Growing up in the East Bay, my family was so lucky to be next door to the oldest Chinatown in the United States. My grandfather owned his own medical practice in the heart of Chinatown and so my grandmother always knew the best shops to go for different items. One of my favorite dim sum dishes was, of course, Baked Char Siu Baos. The perfectly tender, honey roasted pork and sweet onions nestled inside a soft glazed bun is a familiar taste and smell that I will never forget.
Even when I moved away from home, my grandmother would buy boxes of them and store them in freezer bags so I could take them with me. She would just wrap them in a moist paper towel and microwave them for 2 minutes. Every so often, I would cave in and order them at a restaurant but for the most part I try to avoid consuming meat. This prompted a quarantine challenge of trying to recreate a vegetarian version at home! This recipe was adapted from The Woks of Life and it came out soooo good!
I used a variety of mushrooms for the filling instead of pork and WOW! I think it's about time I make another batch. Feel free to experiment with ingredients for the filling based on your preference for textures and sweetness. This recipe is a bit more labor intensive than most recipes I will be publishing but it was SOOOO fun and satisfying! As someone who doesn't bake bread or work with yeast, this recipe seemed to be pretty fool proof.
Now, let's get started! I'm going to explain the recipe in the order I followed to best maximize your time and work around the proofing time for the dough :)
Char Siu Bao Dough:
2/3 C Oatly Barista oat milk (room temp)
1 C plus 1 tablespoon Oatly oat milk (room temp)
1 large egg (room temp)
1/3 C cane sugar
1/2 C cake flour *tap measuring cup to avoid air pockets and level with knife*
3 1/2 C bread flour *tap measuring cup to avoid air pockets and level with knife*
1 T active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
Egg wash: whisk together 1 egg with 1 tsp water
Simple syrup: 2 tsp of sugar dissolved in 2 tsp hot water
Char Siu Bao Filling:
We're going to make the dough first. If you do not have a stand mixer with a dough hook, then please use a large bowl with a wooden spoon, if possible, and prepare to put in some work! Turn your mixer on its "stir" setting and add the ingredients in the following order: barista oat milk, oat milk, egg, sugar, cake flour, bread flour, yeast and salt. Let it go for 10-15 minutes, while occasionally pausing to push the dough down from the edges. If you're doing this by hand, extend the kneading time 5-10 minutes until the dough comes together. If the dough feels too sticky, add 1T of bread flour to the dough at a time until it no longer sticks to the bowl and starts to form a ball.
Now it's time to proof your dough, and let it rise! I feel like the best place for this is in the oven as you can control the temperature better - here's a great article that explains an easy way to proof your oven. This is going to take 1 hour, so in the meantime we can prep the filling!
Heat a medium sized wok or non stick pan over medium-high heat and add the oil and onions. Once the onions start to turn translucent add the liquid aminos, honey, sesame oil, hoisin and white pepper to taste. Then add your chopped mushrooms and evenly coat them in the sauce. Now, add the vegetable stock and flour (for this I like to take a little bit on stock once its hot, and use a separate bowl to whisk the flour in so there are no lumps) Then add it to the pan. Let this simmer on low heat until the sauce thickens into a jelly like texture.
Now's a great time to wash some dishes, clean up some counter space and prep for the proofed dough. You'll want a clean, dry space where you'll be rolling the dough. Either on a large cutting board or countertop. Flour the surface lightly with flour to prevent sticking and keep some flour on the side for your hands.
Once the dough has proofed for an hour, transfer it out onto your floured surface and knead for 2-3 minutes or until all the air bubbles are gone. Use flour sparingly as you don't want the dough to get dry. Now divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and place the same damp towel you used for proofing on top. My dough rose extremely well so it actually yielded 15 this last time! I'd say you want each piece to be roughly the size of your fist.
Now, take one ball at a time and use a rolling pin (or wine bottle) to roll each piece into a round disc. Make sure that the center is thicker than the edges. Add about 2 T of filling and fold the edges into the middle and use a pinch and twist motion to seal the dough together. Place the bun seam-side down on a lined baking sheet and repeat steps until each one is complete.
Once the buns are formed, proof for another hour. Clean up time again, YAY! When the proofing is done preheat the oven to 375 degrees. While it's preheating, make the egg wash and brush over the buns. Feel free to add sesame seeds too if you have them! Once its preheated, turn the heat down to 350 degrees and add the buns. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. When they're done baking remove them from the oven and transfer them to a cooling rack or cutting board so the bottoms of the buns don't burn. Brush them with the remaining sugar wash and let cool 5 minutes. Hope you enjoy!
These buns can be stored in an airtight container and if they're not inhaled within the first 2-3 days feel free to store them in the freezer and heat them up per my grandmother's instructions! I'm happy to say that these were indeed mom approved!