[I]t feels like eating little clouds.
Oh, does it?! I think not.
steamed-up ADJECTIVE – INFORMAL
1. angry or upset about something
– Macmillan Dictionary
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
Judy (Judy’s Gross Eats) chose the following for The BBBabes’ June 2022 project:
At first I was a little nervous. I do like dumplings, but I’m not the biggest fan of steamed buns. Still, they sounded SO good!
[Chinese] steamed buns […] are the paler, softer, and squishier sibling to baked milk bread buns. Were you one of those kids who preferred their peanut butter and jelly sandwich with the crusts trimmed off? Maybe the crusts had a little too much “texture” for your six-year-old palate. If you were that kid (I sure was), then steamed buns are definitely for you. Even if you weren’t that kid, you’ll still love these squishiest of squishy buns. Because they are cooked with steam, the exterior of the dough doesn’t form a crust — the entire bun stays soft throughout.
– Kristina Cho, Mooncakes and Milk Bread
Alas, this description was less than calming. I was that kid who LOATHED squishy food. I was that kid who LOVED the crust. All of us argued over who would get each “bun” on Mum’s loaves of wonderful homemade bread. Mum’s bread had beautiful crusts – chewy, but not too chewy – that were perfectly balanced with a nice soft – but not too soft – crumb.
Still, as so many people absolutely adore steamed buns, it seemed wrong to hold onto my deep seated prejudice.
Here’s what I did to the BBBabes’ June 2022 recipe:
BBB Fluffy Steamed Buns diary:
20 May 2022 00:05 This is very cool. Spinach dough!! Sweet potato dough!!
20 May 2022, 09:56 I just got “Mooncakes and Milk Bread” by Kristina Cho out of the library. When I put the book on hold, I had no idea it was going to focus on Chinese bread! And. I love this little troubleshooting section at the end of the Fluffy Steamed Bun Dough recipe:
Turning off the heat and allowing the steamed buns to sit covered in the steamer for 5 additional minutes will help the buns maintain a smooth surface. If you lift the lid too soon, the sudden change in temperature will probably cause your buns to collapse and wrinkle.
– Kristina Cho, ‘How to Avoid Collapsed Dough’, Mooncakes and Milk Bread: sweet and Savory Recipes Inspired by Chinese Bakeries, Harper Horizon publishers, 2021
9 June 2022, 12:09 It was only after seeing Kelly’s recent comment about July’s project that I fully grasped that it is the second week of June. I confess that I’m still reeling a little at the two different programs (two different cities; two different orchestras) we presented on the last weekend of May, followed almost immediately by yet another city’s orchestra playing an all Beethoven program: 2 overtures as well as the 6th and 8th symphonies(!!!) Last week was absolutely gruelling, with two days of four 3-hour rehearsals, followed by the actual concert on the 3rd day. Oh my. What kind of crazed person would program such a thing? (The other programs seemed like child’s play in comparison. The first one only included a whole bunch of ‘favourite’ overtures and/or suites, including Bizet Carmen Suite and Wagner Meistersinger Overture; the second one was merely Holst Planets and a pretty horrible really Romantic rendition of a Bach Passacaglia orchestrated by Respighi. It didn’t help that the parts had been hand-scripted by someone with terrible scrawling penmanship and no concept of making sure that page turns would occur during rests… it was also less than happy news that Respighi really didn’t care that violas do not have E strings. One of the 16th note leaps from middle C to two 8ves above middle C was teeth grindingly challenging.)
Okay. Enough ranting….
I have been really enjoying reading Kristina Cho’s book and started thinking seriously about which steamed buns I will be making.
11 June 2022, 14:33 As I’ve been reading Kristina Cho’s book, I’m once again amazed at the mixing of measuring units: Weight (with parenthetical cups and spoons) for flour and sugar, but spoons only for yeast, salt, and baking powder. I’m especially amazed by the salt being measure in a spoon instead of by weight.
According to CoolConversion.com, “1 US teaspoon of coarse salt is equivalent to 4.58 grams”
Salt comes in many shapes and sizes. I exlusively use coarse salt for cooking, specifically Diamond Crystal kosher salt. The large, coarse grains dissolve quickly. Table salt is finer in texture, so if that’s all you have, use a little less than the recipe calls for, to avoid the risk of oversalting
Digital scale This is the tool I use most in my kitchen. Before I got seriously into baking, I was a proud cook-by-feel type. I still very much am except when it comes to baking […] Once you start baking by weight, it’s hard to go back. You’r rewarded wiht dependable results, and cleanup is so much quicker
– Kristina Cho, ‘Ingredients for a Better Bake’ and ‘Essential Equipment’, Mooncakes and Milk Bread
According to Epicurious, 1 teaspoon of Diamond Crystal salt weighs 3 grams.
