How to Make Dough for Chinese Steamed Buns

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The dough used for Chinese steamed buns, mantou, is a basic lean dough, the same type used for baguettes, Italian loaves and sandwich bread. Mantou is a side dish unto itself -- it serves as a staple starch in areas of China that lack arable land for rice growing -- and is commonly served with stews, curries and, as a dessert, with sweetened condensed milk. When filled with a stuffing, mantou is referred to as baozi -- but a filling doesn't affect the basic dough-making method. However, you should have the filling ready to go or make it while the dough rises if you plan on using the dough for baozi.

Mantou

Things You'll Need

  • 1 cup of water   
  • 1 tablespoon of neutral-tasting oil
  • 1 packet dry active yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 3 cups of all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons of sugar

Step 1: Activate the yeast.

Warm the water and oil over low heat until it's tepid to the touch, or about 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of sugar over the water. Set the yeast mixture aside until foamy, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Step 2: Mix the dry ingredients.

Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Adjust the sugar to taste: 1 tablespoon for minimal sweetness and 3 tablespoons for traditional sweetness.

Step 3: Mix a rough dough.

Form a well in the center of the flour mixture. Slowly pour the yeast mixture into the well while mixing it with the flour in a circular motion. Continue mixing until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Step 4: Knead the dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead the dough until it's smooth, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Step 5: Rest the dough.

Place the dough in an oiled mixing bowl. Lightly oil the top of the dough and cover it with a piece of plastic wrap. Set the dough aside until it doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours. The length of rise depends on the room's temperature.

Step 6: Shape the dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Halve the dough and roll each half into 1-inch-wide "logs" or cylinders. Cut the cylinders of dough crosswise into 1-inch-long pieces. If you want to make baozi, leave the dough whole after you turn it out onto the floured work surface.

Tip

Baozi

Step 1: Portion and roll.

Tear off a golf-ball sized portion of dough. Roll the dough into a 3-inch round using a floured rolling pin. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Step 2: Add the filling.

Add about 1 tablespoon of filling to the center of each dough round.

Step 3: Pleat and seal the buns.

Gather the edges of a dough round together. Pleat the dough around the filling, pinching the edges together to seal them. Repeat with the remaining rounds. At this point, the rolls are ready for steaming.

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