Chinese Pork Buns
May 23, 2012 - Article
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By Aspen Burkhardt, Contributing Editor

BaoWith small bites becoming commonplace, many Chinese street foods are gaining in popularity. Chinese buns (bao) are easy to eat, a little unconventional and can be served with endless fillings—both sweet red bean and savory pork or shrimp. For example, Peking duck is becoming increasingly popular in the United States and lends itself well to the bun application. For a bit of fusion, chicken curry would be a great option. For a vegetarian bun, try a savory mushroom filling. This recipe focuses on ingredients from Northern China where pork, wheat and cabbage are common ingredients.

For an industrial version of the buns, making large batches of dough is relatively easy. Switching the yeast to a fresh cake or instant yeast eliminates the need for activation. Also, using a dough divider and then pressing the dough flat creates a consistent and uniform product.

The scaled-up filling also presents some room for cost savings, switching from pork shoulder or stew meat to ground pork, from Napa cabbage to green, and green onion to yellow. Powdered ginger can substitute for the fresh ginger. Using a modified food starch versus corn starch builds good freeze/thaw stability.

One possibility for a speed-scratch retail version would be to give consumers an option of building their own buns. Picture a sealed package containing disks of dough with two to three filling varieties in separate pouches. Directions could also suggest adding ingredients such as fresh herbs to change the flavor slightly. They could fill, seal and steam the buns and feel like they played a part in making the meal.

Recipe:

Ingredients

1 lb. pork shoulder or stew meat, cut in 1-in. cubes 

Marinade

1½ tablespoons soy sauce
1½ tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon dark sweet soy sauce
¼ cup water

Sauce

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
¼ cup green onions, white included, finely sliced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated or minced
1½ tablespoons sugar, granulated
1½ tablespoons soy sauce
1½ tablespoons oyster sauce
1½ teaspoons sesame oil
1 cup + 2½ tablespoons water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon white pepper, ground
¼ teaspoon Chinese five spice powder

Bun Dough

1¾ cups warm water (100 to 110°F)
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons shortening

Procedure: To marinate the pork, add the cubed meat to a quart-sized bag. In a small bowl, combine soy, hoisin and dark sweet soy sauces, mix well and pour over the pork. Marinate in refrigerator for at least an hour. This can be done up to 24 hours in advance. Place the pork in an oven-stable pan with the ¼ cup of water and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Roast at 350°F for one to two hours until fork-tender. Cool slightly and shred the pork. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, sauté the Napa cabbage in vegetable oil until the cabbage has reduced by half, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the next six ingredients, plus 1 cup of water, and simmer. Combine remaining 2½ tablespoons of water and cornstarch to form a slurry and pour into the cabbage mixture. Season with white pepper and five spice. Allow to cool slightly and combine with shredded pork.

For the bun dough, in a small bowl, whisk together the water and sugar. Add the yeast and stir to moisten. Allow to sit about 10 minutes so the yeast can activate (mixture will begin to foam). Sift together the flour and baking powder. Cut the shortening into the flour and baking powder mixture, pour in the water mixture, and mix well until a soft dough forms. Knead dough by hand or using a mixer with a dough hook until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Gently pull a small piece of dough to see if you can see light through the dough without it tearing. If the dough tears easily, knead a bit longer. If the dough is too dry, add water, one tablespoon at a time, until it is elastic. If the dough is wet and sticky, add flour, one tablespoon at a time, until it is smooth. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise until dough has doubled in size, about an hour and a half. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic again. Roll dough into a long roll and cut into 24 even pieces. Using the palm of your hand, flatten the pieces into round disks. Place a slightly heaping tablespoon of filling in the middle of the circle. Bring the dough up the sides and pinch shut at the top, pinching to create a layered look. Allow buns to rest about 10 minutes before cooking. Steam buns in a steamer for 10 to 15 minutes until the dough is set and springs back when pressed. Serve immediately.

Yield: 24 buns.

 

Filling Formula:

Ingredients                                                                        % by Weight

Liquid vegetable oil

3.20

Ground pork

45.40

Green cabbage, shredded ¼-in. thick

15.00

Yellow onion, ¼-in. dice

2.50

Sugar, granulated

2.00

Modified cornstarch

1.50

White pepper, ground

0.05

Chinese five spice powder

0.05

Ginger, ground

0.10

Water

22.80

Soy sauce

3.50

Hoisin sauce

2.00

Dark sweet soy sauce

0.50

Oyster sauce

0.60

Sesame oil

0.80

Total:

100.00%

Procedure: In a steam-jacketed kettle, heat oil to In a steam-jacketed kettle, heat oil to 300°F and add pork. Cook five minutes, mix and then add cabbage and onion. Continue mixing and cook five minutes more. Separately blend dry ingredients with starch to disperse and avoid starch lumps during cooking. Add the dry seasoning blend while mixing and cook five minutes. Add remaining liquids to the kettle while mixing and cook mixture until it has reached to185°F and hold the temperature for five minutes. Cool to 41°F or below.

 

Bun Dough Formula:

Ingredients                                                                        % by Weight

All-purpose flour

59.20

Warm water (100 to 110° F)

33.07

Sugar

3.95

Trans-free vegetable shortening

1.95

Baking powder

1.18

Instant yeast

0.65

Total:

100.00

Procedure: In a mixer, combine all ingredients. Knead the dough with the dough hook attachment until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Remove from mixer and ferment dough until it has doubled in size, about an hour and a half. Knead in mixer again until smooth and elastic. Using a dough divider on a conveyor belt, divide the dough into 53-gram pieces and then flatten mechanically into round disks. Using a piston filler, deposit 41.5 grams of filling in the middle of each dough disk and crimp to seal. Proof 10 minutes on conveyor. Steam buns in a continuous-feed steamer at 212°F for 10 to 15 minutes until the dough is set. Cool on conveyor and then blast-freeze. Upon exiting the freezer, place onto squares of parchment and pack 6 buns per package (parchment makes reheating easier for the end user). End user: To reheat using a steamer, bring water to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium, and steam buns in a steamer basket for 10 to 12 minutes; serve immediately. To reheat using a microwave, moisten a paper towel and wrap around the frozen bun. Microwave on high power for 3 to 5 minutes until heated through. Allow to cool in microwave for 1 minute before serving.

 

Aspen Burkhardt is a research chef for Illes Seasonings & Flavors, Carrollton, TX, and a member of the Research Chefs Association and the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). For more information, visit illesfoods.com.

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