STEAMED BUNS TEST KITCHEN: AN EVOLUTION

December 25, 2008

The buns require their own post for a number of reasons:
1. They are the platform for many a dim sum steamed buns recipes.

2. They were very difficult to make correctly. Buns must be light and fluffy, slightly sweet with a bit of chew.
I tried this recipe three different times, each with different tweaks. I outline them to show the importance of being meticulous and intuitive when making bread. Now that I know what works, I can make a multitude of dim sum recipes with this steamed bun recipe.

So here is the basic Momokufu Recipe:

BUNS (makes 16 taco sized buns)
- 1 cup warm water (105-115°F), divided
- 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 3 tablespoons sugar plus a pinch
- 2 tablespoons nonfat dried milk
- 3 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- Canola oil for greasing and brushing


"Make dough for buns while pork is brining:
Stir together 1/4 cup warm water with yeast and pinch of sugar. Let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. (If mixture doesn't foam, start over with new yeast.) Whisk in dried milk and remaining 3/4 cup warm water.

Stir together flour and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar in a bowl, then stir in yeast mixture (do not add baking powder yet) with a fork until a dough forms. Knead dough with your hands in bowl until all of flour is incorporated. Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead, dusting surface and hands with just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, until dough is elastic and smooth but still soft, about 5 minutes. Form dough into a ball.
Put dough in an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, about 2 hours.
Make buns:
Punch down dough, then transfer to a lightly floured surface and flatten slightly into a disk. Sprinkle baking powder over center of dough, then gather edges of dough and pinch to seal in baking powder. Knead dough with just enough flour to keep dough from sticking until baking powder is incorporated, about 5 minutes. Return dough to bowl and cover with plastic wrap, then let dough stand 30 minutes.
"

I was unhappy with the results and embarked on a test kitchen where I tested three batches. I pretty much Goldilocks-ed my way through these recipes.

OVERVIEW



TRIAL 1: This was the basic momofuku recipe, and yielded a very dry dough. It looked suspect to begin with. The yeast did not rise well. I think the recipe has too much flour. Despite sifting, the dough seemed like an asshole.





TRIAL 2: Here I used Mark Bittman's edited version of the no-knead bread (aka the faster no knead bread). I prepped this dough at night time and was so worried that the yeast would die in the winter cold, that i slept with it cradled in my arms. The dough was will risen and pillowy. It looked like it was going to work (bubbles everywhere), so it did. Dough was soft.

The problems were 2-fold:
1. The minimalist overcompensates for the lack of rising time (6 hours v 18 hours) by using a whole pack of yeasy. This was very transparent in the flavour of the buns... they tasted a bit like beer.

2. No-knead doughs need a lot of liquid to travel around in (think gluten superhighways). The end product was a bit too soft.








TRIAL 3: Momofuku recipe with a few slight edits

1. I sifted the flour before measuring and only used 3 1/8 c flour
2. I only kneaded it for 1-2 minutes
It turned out just right, so let me break it down for you:

BUNS (makes 16 taco sized buns)

SUMMARY:
You will rise these while baking the pork. There are two more resting periods of 30 minutes each. Once after you incorporate the powder and once after you form the buns.

WARE:
Steamer, Warm place (a heated room), parchment/wax paper

TOTAL TIME:
4 1/2 hours, Active time 2 hours - but must always be vigilant!

INGREDIENTS

- 1 cup warm water (105-115°F), divided
- 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 3 tablespoons sugar plus a pinch
- 2 tablespoons nonfat dried milk
- 3 1/4 cups cake flour, measured after sifting
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- Canola oil for greasing and brushing
1. In a small bowl combine the yeast and the warm water. Put in a warm place to proof and foam. 5-10 minutes. It must foam or else you have to start over. ABSOLUTELY NO EXCEPTIONS.



2. Sift out the flour. Measure it. Sift again into a large bowl. Add 2 T sugar.



3. After the 5-10 minutes have resulted in a foamy yeast mixture, mix in the dry milk and rest of warm water (3/4 c). Nonfat dry milk is good because it can keep for a while, while whole dry milk can't due to the fat content. You can use wet milk... Um, 1/2 c milk and 1/2 cup water in total.

4. Pour wet mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

5. Kneed for 1-2 minutes until it form a ball. If it seems too tough, just stop and cover. Allow to rise for 2-2 1/2 hours in a warm dry place. (Roast the pork belly if making pork belly buns)

6. Check on dough to ensure that it has risen.



7. On a floured surface, flattened and sprinkle the baking powder in. Knead. Try not to loose any powder! Knead for 3 minutes. The powder will result in layers and bubbles!! Allow to rise for 30 more minutes.

Below I have shown the bisected dough of all three trials, after powdering and proofing.



8. Cut into 16 balls (for taco size) or 32 balls (for peking duck size)

Roll out accordingly:

video

Allow to rest for 30 more minutes... If it doesn't rest your buns will taste squashed and dense.



9. Steam for 3-5 minutes.



Sources:
1. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Pork-Belly-Buns-240258





UPDATE:
In 2009, David Change published Momofuku (Crown Publishing, 2009).  He COMPLETELY re-vamped his bun recipe.  Please see the updated recipe for comparisons and reviews. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I came across your post in attempting to find a recipe to make pinch buns at home. I've tried on a couple other occasions but they were complete failures! Thanks for trying the different variables, especially the kneading time and the amount of flour. One question: Did you ever use a scale to weigh the flour? I've always tried to seek out weights vs. volume because of how imprecise measuring flour can be (scoop and sweep, spooning into measuring cup, etc.).

Thanks!
Chuck

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