Now, the obvious question you might naturally have might be “why make a bao so big? What’s wrong with a normal sized baozi?” and while the answer of ‘because we can’ should probably be as good enough rationale as any, there actually is a pretty interesting reason as to why these specific baozi got so big.
See, you might be familiar with Cantonese Jiulou, or ‘teahouses’ but I’m pretty sure everyone outside of China just calls them ‘Cantonese restaurants’.
These are the places where the rich can flaunt their status by ordering hundreds of dollars worth of abalone and lobster, yes, but interestingly, unlike similar high end restaurants in the west, that’s not their only function. From the morning to the early afternoon, they serve dim sum, at prices that don’t break the bank for the middle class.
And outside the restaurant on the street – there’s – sometimes – a baozi stand,ready for workers to grab and go on the cheap.
So Big Bao comes from that Chalou baozi stand tradition – it was invented as a way for workers to eat an entire tasty meal in one hand.
So,three baozi here is for three people – each one meant to be an entire meal in and of itself.
So, to start fillings.
Feel free to either prep these guys in advance, or just sort them when your baozi dough’s fermenting.
Either way, here we’ve got two dried shiitake mushrooms reconstituted in a bowl with hot, boiled water; two eggs, hardboiled and here we’re using seven minute eggs and half a Cantonese Lap Cheong sausage cut into chunks.
Then for our meat, for the chicken just cut up half a chicken thigh into one inch chunks and marinate that with a quarter teaspoon each salt, sugar, and white pepper and a half teaspoon each cornstarch, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and liaojiu a.k.a. Shaoxing wine.
Mix well, then add in a drizzle of toasted sesame oil.
Then just dice up those now-reconstituted shiitake mushrooms – reserving the liquid – mix that in with the chicken, and set that aside.
Now, for the pork, here we’re gunna be hand mincing 150 grams of leg but if you have to you could also swap that for some pre-ground supermarket 80/20. But when hand mincing, best practice is to first separate out the fat.
Slice that into a fine dice, then set it aside and just start going at that lean. With pork, a couple cleavers will make quick work of this, so after about five minutes of chopping you should be looking at a uniform paste like this.
Then toss that lean into a bowl and add in an eighth teaspoon salt, a quarter teaspoon sugar, eighth teaspoon soy sauce, eighth teaspoon white pepper powder, half teaspoon cornstarch, and a quarter teaspoon liaojiu a.k.a. Shaoxing wine.
Mix well, then go in with one tablespoon of the mushroom soaking liquid from before, and give that a real good stir.
Then just toss in the diced fat together with about a half teaspoon of oil, mix well, and our fillings are good to go.
Ok. Now for the Baozi dough, we thought it might be helpful to give you a high level overview of what’s gunna be going on here at first:
So these baozi follow the sponge and dough method, so we’ll need to first make a levain and give it a few hours to bulk ferment.
Then using that, you’ll make the main dough, knead it, and let it relax.
After that, you’ll smooth the dough by passing it through a pasta maker, which’ll give the baozi a more attractive look in the end.
Then you’ll portion, shape, roll out the wrapper, wrap up the baozi, then give it a final proof and steam.
So, sponge up first. To make it, first dissolve one gram of instant yeast into 48 grams of water, and add that in to 100 grams of cake flour.
Press that together to form it into a bit of a ball, toss it in a ziplock bag and let it sit for about three hours, but note our climate. If you live somewhere cooler you will need to let that go for longer.
And during that time, this would also be a pretty good time to prep those fillings.
Either way, you’ll know your sponge is ready if you take it out and you can see sort of lattice when you rip it open.
This is referred to as ‘fengwo zhuang’ or ‘beehive texture’ in Chinese.
Now, because the specific yeast we’re today using is not osmotolerant, we’re gunna need to mix our yeast separately from the sugar.
So, to one bowl mix a gram of instant yeast in with 18 grams of water… and in a separate bowl dissolve 24 grams of sugar into 30 grams of water, and in a third bowl mix a teaspoon of baking powder together with 100 grams of cake flour.
Then just add the flour mix into your bee hivey levain, give it a quick mix, then add in the yeast water.
After another quick mix, sugar water in, form it into a dough, and now we can knead.
So. Forgive us for moving inside here, that aforementioned subtropical climate loves to ferment stuff fast.
Just knead that together for six minutes, and while you could use a stand mixer with the hook attachment, we’re big proponents that it’s best to learn using hand kneading at first – it’ll help give you a more tactile sense of the development of the dough.
And speaking of which, when kneading, make sure that you’re actually developing the gluten by continuously folding the dough over itself – do not knead like pusheen kneads.
You’ll be ready to move on here once your dough’s gotten to a smooth, almost playdough like consistency, like so.
And it’s at this stage that you’ll wanna add in your fat – here, ten grams of lard.
If you added that in before kneading, it would inhibit gluten development – which might be what you want from a crumbly brioche,
but it’s definitely not what you want from a Baozi.
So after another two minutes of kneading, toss that in a bowl, cover, and let it relax.
So. Thirty minutes later now, we’ll be passing that dough through a pasta maker.
Widest setting, fold it in half, pass it through again – seven times total.
The logic here is similar to Japanese Milk Bread – you’re trying to compress out any air bubbles in order to make a nice, smooth final dough.
So after that, just roll that tightly into a log, and cut it into three sections – you’re aiming for about 110 grams each bao.
So. Now shape those sections into balls by pressing them flat, and folding the edges into the center to get a vaguely ball-like object.
Then, toss that on your work surface crinkly side down and twist it much like you would as if you were shaping bread.
Rolling into a ball this way instead of just going at it like a clumsy oaf will give you a smoother, more even result in the end.
Then just set those balls aside for a quick five minutes to relax once again.
Now, to turn those into wrappers.
Take your ball and first roll it flat a couple times in each direction.
Then just gently grab that and roll out the sides a bit thinner using the edge of the rolling pin.
The idea here is that we need our center to be hefty enough to hold our veritable smorgasbord of fillings, but the edges to be thin enough to cleanly pleat.
In the end you’ll want your wrappers to be about 20 centimeters wide.
So. Finally, to wrap. Because these guys’re just so massive, Steph actually finds it easiest to use a bowl to help assist.
So. First just toss in three tablespoons of your pork filling, spread it even, nestle in a third of your lap cheong, three tablespoons of the chicken filling, and toss on your egg – if you’re feeling ambitious, do a whole; if not, a half an egg is also super common.
Then just grab the edge, and start working around and pleating that baozi – the more pleats you can fit the nicer it’ll look.
Then at the end, pinch it up at the very center, and you’ve got yourself a Baozi.
If that was a bit on the fast side for you though, definitely do check out the whole uncut video of the process up here before making this yourself.
So then just toss those over some parchment paper, and proof over thirty five centigrade water for fifteen minutes.
Then, after that time, place your steamer over some heavily bubbling water and steam over high for twenty minutes.
And after that time, your big baozi are done.
Delicious, and certainly do what’s on the tin.
So, Big Bao – Cantonese Dai Bao – traditionally it’s often made with the Char Siu Bao dough, that fluffy, crackling dough… but many people find that working with dough extremely challenging, so we went with this sweet Cantonese classic Baozi dough.
That’s also fluffy and also a totally legit and classic wrapper for Big Bao.
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