia. The steamed buns can be filled with nothing (plain), sweet or savory filling. Before I started cooking at the kitchen, making steamed bao was never on my list. I could easily go out and got as many as I wanted. I can get soft fluffy steamed bao zi here in Minnesota too, but making them has been on the list for the longest time since I started this food blog and I finally decided to hop on it!
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WHAT MAKES SOFT AND FLUFFY STEAMED BUNS?
1. The flour you use
*Update 12/11/18*: I prefer to use cake flour instead of combination of all-purpose and cornstarch. The bleached cake flour gives a whiter steamed buns while the unbleached cake flour gives slightly yellowish buns, but equally delicious.
The recipe calls for all-purpose flour. All-purpose flour has a moderate amount of gluten in the flour, typically 9-12% depending on the brand. I’ve tested several different brands, and I like Gold Medal all-purpose flour the best for making Asian steamed buns.
Adding cornstarch really improve the texture of the buns. It makes it softer compare to only using all-purpose flour alone.
Like in many cases, the oil helps to make the dough soft and not dried out (sort of like a moisturizer)
The yeast helps to leaven the bao. I used to add baking powder to the recipe too, but I found that the texture of the buns are too spongey and I prefer soft fluffy texture
I remember back in my grandma days when stand mixer or bread maker wasn’t available yet, the big bulk of the task of making soft fluffy and smooth steamed buns lie on the kneading the dough. Lots of kneading! If you have a stand mixer to knead the dough for you, then that’s really good!
The proofing part is the part where you have to wait. The first proofing in this recipe is to let the yeast to do its work by fermentation and leavening the bread. The second proofing is to punch out most of the air created by first fermentation and also to let the yeast does its work again. This will help the steamed buns to hold its structure later.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT HOMEMADE STEAMED BUNS
I have made steamed buns for A LOT in the past few months and I’ve learned from some of the flops to share with you and hopefully you don’t have to go through the same.
1. WHY DO HOMEMADE STEAMED BUNS ARE YELLOWISH IN COLOR?
This is the question I was asked often when it comes to making steamed buns at home. If you use the premixed steamed buns flour that you bought from the store, the result usually is white in color. The answer is because of the flour. The flour has been treated or bleached to give you that white result. I usually use unbleached all-purpose (moderate gluten flour). You can use bleached flour for whiter result. Kneading and using milk also help to whiten the steamed buns
2. DOES ADD VINEGAR TO THE STEAMING WATER HELP TO WHITEN THE STEAMED BUNS?
I tried that before several times and the answer is No. I thought it would work some magic, but it didn’t happen.
3. DO WHITE STEAMED BUNS TASTE BETTER?
Not necessarily. Don’t let the color fools you. Just because you produce some yellow buns, they can still be soft, fluffy and delicious! The color doesn’t really affect the taste.
4. MY STEAMED BUNS COLLAPSE OR COME OUT WRINKLY
Yes, overproofing is a problem too. When you let it proof for too long, it will weaken the dough and when you steam it, it will collapse and cause that wrinkle and the buns will spread to the side making them look wide and flat.
-Air bubbles and not shaping them smooth
Make sure you push all the air bubbles out after the first rise. Re-knead the though few times and then shape the buns. Make sure the surface of the buns are smooth or they will come out well..not smooth after steaming.
-Sudden change in temperature
This is less likely the cause for severe wrinkles on the steamed buns, but the sudden change in temperature may sometimes cause the steamed buns to retract and sometimes even collapse and shrink causing the wrinkles once they cool down completely. Let them stay in the steamer for 1-2 minutes after you turn off the steamer.
-Another culprit usually is the filling inside the buns. Too much moisture in the filling will make the bun wrinkles and collapse too.
WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT FROM THIS SOFT FLUFFY ASIAN STEAMED BUN RECIPE?