3 grams of coarse salt equals the same level of salinity as 3 grams of fine salt or 3 grams of flaky salt. So if a metric baking recipe calls for 3 grams of Diamond Crystal kosher salt, you can substitute with 3 grams of any salt you like.
– Janet Rausa Fuller and Joe Sevier, epicurious | Prevent Measurement Mishaps With This Simple Salt Conversion Chart
Gourmet Sleuth says that 1 teaspoon of baking powder weighs 4.6 grams.
Rose Levy Beranbaum says that 1 tsp of instant OR active dry yeast weighs 3.2 grams. The Spruce Eats says that a teaspoon of instand OR active dry yeast weighs 3.1 grams. I am going to be radical and say that 1 teaspoon is equivalent to 3 grams.
Karen had a really good idea: to dry fry the bottoms of the buns! The chicken filling she made sounds good but I’m leaning toward a mushroom filling. (I may not get to do this though. T is leaning toward the char siu pork filling….)
11 June 2022, 17:45 We were watching WNED (PBS)yesterday and saw “Samantha Brown’s Places too Love: Shanghai”. We turned it on just as she was about to taste a stuffed (mushrooms, bok choi, tofu) steamed bun from a roadside stall! Ha. Even our TV is reminding me to make steamed buns!
13:19 In spite of the fact that not everyone has a scale that measures in half grams, I still think that Kristina Cho should be including the weight along with the cup/spoon measure for each one of her ingredients.
But at least she specifies at the beginning of the book that, for her, “coarse salt” means Diamond Crystal.
We used to be able to get Diamond Crystal salt easily, but when the company changed hands, it suddenly disappeared from the supermarket shelves. Only to reappear months later at a significantly higher price. (We switched to using Mediterranean sea salt….)
Now… what filling should we use? I really like the idea of char siu pork! But I also LOVE mushrooms. What to do. What to do.
13 June 2022, 17:04 I just came back from our neighbourhood’s Monday farmers’ market with a lunch-size paper bag full of the prettiest little mushrooms: cinnamon cap mushrooms. The vendor said that the name was because of the colour, not the flavour.
Cinnamon Cap mushrooms, botanically classified as Hypholoma sublateritium, are an edible variety that is also often classified as Hypholoma lateritium and is a member of the Strophariaceae family. Also known as Brick Cap and Brick Top mushrooms, Cinnamon Cap mushrooms are found growing in the wild and are also commercially cultivated. […] Cinnamon Cap mushrooms are widely consumed in the United States, Canada, and Japan, where they are known as Kuritake and are favored for their nutty flavor and versatility in many culinary dishes. […] Cinnamon Cap mushrooms are rich in vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin, and minerals including calcium, potassium, and sodium.
– Specialty Produce | Cinnamon Cap Mushrooms
I’ll make TWO kinds of filling, one of mushrooms and one of charsiu pork.
Kristina Cho includes a recipe for her mushroom filling that looks good. But the mushroom filling on the PBS show also sounded great; it included shitakes, bokchoy, and firm tofu. Forget tofu (it’s really NOT my favourite thing). I’ll use a mixture of regular and cinnamon cap mushrooms, onion, radish, and radish greens. (I also got some stunningly beautiful radishes at the farmers’ market.) I wonder if I should add some garlic too….
I’ll let T make his charsiu pork filling. And then, of course, I’ll taste it to make sure it’s correct.
As for the dough, we have some buttermilk in the fridge that is crying out to be used in bread dough. Naturally, I felt the need to get permission to use milk.
Oh yay!! Here it is!
My steamed buns recipe calls for only four (4) basic ingredients below:
• All-purpose flour
I love milk in mantou recipe, but you can also use water or soy milk. I used whole milk in my recipe, but you can certainly choose to use low fat milk or skim milk.
-Bee, Rasa Malaysia | steamed buns
Sure, Bee doesn’t say it’s okay to use buttermilk, but I bet she would if asked.
