These are a bit of a pain in the ass to make, but they are really good. I don’t know much about how they’re usually used, but I think they’re perfect for making “Asian-style” sandwiches, such as these.
You’ll need a steamer to make them. Other than that, it’s a solid, basic recipe (based on one from Kitchn) if you don’t want to use frozen, pre-made buns from the Asian market.
What you’ll need
- 0.5 cups warm milk (whole or 2% is preferable)
- 0.33 cups warm water
- 354 grams (12.5 oz.) cake flour, plus 1T or 2T more, as needed
- 0.33 cups granulated sugar
- 1 packet of instant yeast (2.25t)
- 1t baking powder
- Parchment paper
- 1-2T neutral oil
What to do
Put the milk and water in a microwave-safe bowl and heat the mixture until warm to the touch—about 25 seconds. Add the cake flour, sugar, instant yeast, and baking powder to the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk to combine.
Fit a dough hook to the mixer and set it for its lowest speed. Turn it on and slowly add the milk mixture, letting it mix for about 2 minutes. If it has not formed a dough ball, keep the mixer running and add 1T of cake flour at a time until a dough ball has formed. Let it run for about 5 minutes like that. Stop the mixer and check if the dough is soft and stretchy. If not, turn the mixer back on and add a teaspoon of water. Let the mixer run for 3 more minutes. At this point the dough should be smooth and soft.
Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place until slightly puffed—about 1 hour. If you’re going to use much it later, you can put the dough in greased bowl, then cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
Meanwhile, prepare the steaming papers. Cut out 4-inch circles or squares of parchment papers for however many buns you’re making. These will help keep the buns from sticking to the steamer. Also, in preparation for forming the buns, add 1-2T of oil to a small bowl and have a pastry-brush ready.
The original recipe calls for this making 15 buns, but they’re too tiny to be useful. I recommend making just 5 or 6. To do this, turn out the dough to a work surface and divide it into however many portions you want to make. You can use a kitchen scale to ensure they’re all about the same size/weight. Once they’re divided and even-sized, roll each into a ball with your hands. Flour your hands if the dough is a bit sticky.
To form a bun, put the ball of dough in your hand and press it flat with your fingers. Then put it on a lightly-floured work surface and roll it into an oval about 0.33-inches thick. Brush some oil on the surface and fold it in half, the long way. Place the folded dough on a piece of parchment paper and repeat for each bun. Add all the buns to a baking sheet and lightly cover them with plastic wrap. Let them re-rise in a warm place for 30 minutes—but they won’t rise very much.
A few minutes before the 30-minute re-rise time is up, prepare your steamer and boil the water over medium heat (you want to gently steam them, not blast them). When the boiling water and buns are ready, place as many buns/parchment paper as your steamer accommodates into the steamer. Make sure they’re not touching. Steam for about 10 or so minutes. Leave the uncooked buns covered while you’re cooking the others.
Serve warm with whatever toppings you’re going to use.