I have been obsessed with these little fluffy sweet steamed buns for a few years now. There isn't much of a culture of steamed bread in this part of the world and for a long time I was so curious about the texture! Soft, billowy like a pillow, sweet and addictive. After finding out that shepherd's purse - a common diminutive brassica here - is the usual cultivated green used for these in Shanghai I knew I had to try them with some of my own local weeds.
After a few experiments I now truly believe that anything would be delicious inside – so why not dandelions? Why not indeed. Dandelions are balanced in this recipe with the tasty additions of soy, sugar and toasted sesame oil. I have also blanched them briefly so they are cooked without adding any liquid to the mix and a little bitterness is removed.
The bun recipe comes from The Woks of Life so I haven’t gone into much detail as they do it beautifully in that link. I’ve tried a few bao doughs recipes now and I really like this one for the addition of a little sugar and cornflour which makes for super light slightly sweet fluffy buns. I've included some liquid from fermented wild garlic in this recipe which I will detail in a later post but you can just use soy. Don't stress about the appearance of these - mine were torn apart for how they looked when posted on another social media page - ugly can still be delicious! Also I highly recommend playing with fillings. We made a kimchi and cheddar version when we were drunk last week and it may well have been one of the most perfect bites I’ve ever had.
You will need
1 large bowl or mixer
1 medium bowl
Bamboo steamer or a means to steam the buns
For the bao dough
300g plain flour
Pinch of salt
170g warm water
3g dried yeast
12g neutral oil
For the filling
2 carrots finely grated
2 large handfuls of dandelion leaves
2 large handfuls of other wild greens – nettles, sow thistle, lime tree leaves, mustard greens
2 tbsp fermented wild garlic (optional)
2 scallions sliced finely
1 tbsp neutral oil
1 tbsp dark soy
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp sesame seeds
More soy, black vinegar or crispy chilli to serve
Make the dough
Mix the water, sugar, yeast and oil together and allow to bloom for a couple of minutes. Mix into the dry ingredients, turn out onto a clean surface knead into a soft silky ball for about 5 minutes. Cover and allow to rise for an hour and a half or until the dough has doubled in size.
While the dough is rising make the filling. Bring a pot of water to the boil and blanch all the greens very briefly plunging into cool water once cooked. Squeeze as much liquid out as possible and chop finely. Add the oil to a pan and bring up to a medium heat. Add the scallions and carrots and soften for 5 minutes. Add the sesame seeds, chopped greens, sugar and soy and mix thoroughly. Once everything is wilted and soft turn the heat off and add the sesame oil. Taste and adjust for seasoning – you may want to add more soy, sugar or sesame oil.
Once risen knock the dough back and divide into 12 equal pieces. Using a little flour roll into a circle about 8cm across keeping the edges thinner than the middle. Pick up with one hand and add a tablespoon of filling to the middle. Now the tricky bit! Holding your thumb in one place that is holding the dough gather the edges in the whole way round until you get a cute little bundle. You can also just fold these any way you like and even just fold them over like a cornish pastie. I recommend watching a few YouTube videos to get this right - this one is good. Place on a sheet of oiled greaseproof or cabbage greens inside your steamer and allow to rise until lovely and puffy - about 30 minutes. Steam over simmering water for 15 minutes. Turn off and allow to sit for a further five minutes before serving up. These are great with a little something to dip them in extra soy and some finely sliced scallions or wild garlic.