While searching for permission to use buttermilk (why do I need permission?! why don’t I just go ahead?), I came across Pat Tanumihardja’s (Pickles and Tea) recipe for Cheater Char Siu Bao that calls for “packages refrigerated buttermilk biscuit dough”. She does admit that the cheater buns “won’t be as soft and won’t rise as much” and that the “flavor and texture might be a little different from the char siu bao you buy from Chinatown”. But she’s completely happy with her results and says she’ll be “making this one often!”
There! Permission to use buttermilk granted!
I’m also questioning the presence of the baking powder. All of the recipes online call for it, but I know that many people simply copy what they’ve seen on another website. I failed to continue the research of steamed bun recipes in various books to see if all of them call for baking powder as well.
Too much baking powder can actually cause your cakes to sink or collapse on themselves leading to shorter cakes or sunken cakes. Overleavened cakes will puff and fall, sinking down into the pan before they’ve done baking. There’s no recovering when this happens.
– Bake School | The Complete Guide to Baking Powder
Buttermilk brings a slightly tangy flavor to recipes and adds fluffiness (think pancakes) and a wonderful rise to baked goods. That’s because the lactic acid in buttermilk—a product of fermentation—reacts energetically with baking soda, which is usually included in leavened recipes. […] When using baking powder, however, take care in substituting buttermilk for regular milk as it upsets the balance of alkali to acid. Buttermilk has more acid than regular milk, which will reduce the carbon dioxide released and thwart the leavening process important to these recipes.
– Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, The Spruce Eats | Buttermilk Substitutions, Measures and Equivalents
While it is possible to use both yeast and baking powder together, it is not common. […] [T]here is usually no need to combine them. […] Generally speaking, there is little to gain by using yeast and baking powder together. Apart from a few select recipes, it is uncommon to see them used together because of how differently they behave and perform. […] [T]here are occasions where yeast and baking powder are used together in smaller-scale bakes. Yeasted or Angel biscuits and English crumpets are some of the few bakes that use both yeast and baking powder together. By combining the two leavening agents the resulting bakes taste ‘bready’ with a moderate rise.
– Good Cook Guide | Can You Use Baking Powder and Yeast Together?
Baking powder makes the mantou fluffier and whiter, if you prefer your mantou to have more of a bite then just omit the baking powder. Don’t replace it with baking soda.
– Cooking in Chinglish | The Ultimate Guide to Making Perfect Mantou (Chinese Steamed Buns)
Adding some salt can help to support the gluten network.
– Elaine, China Sichuan Food | Chinese Steamed Buns (Mantou Recipe)
15 June 2022, 17:49 I’m just about to go and shape the buns. After I make the mushroom filling.
See? Once again, I have completely mismanaged my time. I fear I will be late posting yet again!!
18:21 I ended up NOT adding anything to the fried mushrooms leftover from the night before. It was just two kinds of mushrooms fried in oil and sprinkled with a little seasalt. The Cinnamon Cap mushrooms have a lot of flavour and are delicious!
Shaping the buns is suddenly reminding me of kinkali. Eeeeeek!! [Muttering censored] (The dough has risen, and it is smooth. But it also feels slightly gluey and sticky.)
19:30 Shriek!!! I dropped one tier of the steamer on floor. The one with the mushroom filled buns. [Screaming and garbled accursations censored]
Only ONE of the shaped bums landed right side up. I peeled all of them off the floor and we steamed them anyway. Screaming epithets in all directions the whole time.
We carefully followed Kristina Cho’s timing: 10 minutes steaming, then 5 minutes still covered.
Pillowy soft, eh?
More like gluey….
The fillings, on the other hand, were great.
Thank you, Judy. If it hadn’t been for major mismanagement on my part, this should have been a really fun experiment. It may even have turned into a keeper recipe. Maybe….
Here is the June 2022 BBB recipe that we were given. And here is what I did to it:
Stuffed Steamed Buns Ingredients List
based on recipes in “Mooncakes and Milk Buns” by Kristina Cho
[Steamed buns] are inexplicably tasty.
– Kristina Cho, Mooncakes and Milk Buns
makes six steamed bums
- 150 grams unbleached ‘no additives’ all-purpose flour
- 15 grams sugar
- 1 gram active dry yeast
- 1/16 tsp baking powder [0.3 gram]
- 1 gram seasalt (Cho’s recipe calls for way less salt – only 0.233 bakers’ percent! Even though the baking powder will add some saltiness, I made an executive decision reduce the baking powder a little, and add 0.6% bakers’ percent salt.)
