Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The BBB Steam up some Bao

Our challenge bread for this month is a classic, light and fluffy dim sum bread known as a Bao bun, or Gua Bao.  To be quite honest, straight out of the steamer basket, they smell like Wonder bread!  But so much better.  They are typically filled with some sort of barbecued pork and picked vegetable mixture.  I think they would be absolutely wonderful that way and do check out the other posts to see versions like that.  I muddied the waters and crossed borders by using a Moroccan Tagine inspired filling.  And it was delicious too!  These buns are seriously soft, light, fluffy, and a pleasure to snack on.  I did make a few changes because, having had steamed buns before, I know I prefer them less sweet.  So I went with just a slightly different recipe.  Not too different, just less sugar, a pinch of salt, and the addition of some rice vinegar, which I find very appropriate for a Char Sui filling.

We would love for you to join in as a buddy baker this month! You don't have to have a blog to participate, a picture will do. Just send a picture or your post of your finished buns to Karen's Kitchen Stories by the 29th of this month. You will receive a Bread Baking Buddy graphic to keep or add to your post, and be included in our Buddy round up at the end of the month. New recipes are posted every month on the 16th. Check out our Facebook group to see the participants' baking results during that time.

Just a tip, if you happen to order a steamer just for a recipe like this, give it a run through before you use it the first time to actually steam something.  The bamboo will have a strong aroma the first time!  So before using for the first time: Wash all pieces with hot soapy water, rinse well and then soak in hot water for 30 minutes. After soaking, steam all baskets and lid for about 30 minutes (while empty).

Steamed Bao
(original recipe) makes 9-10 buns

2 cups (250 grams) all purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup (70 grams) sugar
4 grams instant or active dry yeast
½ cup (120 grams) water, about 100 degrees
1 teaspoon neutral oil

The altered recipe I used: 
also makes 9-10 buns

260g all purpose flour
1 tbsp fine sugar
½ tsp instant yeast
¼ tsp salt
25 ml milk (1 tbsp + 2 tsp)
110 ml water
½ tbsp sun-coco oil
½ tbsp rice vinegar
½ tsp baking powder

Mix together 260g plain flour, yeast, 1 tbsp sugar and ¼ tsp salt in a large bowl.

Add 25ml milk, ½ tbsp sunflower oil, ½ tbsp rice vinegar and 100ml water to the flour. Mix into a dough, adding a little extra water if needed.

On a lightly floured work surface, knead for 10-15 mins or until smooth.  (You may, of course, use a mixer.)  Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover to rise for 30-60 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Cut out 10 parchment squares to line the steamer basket.  Lettuce leaves may also be used to prevent sticking.

Turn the dough out onto a clean, floured work surface and punch it down.  Flatten dough with your hands, sprinkle over the ½ tsp baking powder and knead in for 5 mins to combine.

Divide the dough into 9 or 10 pieces of about 50 grams each.

Roll each piece of dough into a ball and leave to rest for 2-3 mins.

Using a rolling pin, roll out each ball into an oval shape about 3-4mm thick.  Fold the dough in half lengthwise, and place on a parchment square.

Transfer buns to a baking tray, cover with a clean tea towel or lightly oiled cling film and leave to prove in a warm place for about 30-45 mins, or until puffy and increased in size.

Bring a pan or wok of water to a steady boil (just slightly more than simmering) and fit your pan or wok with a steamer, bamboo basket, or steaming rack just above the water. Place the buns in the steamer, cover, and steam for 12 minutes. (you may need to do this in batches).  Four was okay for mine, five was too crowded, three would have been ideal.  The top level seemed to steam better than the bottom due to less crowding.  TIP: turn off the heat and leave for 5 minutes in the steamer before uncovering to prevent wrinkly buns!

Cool slightly, then fill with your desired filling and enjoy!

You can freeze leftover buns. They may either be thawed and re-steamed for 3 minutes, or wrap one in a damp paper towel and microwave for 20 to 30 seconds.  Delicious!

The rest of the Bread Baking Babes

Approximate nutrition per plain bun for a yield of nine buns:


  1. Ha!! You don't even know what "muddying the waters" means! Wait until you see what I did to these steamed buns!

    I really like that you drastically reduced the sugar. The original amount seemed very high to me too.

    Mmmm, I love the idea of Moroccan Tagine with these. What a terrific idea. And, of course, your steamed bao buns are lovely - so pillowy. So white. I'm so envious.

  2. Yours look perfect! The rice vinegar sounds intriguing!

  3. Tagines are lovely and I know these buns would be perfect along with!
    Yes, I cut the sugar in mine but I'll cut it again when I bake them again shortly.
    I really love the vinegar idea and will note that for another bake.

  4. I think you crossed borders perfectly. I love Moroccan food and these look fantastic!

  5. Perfect. Love how fluffy the buns are looking. Yes, the steamer has to be washed and rinsed out really well.


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