I have a feeling that you peeps might look at this and say wtf? (if you say that sort of thing, of course). if you’re feeling extra conversational you may even be like, “look, i’m putting things in jars and pampering them in hot water baths. you’ve got me fermenting cruciferous veggies and hey, even making yogurt doesn’t look so hard, i’ll give you that. but…
i’m drawing the line at bun making, cat!”
i urge you. take my paw…we can do this together.
i admit, i have a bit of a steamed bun addiction. and if truth be told, i lived off of them for years when i lived in the lower east side. i used to order them almost daily from my favorite neighborhood place. back then, i never even imagined i could make them myself. so if that is what you’re going through right this very moment,
i get it. again, i urge you. take my paw…we can do this together.
once you get the dough and technique down – and trust me i am talking e-a-s-y, you can really put just about anything inside these pillowy buns.
i started filling them with kimchi in a stroke of genius sometime in the fall. thus, after i had the better side of the 75 pounds of cabbage i decided to ferment this past season glaring at me from behind glass jars. kimchi, i have found, is the most convenient and tasty of steamed bun fillings! the hot salty-sourness and slight crunch are the perfect compliment to the melt-in-your-mouth casing.
so, take a deep breath and let’s do this!
kimchi steamed buns
recipe adapted from asian dumplings
2 & 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 & 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 & 1/2 cups kimchi, drained
you will also need:
steamer, i use bamboo, but a metal one is good too. wok or large pan to fit steamer in parchment paper, i use these, or you can cut regular parchment into 4 inch squares. yield: 12 buns
to make dough:
1. add the dry ingredients to a food processor and pulse three times. if making by hand, whisk in a large bowl.
2. add yeast to water and let sit for 1 minute. whisk in oil. let sit for another minute more.
3. if using food processor, add yeast mixture in a steady stream with machine running. if the dough does not clump together in about 30 seconds add a few more teaspoons of water, just until it starts to clump. run machine for another 60 seconds. dough should lift from sides and form a mass, it should not be sticky.
if making dough by hand, make a hole in center of dry ingredients and pour in yeast mixture. a great eastern stirring technique is to press your fingertips and thumb together to form a point and use your hand to stir in circles, starting from the center with smaller circles and moving outwards to rim of bowl with larger and larger circles. this technique was a revelation to me. add water, a teaspoon at a time if dough is not clumping. once clumped, gather into a ball and knead for 5 minutes. you can do this in the bowl or transfer to a work surface. dough should not be sticky and you should not have to add additional flour to knead.
4. lightly oil a bowl and place dough inside, give it a spin so that the oil coats the entire ball. cover with plastic wrap and place in the warmest place in your kitchen. let rise for 45 minutes or until it looks as if it has doubled in size.
note: after the dough has risen, you can press it down and wrap in plastic wrap for up to 36 hours before making steamed buns. make sure to let the dough warm up for 1 hour after taking out of the fridge if you do. it is very convenient to make the dough the day before, because when it’s time to make the buns it will feel like you can whip them up very quick indeed.
now it’s time to fill and shape the buns – i’m very excited for you! i assure you it’s really easy, the dough is forgiving and who cares if they don’t look perfect – they taste just as delicious!
to make buns:
1. when ready to make buns, press dough down and place on work surface, shape into a 12 inch log. cut in half, cover one half, and divide the half you are working with into 6 more-or-less even pieces. roll each piece into a ball between your palms and place a kitchen towel over them to keep them from drying out.
2. working one at a time roll each ball into a 3 & 1/4 inch circle (approximately). once you have the round, go around the sides and roll inwards a bit so that the sides are thinner than the center. if your circle doesn’t come out perfectly round…
that’s OK. mine usually don’t either.
3. one at a time place the circle flat in your palm and drop a heaping tablespoon of the drained kimchi in the center, spreading it so there is about a 1/2 inch border of dough around all sides. pleat the sides together between the thumb and forefinger of your opposite hand, ending with a pinch and a twist! (i mean it, it’s easy!)
here is a lovely video on shaping a steamed bun. have a look.
4. after sealing each bun place about an inch apart on parchment paper (either on the single squares or on the round sheet) which has been placed inside your steamer basket. you will fit 3 to 4 buns per 10 inch basket. cover with the steamer lid and let rise for 30 minutes or until almost doubled in size. depending on the heat of your kitchen, it could take a bit longer than 30 minutes.
if you do not have 2 sets of two 10 inch steamer baskets (i don’t) wait for about 10 minutes to start rolling out the other half of dough. repeat the process but leave these on the work surface covered with a kitchen towel.
5. prepare the wok or pan about 10 minutes before the first set of buns has fully risen. place enough water in the wok to come up about a 1/2 inch over the bottom of the steamer. bring water to the boil.
6. place filled steamer trays (carefully) in wok and keep water at a strong boil, you should see little puffs of steam coming out of the top. steam for approximately 14 minutes. you will know they are done when they look like they have puffed up even more and the texture has become dry and bread-like.
7. take steamer trays out of wok, remove buns and place on a rack or dish to cool for about 5 minutes. caution: do not bite into them before this time as the kimchi will be very hot even as the outside seems cool.
8. while the first set is cooling, repeat the steaming process with the final 6. you should be able to reuse the parchment paper. serve with a side of soy sauce if desired.
leftover buns can be refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for a month. they are easily warmed up by steaming for 6-7 minutes, or using a microwave. if frozen, let thaw first.
if you are anything like me, you will gobble 4-5 of these up in one go. and you’ll be dreaming about when you can eat them next. ok…you can let go of my paw now. no really, let go!