Johanna Ware of Smallwares in Portland, Oregon, fills these Chinese-style buns with a variety of delicious things. Ware steams the buns to fluffy perfection, but you can also fry them, should you feel so inclined. Fun fact: When cooked plain, the buns are called mantou, while the filled buns are called baozi.
To learn more, read "Breaking Bao."
Recipe adapted from Johanna Ware, Smallwares, Portland, OR
Yield: 12 to 14 buns
Prep Time: 20 minutes, plus proofing time
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Total Time: 28 minutes, plus proofing time
⅔ cup warm water
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
1¼ cups bread flour, plus more for if needed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the water, yeast and sugar until the yeast dissolves. Let the mixture sit until the yeast starts to get foamy and bloom, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in the oil and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, sift the bread flour, salt and baking soda together. Add the yeast mixture to the dry ingredients and stir using a rubber spatula. If the dough looks sticky, add 1 additional tablespoon of flour at a time until it is less sticky.
3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth. Cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel and let the dough rest until it has doubled in size, 1½ to 2 hours. Punch the dough down to flatten it.
4. Portion the dough into balls that are 2 inches in diameter and let rest for 5 minutes. Flatten each ball into a disk 3 inches in diameter.
5. Fill the buns with your filling of choice and wrap by gathering the edge and twisting slightly. Cover with a damp kitchen towel to keep the bao from drying out.
6. Place the buns in a steam basket lined with parchment paper and steam until the buns have expanded, 7 to 9 minutes. Serve.