1. If you stick to the instructions, you should be able to recreate these soft fluffy steamed buns at home every time. The recipe is pretty foolproofed
2. The steamed buns are soft, fluffy, and also slightly chewy, which I like
3. This recipe can be used for other typed of steamed buns that are filled with savory or sweet fillings such as these:
PANDAN LIU SHA BAO (SALTED EGG YOLKS CUSTARD PANDAN STEAMED BUNS), STEAMED PORK SCALLION BUNS, PAN-FRIED PORK AND CHIVES BUNS. Just to mention a few!
So, yes you can still make soft fluffy steamed bao buns without any premixed flour and with just a few basic ingredients you probably already have at home! They won’t be as white as the ones in dim sum restaurants, but you won’t be disappointed either!
*I’ve updated this recipe again after 4 days in a row of making steamed buns 🙂 and I really like this version the best so far*
How to Make Soft Fluffy Asian Steamed Buns Every Time (Bao Zi)
You can now make soft fluffy Asian Steamed Buns at your very own kitchen and important tips you need to know to make ultra smooth steamed buns
Place 1 tsp sugar, yeast, and warm milk in a bowl. Give it a stir and let it sit for 10 minutes to activate the yeast. In another bowl, mix flour and the rest of the sugar
Pour the yeast mixture into the dry ingredients. Add cooking oil
Use a dough attachment hook and start kneading the dough until it forms a smooth non-sticky dough, about 2 minutes. If you are kneading by hands, you need to knead for around 10 minutes until the dough is really smooth and no longer sticky. The kneading part is very important in yielding that smooth steamed buns
1 st proofing:
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl to let it rest for about 30-45 minutes in a warm place (about 85-90 F is perfect) or a bit longer in the winter time. It may double in size or close to double in size
If you press down with your finger, the dough will stay depressed
You can even see those webs forming when you pull on the dough
After that, punch the dough down to release any air bubbles and then fold and knead the dough several times and then reshape the dough back into a smooth dough ball. Make sure you get all the air bubbles out
Shaping into round buns:
Dust your working area with some flour. Cut the dough into two
Keep the other one cover while working on one at a time. Roll the dough into a log
Cut into 8 equal portions. Shape it into balls by pulling and tucking the dough underneath to give you a smooth surface. Make sure the surface is smooth or your buns will not be smooth after steaming. Place on a plate or bamboo basket lined with parchment paper
Repeat with another dough. You will get 16 buns in total
Shaping into mantou:
Same with the above steps where you divide the dough into two and work with one at a time. Roll the dough into flat rectangle about 10 x 8 inches. Just an approximate
Roll from the long end near you to the other end
Cut into an equal portion of 8 pieces. Repeat with another dough
2nd proofing (DO NOT SKIP THIS PART) :
Prepare your steamer. Wrap the lid of your steamer (like wrapping a gift basically) with a clean kitchen towel and secure with rubber band/ string or whatever you have on the top. This is to prevent the condensation from the steam drops back to your bao and this will create "burn spots" later. When I steam with a bamboo basket, the condensation is not a problem and I don't have to wrap the lid with a cloth
Place the shaped buns in a large tray cover with lightly damped kitchen towel. They will expand when being steamed. Let them proof for 30 minutes or when you gently press the side of the bun, the indentation stays, you know it's done proofing for the second round
10 minutes before the end of 2nd proofing, turn on the heat. The water will come to boil. When ready to steam, reduce the heat to medium. Steam small bao zi for about 5 minutes. For bigger ones you may need 10 minutes. If you use bamboo baskets, you can stack on top, but if your buns are big, they may not have enough room to expand, so you may not want to stack the basket and steam one basket at a time
Turn off the heat. Do not open the lid of the steamer. Let the buns sit there for 1-2 minutes like this. The buns will not sink or wrinkle due to the sudden change in temperature
If you make extra and plan to store them, once the steamed buns have cooled down, individually wrap them with plastic wrappers and freeze. They can go straight from freezer to steamer when you ready to eat them
You can also use 255 gr all-purpose flour + 45 gr cornstarch if you don't have cake flour. The end result is not really the same. Both are soft, but using cake flour has even softer texture.