Sunday, July 17, 2011

Flower Buns

Flower twist buns (hua juan) with spring onions, salt and sesame seeds.

Plain flower buns.

The most common--correct--way to shape the flower buns is shown in this video and the buns look like these. Basically you twist the bun like I did but do not pile it high:

I know I've posted on mantou (Chinese buns) before but there's a good reason for re-posting: improvement to the recipe and a new way of shaping the buns, which I came up with based on the shape of the buns I ate  at a local restaurant.

The amount of water was too little in my previous Chinese buns recipe. Maybe it's true that some chefs don't teach you everything or reveal the full recipe. I've been testing and improving the basic bao recipe which I learnt in a bao-making course years ago and I found that if I add a lot more water to the original recipe, the buns will be softer and moister. I also don't bother to get special bao or Hong Kong flour, both of which are very fine and white (read: bleached) flours. I am sticking to plain flour, and I particularly like the good old Rose Flour for making Chinese buns. Rose Flour is not highly bleached so it gives a yellowish tint to the buns but the fragrance of the flour will more than make up for the less-desirable color. Last week, I had a craving for home-made (read: ammonia-free) buns. Home-made buns are good when just out of the steamer but once they cool, they loose some of the softness because ammonia and other additives are not added to the dough. The point of home-made food is to avoid all those commercial chemicals as much as possible but if you insist, then get Hong Kong flour or bao flour which will give a finer and softer texture. The dough must be kneaded very well, preferably with a machine. I've not had good results making dough with my hands in the past but because my cake mixer is still not repaired, I had to use my hands and the buns still turned out soft so I think if you keep to the amount of flour in the recipe, kneading by hands still gives good results.

I've updated my Chinese buns posts--the baos, the mantou and flower buns recipes are one and the same. Now get a packet of plain flour and practice making plain buns to go with one of my best recipes: spicy gong bao chicken, coming up next.


Flower Buns (makes 10 large or 15 to 18 small buns)

A Ingredients:
1 tsp dry yeast
2 Tbsp water
-mix A ingredients together.
(Sshh...if you know your yeast is active, just mix A and B ingredients together at once. I do that all the time)
B Ingredients:
350g Bao or HK flour or Rose (plain) flour
1 tsp double-action baking powder
50g (or less, say 30 g) fine sugar 
200 to 250 ml water* (amended)
1 Tbsp shortening (Crisco) or veg oil

*If you use 250 ml and you are kneading by hand, add 200 ml first and knead in the remainder slowly, 10 to 15 ml each time, so that the dough is not too sticky to handle. Depending on the type of flour, you may not need all the water.

1. Sift the flour and baking powder together (usually I don't bother if the flour is fresh). If using shortening, rub it into the flour evenly.

2. Mix A with all the B ingredients in a mixer bowl and knead at medium speed till very smooth, about 6-8 minutes. The dough should be quite soft. Never mind if it's slighty sticky. Continue kneading until it isn't sticky. If kneading with hands, put dough back into the bowl and cover with a cloth. Rest for 30 min or until doubled, depending on room temperature.

3. Divide dough into 50g portions for larger buns or into golf-ball portions for dainty buns.  Dust your hands and the work surface lightly with some flour. Sometimes I don't because this dough doesn't stick. Flatten each ball, roll into a small oval shape as long as your hand and about 3 to 4 cm wide. Use a metal pastry cutter and cut the dough into thin strips of 1/2 cm, thinner than that if you are making mini buns.

4. Brush the cut strips of dough with veggie oil.

5. Take the ends of the dough, one end in each hand, and twist around your thumb and tips of your forefinger.
6. Stretch the dough by pulling gently as you twist it around the tips of your thumb and forefinger. Tuck the end underneath the bun by pulling the last bit down to meet the other end that's at the bottom. Got it?
7. Here's how it looks from the top: a tight coil, like a chignon. I feel so clever that I figured this out. It must be from playing with my daughter's long hair.
8. Place the buns on a small square of baking paper to proof. Let the buns proof for 30-45 minutes or until doubled. Do not overprove or buns will wrinkle when steamed.
9. Steam at high heat for 4 minutes for small buns, 5 to 6 minutes for larger buns. A bamboo steamer basket gives best results because the steam can escape instead of dripping onto the buns and messing them.
Note: To make flower buns with spring onions (Lily from Jiangxi told me that this is how her dad makes the buns), mix finely-cut spring onions, salt and veg oil or sesame oil and spread over the rolled out dough. I used sesame seeds too for extra flavor.


Zurin said...

