This is a recipe for the dough of the fluffy white skins of the char siu bao and the shanghai cabbage buns. It's truly versatile -- you can use the same dough and fill it with sweetened mashed red beans or lotus seeds for a dessert treat. Or just steam it by itself to turn it into "man tou" essentially steamed white bread that is used to soak up the wonderful sauce of Sichuanese or Hunanese dishes. If you shape the bun into a flat disc, it becomes the base for peking duck.
The dough can be allowed to rise slowly, covered, in the refrigerator for 1 day. Bring to room temperature before using. If you are not using the dough straight away, punch it down and wrap tightly with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.
For the Cha Siu Bao recipe, see Useful Link below.
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3 tablespoons sugar
½ tablespoons active dry yeast
½ cup + 2 tablespoons hot water
½ cup + 2 tablespoons cold water
3 cups unbleached 00 bread flour plus additional for kneading and dredging
2 tablespoon oil
2 teaspoons baking powder, sifted
Part 1: Making and proofing the dough.
Proofing the yeast: Dissolve sugar in hot water. Add cold water to make a warm solution (105 - 115Â°F). Dissolve the yeast in the sugar solution. Stir lightly, and let stand in a warm place until mixture develops a creamy foam, about 7 minutes. (If mixture doesn't foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)
Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the middle, and add yeast mixture and oil and stir to incorporate the flour until dough holds together and just come away from side of bowl. Add a little more water if needed.
Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead. Lightly flour your hands if necessary. Knead (by using the heels of your hands and your body weight to push away from you, pull it back and fold in the sides of the dough towards the center. Turn the dough right angle every few kneads) until dough is smooth, soft, and elastic, about 10 minutes. Form into a ball.
Lightly oil a large bowl, put the dough into the bowl and turn the dough so that all sides are coated. Cover the bowl tightly with a plastic wrap/damp tea cloth and let dough rise in a warm (75-80Â°F), draft-free place until doubled in bulk, 1-3 hours. The dough is ready when it does not spring back when poked with a finger.
Part 2: Finishing the dough - Using the dough
Uncover the dough, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Flatten it and make a well in the center. Sprinkle baking powder in the well, gather up the sides and fold to the center to incorporate the baking powder. Knead lightly for a few minutes till it becomes a ball again.
Divide the dough into two cylinders about 1 inch thick. Cut each into 10. Make 20 1-inch ball portions. Cover dough with a damp tea cloth as you work.