- 92 grams buttermilk
Cheater Char Siu Pork Filling
- Charcoal Barbecued Pork (yellow spice rub), sliced
- commercial char siu sauce
- left-over stir-fried rapini (with garlic)
- regular mushrooms, sliced
- cinnamon button mushrooms, chopped
- sunflower oil
- Method: Because our buns failed miserably, please refer to the actual BBB recipe for how to procede.
:: Baking Time: For our two tiered bamboo steamer, 10 minutes was NOT enough time. Frying them in oil to try to rescue them was also entirely unsuccessful.
Alas, we didn’t see this until the day AFTER the debacle:
When the water is boiling, reduce the heat to medium low and steam for 18 minutes if your steamer has two layers (and 15 minutes steamers with one layer). Ideally, the heat is just high enough that wisps of steam are coming out from one part of the steamer. If steam is rushing out from all sides, then your heat is too high.
– Edwina, Cooking in Chinglish | The Ultimate Guide to Making Perfect Mantou (Chinese Steamed Buns)
:: Mushroom Bun Topping: I used a mixture of water, cocoa powder and black pepper. Judging from how different the top of our mushroom buns were from the photo in Kristina Cho’s book.
Mushroom buns that actually look like mushrooms are elusive (and usually gone by the time the dim sum cart reaches my table), so I wanted to learn how to make them on my own. A deep dive online revealed that the crackly brown mushroom-like topping is made with a paste of cocoa powder and water, which is brushed onto the buns before they proof. As each bun proofs and eventually steams in the oven, its topping cracks and mimics the appearance of a shiitake mushroom cap.
– Kristina Cho, ‘mushroom mushroom buns’, Mooncakes and Milk Bread
You really don’t want to know just how long we were angry about our ruined dinner. You also don’t want to know how many insults I cast at Kristina Cho for refraining to state how to tell if the buns are cooked. (It’s not as if you can rap them on the bottom to hear if they sound hollow like a drum….)
After tasting the dinner (the stir-fried radish greens, broccoli with garlic and ginger were delicious, as was the nasturtium flower), we tried to rescue the bums by frying them. Alas, this was equally unsuccessful. (Yes, the shouting and insults continued….)
Bread Baking Babes Fluffy Steamed Buns (filled or unfilled)
Judy is hosting June 2022’s Bread Baking Babes’ project. She wrote:
I know exactly what to make. […] I also haven’t made this yet, so we’ll be surprised together!
It’s been several years since we’ve made steamed buns. Hopefully, you won’t mind a sort of repeat.
[Kristina Cho’s (“Mooncakes and Milk Bread”)] recipe is what I’ve based my challenge on. I’ve used the mother recipe several times with great success.
– Judy, in messages to BBBabes
We know you’ll want to steam! To receive a Bread Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: make steamed buns in the next couple of weeks and post about it (we love to see how your bread turns out AND hear what you think about it – what you didn’t like and/or what you liked) before the 29 June 2022. If you do not have a blog, no problem; you can also post your picture(s) to Flickr (or any other photo sharing site) and record your thoughts about the bread there. Please remember to contact the Kitchen of the Month to say that your post is up.
For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBBuddy, please read:
- BBB Kitchen of the month:
Cathy, Bread Experience, BBB May 2022
- BBBuddy guidelines
- about the BBBabes
Please take a look at the other BBBabes’ June 2022 bread:
- Aparna, My Diverse Kitchen
- Cathy, Bread Experience: Fluffy Steamed Spinach Buns
- Judy, Judy’s Gross Eats: Babes Steam Their Buns (kitchen of the month)
- Karen K, Karen’s Kitchen Stories: Steamed Chicken and Vegetable Buns (Baozi)
- Katie (BBBBB), Thyme for Cooking: Babes are Steamed!
- Kelly, A Messy Kitchen: Fluffy steamed buns #BBB
- Pat (aka Elle), Feeding My Enthusiasms: Babes Steam Buns (with Fillings)
- Tanna, My Kitchen in Half Cups
I must admit that everything wasn’t terrible…. The good news is that our nasturtiums are blooming. Even LAST year’s nasturtium that was languishing in the basement over the winter has suddenly sprouted one blossom at a time. (The one on the right is from last year’s plant … and they say that nasturtiums are annuals.)
» Steaming Up the Kitchen (BBB October 2018) (Steamed Bao Buns)
» Catching up: Chinese Flower Steam Buns (BBB September 2009)
» 2nd Try at Jane Mason Sourdough: Sudden Change of Direction (khinkali)