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Here at King Arthur, we do a pretty good job surveying the world of bread -- the Western world, that is. We've never delved much into Asian breads; oh, we've made the occasional foray into Indian flatbreads, but never have we examined breads from the Far East, notably China. But, there's always a first time...
These buns, a beautiful, shiny golden brown, are light and puffy, and envelop a center filling of minced barbecued pork. Mrs. Chiu, who shared this recipe with us long ago, notes that her original recipe came from Nina Simonds' China Express, though she made a number of changes. We expect that you'll find your very own favorite filling formula; and we'll share one of ours below.
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) sugar*
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 cups (13 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon corn or safflower oil
1 large egg
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (9 ounces) warm water
about 2/3 cup filling of your choice, chilled
1 egg, lightly beaten with 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) water
*Mrs. Chiu notes that you can increase the sugar to 1/4 cup if you're using a sweet filling. "Also, you could sprinkle some sugar on top after you do the egg wash," she says.
Manual/Mixer Method: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine all of the dough ingredients, and mix until the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased or floured surface, and knead it for 6 to 8 minutes, or until it's smooth and shiny. Or knead it in a mixer, using the dough hook.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or rising bucket, turn to coat, cover the container with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise till it's tripled in bulk; this took about 2 hours in our test kitchen, but may take longer in your home kitchen. The more bread you bake, the more wild yeast develops in your kitchen, the faster yeast doughs will rise; we bake a lot of yeast breads here in our test kitchen, so they tend to rise faster than they might in a regular kitchen.
Bread Machine Method: Place all the dough ingredients into the pan of your bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer (usually, liquids first, yeast last). Program the machine for dough or manual, and press Start. Check the dough about 10 minutes before the end of the final kneading cycle and adjust its consistency as necessary by adding additional water or flour to form a soft, smooth ball. Allow the machine to complete its cycle, then allow the dough to remain in the machine till it's tripled in bulk, perhaps for another hour.
Shaping: Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased or lightly floured work surface, and divide it into eight equal pieces, each about 3 ounces (85g), a bit smaller than a tennis ball. Cover the dough pieces, and let them rest while you prepare the filling of your choice. Note: To test this recipe, we used equal parts -- 2 1/2 ounces each --smoked tofu and minced cooked pork, moistened with a bit of bottled barbecue sauce. Pretty tasty!
Cover the unused dough pieces with a damp cloth or plastic wrap as you work. Working with one piece at a time, use your fingers to flatten it into a 4-inch round whose edges are slightly thinner than the center. Place a heaping tablespoon of the filling in the center of the dough, pull the edges into the center to enclose the filling, pinch to seal, then give the pinched edges a twist, to seal even more securely. Place the buns sealed-side-down on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces and filling, placing buns about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Cover the buns with a proof cover or lightly greased plastic wrap. After 45 minutes, brush them with the topping, and re-cover. After 1 hour (15 minutes later), brush them again with the topping. Don't worry if they don't appear to have risen much; they'll rise as they bake.
Baking: Bake the buns in a preheated 350°F oven for 25 minutes, until they're golden brown. Serve them warm, or at room temperature. Yield: 8 buns.
Nutrition information per serving (1 bun without filling, 88g): 208 cal, 2g fat, 6g protein, 36g complex carbohydrates, 3g sugar, 2g dietary fiber, 27mg cholesterol, 342mg sodium, 93mg potassium, 12RE vitamin A, 3mg iron, 5mg calcium, 70mg phosphorus.
This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. XIII, No. 2, Winter 2002 issue.