Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Channeling Grandma

My paternal grandma was a lot like this bao.  She was warm, round and filled with goodness.  She was also a great cook and delighted spoiling us grandkids with sweets and 7-up.
I did my best to channel her while making my first batch of baos —the Chinese version (in this case steamed) of Hot Pockets— imaging her pleating technique and gentle warnings of overfilling.
And in the end, I was happy with the results.  The recipe's simple enough that I hope to keep an everlasting supply in the freezer to warm both my belly and heart.  Here's the recipe if you care to try them out. 

Basic Steamed Baos
adapted from Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen 
You can fill these up with whatever you like but traditional fillings include sweet bean paste, char sui pork, or chicken.  I opted for a sweet and savory version, one using store-bought anko (sweeten adzuki bean paste) and the other beef curry —both were delicious.

2 1/2 C. Japanese bread flour (substitute with all-purpose)
2 t. baking powder
2 T. sugar
2 T. canola oil
3/4 C. lukewarm water
1 1/2 t. rapid rise yeast

Dissolve the yeast in the water and let it rest a minute before adding the canola oil.  In a separate bowl, combine sugar, baking powder, and flour.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the water/yeast mixture.  Knead for 5-10 minutes or until the dough is smooth.  Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with placitc wrap and let rise for 45-60 minutes or until doubled. 

Divide the dough into half.  Roll the divided dough into a 12" log and cut into 8-16 pieces depending on the size of your bao.  Roll each piece in to a ball.  When ready to fill, flatten  the ball out into a 1/4" disk and use a rolling pin to create a 2 1/2"- 3" disk, keeping the perimeter thinner than the center.

Cut parchment paper into 3" squares.

Fill each disk with 2-3 t. of filling and pleat to close and place on parchment.

Allow the baos to rise approximately 30 minutes or until doubled before steaming.

Steam on medium-high heat for 12 minutes for small baos and 15 for medium.   Remove from heat and transfer to a plate.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Cool completely before freezing. 
Makes 8-16 baos.

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