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.
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.
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.