Chinese Bāozi from scratch

Chinese Bāozi is a much-loved dish in our family, so I was really looking forward to making it from scratch!  Homemade always tastes more delicious than store-bought, at least in my opinion.  There’s something special about freshly-made homemade dough, though it can be somewhat time consuming to pull together.  Stuffing the buns could be a lot quicker with more hands, but I worked solo.  Even though bāozi isn’t traditionally associated with a specific holiday, I think making it together could be a fun way to celebrate any Chinese occasion.  I have included all of the ingredients and instructions below with pictures, but HERE is a printable version too.

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For the dough:

3 cups flour
1 cup warm water (105-110 ℉)
2 tsp instant yeast
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp oil (peanut or EVOO)
2 tsp baking powder

Mix 1 cup warm water, 2 tsp yeast, and 1 tbsp sugar until the yeast and sugar have dissolved.  Set aside for 5 minutes to let proof.  Meanwhile, mix flour, 1 tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp oil, and 2 tsp baking powder in a mixer (I used a KitchenAid).  Once the yeast has been activated, slowly add that mixture into the dry ingredients while mixing simultaneously.  A dough ball should form so that it sticks together but doesn’t stick to your hands.  Flour or water may be added by the teaspoon to get the desired consistency.

web 2 and 3Roll dough into 1½ oz balls (roll on a plate or tuck the dough up under itself at the bottom) and set aside on a wax paper-lined tray.  You should be able to make approximately 20 dough balls.  Set aside in a warm, moist environment to rise about 40-60 minutes, until the dough balls have doubled in size.  Some ovens have “proof” settings for this.  Or you can use my Daddy’s trick: boil a teapot of water, take off the top, and place in an unheated oven so the steam will release into the air.  Proof the dough, covered with a damp towel, inside the oven.  Do not open the oven until the dough has finished proofing.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling.

web 4For the filling:

2 cups of packed Chinese cabbage, chopped finely
1½ tbsp fresh, finely minced ginger root
3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ cup fresh, finely chopped green onions
¹⁄₈ tsp ground white pepper
¼ water
2 tbsp regular soy sauce (not lite)
1½ tbsp Shaoxing or cooking wine
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 lb of ground meat (pork is traditional but I prefer 93% fat turkey)

Combine all of the ingredients together, keeping the meat refrigerated until adding it at the end.  Refrigerate the combined filling until it’s time to stuff the bāozi.web 5 and 6For the bāozi:

After the dough balls have finished proofing, it’s time to fill them!  Roll out one dough ball at a time on a floured surface, using a Chinese-style rolling pin, making sure to roll the outer ½-¾ inch thinner than the middle.  The buns should be approximately 4 inches in diameter and should fit in the palm of your hand.  Next, add about 1-2 tbsp of filling to the center of the bun, leaving at least a 1-inch edge.  I think I added too much meat to some of my buns, but I stuffed them as much as I could.  After that, fold and press the edges together in the middle, at the top of the bun, and then twist to close.  The dough should stick together easily.  I know this is a real art in China, but I was happy they closed up and resembled bāozi at all, so I gave myself grace on this part.  There are youtube videos from Chinese chefs offering a lot of advice about how to do this though, so feel free to explore!web 7web 8web 9web 10web 11Allow the bāozi to rest about 20 minutes before steaming.  Then, put a small piece of wax paper under each bāozi in the steamers to prevent sticking.  I used a bamboo steamer over a wok, with just enough water added so it didn’t touch the steamers.  Make sure the water at the bottom is filled though, because I made the huge mistake of unknowingly letting the water boil out, and I burned one of my steamers.  Live and learn!  The bāozi can also be steamed with a Western steamer, it’ll just take a little longer because you can’t cook as many at the same time.  Steam for about 15 minutes, transfer to a plate, and wait at least 5 minutes to cool before enjoying!web 12Note: My bāozi came out browner than I was expecting – I first thought that was because of my water issue.  But they were still brown after remedying that problem, so I’m not sure what I did wrong.  They tasted delicious though, fortunately the brownness didn’t impact the flavor!

If you give these a try, please let me know!  I’d love to hear about your experiences!  Though I will not be making bāozi regularly, I’m glad I finally attempted them and I will certainly be adding it to my Chinese food repertoire!  (Almost) everyone gobbled them up, with both of my Chinese-born loves especially enjoying them.web 13

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