Am making these. I like the yellow tinge because I always think the pure white buns look too white and artificial. This looks wholesome and rustic and comforting...I like teh flower design. SOOO making these...thanks :)

... said...

Gosh, that first photo is absolutely mouthwatering! It looks so freshly steamed and moist and warm and soft. It even "looks fragrant" you know? :)

I wanted to ask whether you've considered European stand mixers? I came across a German brand called Häussler Alpha, and the links below show a clip of what it looks like. I've never used it, so I can't give a recommendation, or even how to buy it. But, food for thought, yes? :)

Best regards always,

... said...

Another 2 links: The first is the manufacturer website in English, and the other is a home-baker in The Netherlands who uses the machine. The comments section is worth reading and gives details that you can order the machine and have it shipped to your location. It is very pricey though, and perhaps the electrical considerations would not make it practical? Anyway, I shall stop here. Good luck with your choice!

Food so delicious! said...

Wow!! looks very very yummy.... I must try this and eat this with pongteh chicken..

terri@adailyobsession said...

zurin: i've added spring sesame seeds buns for you, did tt quickly this aft:D how did your buns turn out? i mean the real flower buns lol.

jasmine: hi! which part of the world r u writing frm?

never heard of the haussler mixer until u told me n i am awed. kitchenaid was everybody's dream machine but the haussler mixer is even more cool n looks rock solid! i would LOVE to get one, even a small one n if i do, i'll sleep with it!!!

but at euro1600 each?

does it just kneads dough? what about whisking eggs?

food: i even eat it plain:)

Kikukat said...

Awww...your hua juan are so delicate and refined looking. When I make hua juan, mine look big and barbaric. I am going to try your rolling technique the next time I make it.

... said...

Hi Terri,
I'm from Penang but I've made my home in California for the past few years. Yes, the Haussler looks really solid, doesn't it! Looks like it could make whipped cream out of the KitchenAid :)

I have a KA myself, the “Professional 5 Plus 5-Quart Stand Mixer” with the lift-bowl which I bought in 2009 instead of the Artisan because it was on sale, has metal housing and gears and a 450 watt motor vs. the Artisan's 325 watt.

I'm new to baking and use it infrequently, so I can't tell whether the lift-bowl is superior to the tilt-head. I guess if you're used to a tilt-head, it would be inconvenient to re-learn the routine to use a lift-bowl instead.

Back to the Haussler - I started googling for European machines simply because I was curious whether KitchenAid had penetrated the market there as pervasively as it has here in the US, where it's synonymous with stand mixers. But since I'm never going to make Euro 1500 worth of bread, I figured the KA was good enough for me :P


Chocolate Cookies & Candies said...

I didn't realize there are different types of baking powders. I guess I'd better start searching where I could get double action ones. I need to get the bamboo steamers too.

Gg 8h6f7g said...

Nice buns! I have actually been making hua juan with your recipe for the past 2 weeks... What a coincidence you would re-post this again! This is such a pretty way of shaping the buns. Thanks for the recipe and ideas!

Mary Chey said...

Your flower bun look so nice. I'm gong to make next week. i love steaming stuff. More easy to cook & healthy too. Tks for sharing.

terri@adailyobsession said...

kikukat: haha i'd like to see what a barbaric hua juan looks like! keep trying, very soon you'll get better mantous than me.

jasmine: but i think it's not a lifetime of bread only. the machine also handles other baking chores. i think it's worth it!! now you've gone n spoilt my plans for a kitchenaid which now looks puny n too retro. i am dreaming big...

ccc: there are n they work better but if you can't get them, ordinary baking powder still wors for this recipe.

cilly: you hv? tt's great! how did your hua juan turn out?

may chey: yes steaming's so much healthier than frying. i hope your mantous turn out good.

Gg 8h6f7g said...

In response to your reply:

Mine turned out really well!! My parents are food "snobs" and they said that the buns tasted better than any restaurant buns... hahaha. I will be making them again and again... Super delicious! Next time, I will try to add a filling to them, maybe char siu, or even red bean!!!

terri@adailyobsession said...

cilly: wah, so happy to know tt! it makes me happy when ppl cook at home n succeed with my recipes:) good job!

GFAD said...

Hi Terri. I have adopted your mantou recipe to make my paus. Excellent recipe - never fails! Thanks for sharing. Nowadays I prefer to make flower bun because they are much easier and faster to shape than round paus!!

moufat said...

Hey Terri,

Was wondering if I can substitute the Pao flour with either all purpose flour or bread flour? Don't see rose flours in thailand!



Unknown said...

All baking powders are double or even triple action. That's why they're not called the name of an individual chemical e.g. Bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar etc.

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