Alternative Char Siu Bao

I wanted to make dampfnudel as it was in GBBO week 3, but fancied something less sweet, and with a filling.

This recipe doesn’t have char siu bao’s traditional barbecued pork filling; I’ve opted instead for cheese and pickle, which worked pretty well. If you’re vegetarian, take care on the cheese/shortening you use.

Makes: 10 filled / steamed buns

Ingredients

  • 90g cornflour
  • 245g plain flour
  • 80g icing sugar
  • 140ml (140g) tepid tap water
  • 1/2 tsp white vinegar (rice vinegar is perfect, but plain will suffice)
  • 7g (1 sachet) dried yeast
  • 25g lard or vegetable shortening
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 10ml (10g) cold water
  • 120g halloumi cheese, cut into very teeny cubes
  • 200g + Branston pickle (or other similar sweet vegetable pickle)
  • Ground sea salt and pepper, to taste (see Flavour Balance footnote)

Kit

  • One large and 2 small mixing bowls
  • A sieve
  • A dampened tea towel (wet it with hot water, then wring it out thoroughly)
  • Rolling pin
  • 10 paper cupcake cases
  • A steamer (see Steamer footnote)
  • Cooling rack

Steps

  1. Measure the cornflour, flour, and icing sugar together into a small bowl. Sift them into a large bowl.
  2. Pour the tepid water, vinegar, and dried yeast into a small bowl. Gently stir until the yeast has dissolved, then pour over the dry ingredients and mix (with a spoon or your hands) until it comes together.
  3. Add the shortening and turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for at least 10 minutes, until it is silky-smooth.
  4. Put the dough back into the large bowl, cover with a dampened tea towel, and leave to rise until doubled in size (30-90 minutes depending on room temperature).
  5. Mix the baking powder with the cold water until dissolved (it will fizz), then pour over the proved dough, and mix together with your hands. Pull the dough out of the bowl and knead again on a very lightly floured surface for a few minutes.
  6. Fill your steamer with water, and leave it to come to the boil. (Ensure the water even when boiling doesn’t touch the bottom of the steamer rack.)
  7. Divide the dough into 10 equal portions (approx 62g each). Roll each portion out to about a 3″ circle (or any shape approximating that, see my pictures), making the edges thinner than the centre if possible. Place 12g of cheese and 1 scant tablespoon of pickle in the centre of each circle, and season as necessary (see Flavour Balance footnote). Pull the edges of each circle up and twist at the top to seal. Place each dumpling in a cupcake case.
  8. Fit as many as you can into your pre-heated steamer, leaving about 1″ between the buns. Steam for 12-15 minutes, until a pinch of the tops of the dumplings doesn’t feel sticky. Remove the buns to a cooling rack, and peel off the paper cases. (NOTE: there will be some dough stickage to the paper cases, but not too much. This is why the centres should be thicker.) Repeat until all buns are steamed.

Steamer Notes
I have a metal steamer. (If you have a bamboo steamer, great, this dish is what it was made for!) Just make sure the water has come to the boil under your tray before adding the dumplings – it’s important for a good rise for the steamer to be pre-heated. You also need a tight-fitting lid.

Flavour Balance
Working with the Thai rules for balancing flavours (sweet, salty, hot, and sour) will do you well when customising this recipe. The dough has sugar (sweet) and vinegar (sour), so for the centre you want salt, and pepper (hot), in the proportion you find pleasing. I’ve used halloumi cheese which is quite salty, and Branston pickle which includes vinegar, so a quick grind of fresh peppercorns was all I needed.

Traditional Char Siu Bao
If you want meat in the centre, anything pre-cooked in a thick sauce, preferably flavoured with onion, will do. Small cubes of pork with Chinese spices are what you’ll usually find, but you could put 2 tablespoons inside of just about anything that takes your fancy.

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