Recipe: Steamed filled buns (Zheng bao)
(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)
Total time: About 1 hour, plus rising time
Servings: 16 medium buns
Note: With the dough and filling prepared, here's how to bring them together for steamed filled buns. This recipe requires 16 (3-inch) squares of parchment, cut from a larger sheet. Asian-style wooden dowels for rolling are generally available at Asian markets. To reheat leftover buns, steam them for 5 to 8 minutes. Leftover buns can be refrigerated up to a week or frozen up to a month.
1 recipe basic yeast dough
1 recipe barbecue pork or curried chicken filling
1. Transfer the dough to a very lightly floured work surface, gather it into a ball and then pat it to flatten it into a thick disk. Cut the disk in half and cover half with plastic wrap or an inverted bowl to prevent drying while you work on the other half. (If your kitchen is very warm or the dough rises quickly, refrigerate the remaining half while you work on the first half.)
2. Roll the dough half into a 12-inch log, then cut it crosswise into 8 pieces. (Halve the log first to make it easier to cut into even-size pieces. The tapered end pieces should be cut a little longer than the rest.) Lightly roll each piece between your hands into a ball and then use the palm of one hand to flatten it into a one-fourth-inch-thick disk, moistening your hands with a little water if the dough becomes too dry.
3. Use an Asian dowel-style rolling pin to roll the pieces into circles about 3 1/4 inches in diameter, rolling the outer one-half- to three-fourths-inch edge of the circle very thin, like a tortilla (the center of the circle -- about 1 inch -- will remain thicker). Rotate the circle as you roll the outer edge with the pin to form a perfect circle. Alternatively, you can press out the circles by hand, using your fingers to flatten the center and edges, though the circles may not be as perfect. The finished circle will rise as it sits. Lay the finished circles out on your work surface, lightly dusting their bottoms with flour if you fear they will stick.
4. To assemble the buns, hold a dough circle in a slightly cupped hand. Use a spoon or fork to center about 4 teaspoons of filling on the dough circle, pressing down very gently and keeping about one-half to three-fourths inch of the dough clear on all sides; your hand will automatically close slightly. Use the thumb of the hand cradling the bun to push down the filling; using the fingers of the other hand, pull up the dough edge and pleat and pinch the rim together to form a closed satchel. Completely enclose the filling by pinching and twisting the dough closed.
5. Place the finished bun on a piece of parchment, pleated side up. Repeat with the remaining dough circles and loosely cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel until puffed and nearly doubled in size, 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the temperature in the room. Meanwhile, work on the other dough half to form the remaining buns.
6. When the buns are almost ready, prepare the steaming tray. Place the buns on the tray, spacing them 1 inch apart and 1 inch away from the wall of the steamer. Cover the buns and steam until puffed and the dough is cooked through, about 15 minutes.
7. Use a metal spatula to transfer the buns, still on their parchment paper squares, to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Repeat steaming until all the buns are cooked.
8. Arrange the buns, still on the parchment, on a platter and serve hot or warm. Remove the parchment before eating the buns out of hand.
Each pork-filled bun: 157 calories; 5 grams protein; 23 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 5 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 10 mg. cholesterol; 250 mg. sodium.
Each chicken-filled bun: 150 calories; 6 grams protein; 20 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 5 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 12 mg. cholesterol; 147 mg. sodium.