I’m not sure from where you’re reading, but Chicago is enjoying its first significant snowfall of the season. Hooray!
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…
I realized I could have taken a nicer picture than my back alley with trash cans. Sorry, my bad. But LOOK AT THE SNOW!
It’s my last meal in China for a while (I’ll be stopping by again on my way back west) and I will admit I’m glad for it. I haven’t been floored by a lot I’ve made in the past weeks. Maybe that’s my own fault- have I picked the wrong dishes? Am I just not in the mood for Chinese food?– maybe it’s the nature of the cuisine. Whatever the reason, I’ll be glad to put it to rest for a bit.
That being said, I’m sort of cheating today and not really making anything Chinese at all. Well, let me rephrase- I’m taking a Chinese concept and reinventing it with decidedly very non-Chinese ingredients.
Steamed buns. I never ate them much, or even really heard of them until recently. We only did dim sum a few times when I was a kid, and if I had to list off popular Chinese dishes, this would have not popped to the forefront of my brain. However, living in the big city, I’ve been seeing them more. Notably, there is a fast food place here in Chitown called Wow Bao, and they sell steamed buns. Some genuine (Kung pao chicken, Mongolian beef), some not so genuine (BBQ chicken, coconut custard).
I’m going the non-genuine route and giving you an idea for those Thanksgiving leftovers. Last year’s Cassoulet was such a success (have you made it yet? NO!?! WHY?!?! You have failed me, reader). I realize I’m a bit late on this, but if you stuck any of those goodies in the freezer (like I did), now’s maybe the time to bust them out.
Yup, that’s it, and I’m using them here for you. The sacrifices I make…
So, today’s buns are filled with turkey and stuffing, and served with a side of cranberry mustard dipping sauce. Yum.
And for good measure, I made dessert ones filled with chocolate and peanut butter.
The buns are actually quite simple and use a yeast-based dough. Having overcome my yeast-fear after having such a successful year with it making goodies like the Belgian Waffles and Pizza Margherita, I thought this would be cake. Just a few weeks ago I made some perfect pumpkin cinnamon rolls with no problemo.
Nope. Humbled by the yeast again. The first pack I had was not good and didn’t bloom, and the second barely did. I’m pretty sure some of the reason is that my apartment is cold- I keep it set around 60F. What can I say–
I’m HOT BLOODED, check it and see…
Anyway, after I convinced myself that the yeast had foamed, I stuck the dough in my oven to rise for four hours while I was gallivanting around town, meeting Fava for a delicious vegan brunch, working on some Christmas shopping, etc. By the time I got home, it appeared to me to get a little bigger. At least it wasn’t as tough as it was when I started with the dough- I was afraid I had another rye bread situation on my hands. No matter, rolling and steaming them took no time at all.
The result? Not bad, ESPECIALLY the dessert ones. However, they just didn’t come out as good as the ones at Wow. Maybe because I used whole wheat flour- they didn’t seem to get as “light and fluffy.” Excuse me for adding extra fiber. Perhaps white flour would have done the trick. In any case, I think I’ll be leaving this one to the pros. Still, I’d say a good note on which to end Northern China.
Makes about 24-32 buns (this is half the original recipe)
Recipe adapted from The Great Book of Chinese Cooking
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¼ TB sugar
1 cup warm water
½ tsp dried yeast
1 ½ TB melted coconut oil
1. Mix the sugar and yeast gently with the lukewarm water. When it foams, it’s ready to use.
2. Melt the coconut oil and mix into the flour, stirring thoroughly to distribute it evenly.
3. Make a well in the center, pour the yeast mixture into it, and gradually mix the flour into it until it’s smooth and soft. Knead for up to 10 minutes. Cover with a clean, damp cloth and leave in a warm place until tripled in bulk (which can take up to 4 hours).
Risen? Not quite sure…
4. Knock down the dough briefly. Roll into a fairly thick sheet and cut into a 4×4 inch square (like I did) or in a disk about 4” in diameter with a cookie cutter. Place a little of your chosen filling into the center of each disk, pinching them together as you do so, using a bit of water if necessary to get them to stick together.
5. Steam 10-12 minutes.
And the insides?
Melty. Just like I like it.