Saturday, 28 June 2014

Panda Liu Sha Bao -- My first bao making attempt

I was into bao making before Susanne and I started this Loving Creations for You blog. This post is to share my very first attempt at making bao and lessons I learnt from it now that I have a bit more experience. I am definitely not a "bao master" and still can't pleat baos like a pro. Just a little trip down memory lane into the recent past some time in October last year ;).

Pandas are about the easiest cute and fancy steamed bun that you can make so I couldn't resist making them even though it was my first try. My kids love liu sha baos so I thought of making salted egg custard filling for my first attempt. I have changed the recipe for both bao skin and filling since this first attempt. I have yet to master the perfect liu sha filling but the bao skin I have been using for my farm animals and guinea pig liu sha baos is the best I have come across so far. As part of my baking journal, I will type out the bao skin and filling recipes for my maiden attempt. The filling is still yummy and runny but doesn't taste quite like what you get at dim sum restaurants. The bao skin is nice enough but not as soft and fluffy as the one I am using currently.

Recipe for filling adapted from here and recipe for bao skin adapted from here.

Ingredients (makes 11 small buns):

Creamy salted egg and milk custard filling:
55g Salted egg yolks (4 salted egg yolks)
60g Condensed milk
10g Cake flour
200g Evaporated milk
30g Butter

Black bao skin:
10g Hong Kong Bao flour
1 tbsp black sesame seeds (makes about 5g of ground roasted black sesame)
A pinch of baking powder
1/8 tsp instant yeast  
3g icing sugar  
8ml water

White bao skin:
200g Hong Kong Bao flour  
2g baking powder  
2g instant yeast  
20g icing sugar  
107ml water
10g vegetable oil (I used canola oil)

Steps for making custard filling:
1. Boil the salted eggs for 10 minutes. Peel the eggs and separate the yolk from the white. Mash the egg yolks with the back of a metal spoon.
2. Whisk the condensed milk and cake flour into a paste.
3. Cook the evaporated milk in a pot until it boils then pour it into the condensed milk/cake flour paste. Whisk until everything is incorporated.
4. Pour the mixture back into the pot, add butter and keep cooking until it boils. Turn the heat off. The mixture needs to be stirred constantly so the bottom of the pot won’t burn.
5. Add the mashed salted egg yolks into the mixture and stir until everything is incorporated. Sieve the mixture to remove any big lumps of egg yolks. Pour the mixture into a bowl and let it cool. Refrigerate the mixture until it sets. I refrigerated it overnight.
6. Once the custard is set, divide into balls of 20 g each, cling wrap each ball tightly and freeze until ready to use. Note: The thickness of the salted egg custard can be changed by adjusting the amount of flour used in the filling.

Steps for making black bao dough:
1. Place the black sesame seeds in a pan and roast over medium low heat until the seeds start popping. Remove seeds from pan and cool in a bowl. Alternatively, you can toast it in the toaster oven until the seeds start to pop.
2. When the seeds have cooled, pour them into a ziplock bag and hammer the seeds until a powder forms. I used a hammer type of meat tenderizer to pound the seeds. Alternatively, you can use a food processor or mortar and pestle to grind the seeds. Sift the ground seeds and discard any big pieces that don't pass through the sieve.
3. Mix the ground black sesame, bao flour, baking powder, yeast and icing sugar together in a small bowl. Add the water gradually while stirring until a ball of dough forms.
4. Knead the small ball of dough on a non-stick mat or a lightly floured surface for about 10-15 minutes.
5. Roll dough into a smooth round, place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with cling wrap and let it proof for about 1 hr or until it doubles in bulk.
6. Punch down the dough and give a few light kneading to release the trapped air bubbles. The dough can be cling wrapped and refrigerated until ready to use.

Steps for making white bao dough/panda bun:
1. Sift Hong Kong bao flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Add yeast, icing sugar and mix well.**(I dissolve baking powder in a bit of the water used in the dough and add in bit by bit as I knead now. This is to avoid unsightly yellow spots from forming on the surface of the bao skin.)
2. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture, add in water and mix to form a dough. Transfer dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead dough until it becomes smooth (about 5 mins). Knead in the vegetable oil and continue to knead for another 10-15 mins or until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. **(I prefer using shortening now as I find the bao skin softer and more moist than using vegetable oil.) Take a piece of dough (about the size of a table tennis ball) and stretch it, you should be able to stretch it to a fairly thin membrane without tearing off easily, if not continue to knead for another 5 to 10mins.
3. Roll dough into a smooth round, place in a lightly greased mixing bowl, cover with cling wrap and let it proof for about 1 hr or until it doubles in bulk.
4. Punch down the dough and give a few light kneading to release the trapped air bubbles. Divide the dough into 11 portions (about 30g each). Roll each portion into a smooth round.
5. Flatten each dough into a small disc with your palm or a small rolling pin, make the edges thinner and the center portion thicker. Wrap each dough with the frozen balls of salted egg custard. Pinch and seal the seams. Place dough seam side down on a square piece of parchment paper.
6. Take bits of black dough to shape the ears, eye patches and nose of the pandas, and stick them onto the buns.  Cover loosely with cling wrap and leave buns to proof for 25 mins. **(Baos with room temperature fillings would benefit from being loosely covered with cling wrap to avoid drying out. Baos with frozen fillings in hot and humid Singapore would do better without the cling wrap as condensation forms on bao surface in no time. As the filling is frozen, it is better to proof the baos for more than 25 minutes as the yeast activity takes time to pick up. 25 minutes for second proof is fine for room temperature fillings but it's better to use 35-40 minutes for proofing baos with frozen fillings in order for the bao to be fluffier.)

**(You can tell that I assembled the bun at bottom right corner first and the one on the top left last. As soon as you finish assembling a bun, keep it in the fridge and proof the whole batch at room temperature to avoid getting baos with different proofing times in one batch. This rule applies for fancy bread bun shaping too.)
7. Place buns in a steamer and space them apart so that they do not touch one another. Steam at medium heat for 12mins (make sure the water is already boiling before steaming). **(12 minutes steaming time may be fine for other bao fillings at room temperature with 30g of bao skin dough. But for liu sha baos with frozen fillings this may risk the baos exploding. 8-9 minutes of steaming for liu sha baos would be better). When ready, remove the lid carefully to prevent water from dripping over the buns. Remove immediately and serve warm. Keep any leftovers in fridge (covered with cling wrap or store in airtight containers) and re-steam till hot before serving.**( Freezing the baos after they have completely cooled would be a better option).

 The panda bao that was proofed the shortest time is a little shy to show its face as its so small :P

Note: There is no need to add oil to the black sesame dough as it is already very oily. The dough has a slight bitter taste (but fragrant) so you may wish to double the amount of sugar used and increase the amount of flour to 15g. Increase the amount of water used in the right proportion. This is my first attempt at bao making!

I remember being so thrilled at seeing the cute panda faces. I fell in love with bao making after this :). Cute baos, that is ;). Subsequently, I have made other baos like chicken bao, char siew bao and dou sha (red bean) bao. Still learning and having fun!

Update: I have finally gotten the recipe for filling right!  Tastes like the ones you get at restaurants and super runny! Check out this post.

With love,
Phay Shing