I've actually tried the Bisquick method, which works great if you're super short on time (no need for yeast!) but the results are only so-so. I decided this time I would actually try to make a yeast-based bun from scratch.
Yeast + sugar + warm water after about 10-15 minutes at room temperature
Dissolve sugar in warm water and add the yeast. Let the liquid stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes, or until it becomes foamy (see picture above). Sift flour into a separate bowl. To the flour add shortening, the yeast/sugar mixture, and baking soda. Mix well. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic. Add additional flour or water as necessary to make the dough the right consistency (smooth yet pliable).
Top left and Top right: kneading dough. Bottom left: dough in plastic wrap left to warm. Bottom right: dough after rising for about 2 hours
Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap let it rise in a warm place for about 2 hours or until it has tripled in bulk.
This "home cook" bun definitely pales in comparison to any restaurant version, or any frozen supermarket version. It's much less refined, and frankly, isn't nearly as good. It's a bit chewier, a little less fluffy. I almost think it's not worth all that effort when you can get much better ones in the freezer section of your local Asian supermarket. The flavor is decent, but you aren't going to get that nice fluffy and delicate texture that you see in the restaurant versions.
I would be curious to know if anyone else has tried a better home steamed bun recipe? Do you really have to use a multi-step dough starter method to achieve that glorious refined bakery-like texture? I've seen the Momofuku recipe but haven't tried that version.
In any event, it was fun to try, but for now, I may just stick to buying bakery buns and filling it with my own braised pork belly instead of slaving away at inferior buns!
Having said that, making buns is still a fun activity at home, and the buns still taste decent. It's definitely not a bad activity to do with kids at home. As kids, my sister and I had tons of fun making steamed bun versions of turtles, snowmen, and all sorts of characters. You can never replicate that in a restaurant. 🙂
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