Monday, January 18, 2016

Making Meat Bao Adventure 1

It's funny that we continue to try our quest in steaming perfect Chinese meat baos.  Many people have posted their success in the YouTube and in their blogs, but that's the way it goes in anyone's kitchen who enjoy the challenge in successfully present beautifully prepared food - more cooking.  This reminds me of my early years when trying to make the ultimate southern biscuits where I dumped 3 dozens of biscuits or more before getting the right one.  Finding that ultimate formula that would work in your kitchen keeps our mind sharp and family cooking together interesting. This is one of my mom's many trials in making Chinese meat bao in her extra large aluminum steamer.  There was nothing to it when she used to make them in bamboo steamers in her early years.   After enjoying the retirements for many years she wants to get back to making them again. But she noticed the diminishing of  her memory of the "how to" beside her physical strength.  So while she reads off the formula from collections of cookbooks and notes she had been collecting for years, I get to work. 
She wanted to try this formula in one of very old Pei Mei's cookbook:
Flour - 3-1/2 C
Sugar - 1Tbsp
Yeast - 2 tsp
1-1/2 C Warm water
Mix all together and knead 7-8 minutes.  Cover and rise for 3--4 hours.
Next, add to risen dough:
Baking Powder - 2 tsp dissolved in Cold water 1/2 Tbsp.
Add into risen dough and knead again. 
Meat Filling:
Ground Pork - 1 lb
Shredded Cabbage - 1 lb - shredded and liquid squeezed out
Green Onions chopped - 1/2 bunch
Fresh Ginger minced - 2 Tbsp 
Salt - 1 tsp
Cooking Wine - 1 Tbsp
Sugar - 1 Tbsp
White or Black Pepper 1/2 tsp
Soy Sauce - 1Tbsp
Mix all ingredients together, cover, and set aside.
Vegetable Filling:
Shred 1lb green cabbage
Black Mushroom chopped - 3 Tbsp
Scallion chopped - 1 T
Salt - 2 tsp
1 tsp Sesame oil
1 T Soy sauce
Mix all ingredients together, cover, and set aside.
When dough is doubled in size, remove from the bowl and knead 10 times.  Depending on the size of your work surface, divide the dough into halves.  Keep the other halves covered while working with the other.  Roll the cut halves into a long rope enough to slice and form 9 rounds.  (Total of 18.)
Leave some flour on a corner of the work surface.  You will dip the bottom of the round dough with flour that you are holding on with fingers of one hand each time you roll out its edge with the other hand. 
Coat the sliced side of the dough with some flour to prevent sticking onto work surface. 
Press down the cut side of the dough round facing up with the palm of your hand.
Start rolling the dough rounds with straight 1 or 1-1/2 inch rolling pin that you can buy at the Asian market as follows:
Coat the bottom of the round dough with flour as you roll the edge of the dough 'inward' then back to the edge, then turn the dough 1/8 of an inch at the same time its bottom is coated with flour and brought back to where you would roll with the other hand that is holding the rolling pin.   Continue with this motion - coat, roll, turn, coat, roll.. until a full circle is complete.   
Fill the center of rolled dough with meat mixtures. 
Enclose the dough by pulling the edge and folding them in Fan style and pinch close each fan seam to the previous.
Place on slightly floured surface that you can cover with floured plastic wrap and towel to complete the final rise before steaming.   Or place individual bao on top of a cut parchment paper square for each bao.
Rest for 20 minutes in hot air-conditioned kitchen or cover and rest for minimum 30 to 40 minutes. 
Start boiling water in steamer at low temp first while waiting for the bao to complete the final rise. 
Turn to high to bring to full boil.
Line the bottom of steam basket with moistened cheesecloth. Transfer first 9 baos that you filled first to the lined steamer basket.
Cover and steam at high but one notch down for 15 minutes.
NEVER open the lid.
At 15th minutes, without opening the lid, place a wooden spoon or an object under one side of the lid to allow cooking with released steam.  Steam 5 more minutes.
Without opening the lid or removing the wooden spoon, turn off the heat.  Do not remove from the stove or from the bottom steamer pot.  Cool for 5 minutes.
Without opening the lid or removing the wooden spoon, remove just the basket with cracked open lid to a heat safe work surface.  Cool for 5 minutes.
At the end of 5 minutes, remove the lid quickly and  away from baos to prevent steam droplets to rain on steamed baos.
Serve on bamboo lined placemat to prevent moisture condensation at the bottom to cause soggy bottom.  Or prop steamed bao sideways to cool in the steamer basket.  
Check the steamer's hot boiling water level.  Refill with hot water and bring to full boil.  Steam the next round the same methods.

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