Saturday, March 22, 2014

Four-flavour Spiral Mántóu (a.ka. Chinese Steamed Buns)

I have been searching for easy Mántóu recipes that do not require long proofing or even overnight proofing of the dough. Majority of the steamed buns recipes involve either the straight-dough method or sponge-dough method. Although I would think that longer proofing time should yield softer and fluffier buns – credits to the yeast for its hard work and the maker for the patience, I believe there should be some “easy way-out” recipes that make similarly soft buns too.

While I have not tried Mántóu made using the sponge-dough method, I am just as satisfied with the steamed buns made from this straight-dough method that required only proofing the dough twice for 10 to 15 minutes at each proofing stage.

By the way, this was one of the experiments, along with my Kueh Lapis a.k.a. Steamed Nine-layer Cake which I had managed to accomplish within a day when my energy level (and enthusiasm) was at its maximum level as shared in my third baking post. ^_^

Four-flavour Spiral Mántóu (a.k.a. Chinese Steamed Buns)

Four-flavour Spiral Mántóu
Recipe referenced and modified from: Vivian Pang's Kitchen

Ingredients Required

2 cups plain flour
1 cup low protein flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup milk (with excess)

Food flavourings
Brown (Chocolate) – 1 teaspoon cocoa powder dissolved in 1 teaspoon hot water to form paste.
Green (Pandan) – 1/4 teaspoon pandan paste or pandan essence
Pink (Berries) – 2 tablespoons berries juice from 8 thawed frozen raspberries and 4 small fresh strawberries boiled in 1 tablespoon water and 1 teaspoon sugar until very soft. Puree and strain through coffee filter (or very fine strainer) to extract juice only.

Bakeware Used

Round disposable foil pan 8 1/2-inch by 1 1/2-inch (or any steam rack)

Preparation Steps
  1. Sift and combine all dry ingredients.
  2. Add milk (reserve some) to dry mixture and mix to form pliable dough.
  3. Measure and divide dough into four equal portions. Add each food flavouring to three of the divided dough and knead till colour of dough evens out. The divided dough without food flavouring will be the original flavour milk buns.
  4. Cover and let dough rest for about 10 minutes.
  5. Flatten and roll-out each rested dough into a similar rectangle size on a working surface. 
  6. Brush surface of flattened dough with some water and lay on top of the other in any desired order.
  7. Gently roll stacked dough to press all layers of dough together. Brush surface of topmost layer of dough with water and roll dough lengthwise into a swiss roll shape.
  8. Sliced the rolled log into pieces, approximately one to one and a half inch thick. Place each cut pieces on foil pan lined with non-stick (parchment) paper and rest covered in steamer for 10 to 15 minutes.
  9. Start steaming from cold water at medium heat. Once water comes to a boil, reduce to low-medium heat and steam a further seven to 10 minutes.
  10. Once the steaming time is over, off the heat and leave the buns inside the steamer for one minute before lifting steamer lid quickly to prevent any water from dripping onto buns.
  11. Serve buns warm. Reheat the buns by steaming until heated through if necessary.

The Dream Baker's Experiment
  1. I used all-purpose flour, which is often also known as plain flour. For the low-protein flour, I used cake flour.
  2. I used instant dry yeast, which could be combined directly with the dry ingredients before adding liquid. It is important to determine the type of yeast used as certain type of yeast (e.g. active dry yeast) has to be activated with lukewarm water before mixing with the rest of the ingredients. Follow the instructions on the yeast packaging accordingly.
  3. I used 2% reduced fat milk and heated milk to hand-hot temperature before mixing into the dry ingredients so as to activate the yeast. It is important to make sure that the liquid temperature is neither too cold, else the yeast wont get activated nor too hot, else the yeast will be "killed". Again, read the instructions on the yeast packaging accordingly.
  4. I divided each dough portion into approximately 181 grams based on the initial dough weight of approximately 724 grams.
  5. I added the entire cup of milk during the initial mixing to combine the ingredients to form pliable dough. I noticed that the dough gets dried out, especially while kneading the brown and green dough. I wetted my hands occasionally with some milk while kneading the dough to even out its colour.
  6. I added two drops of red food colouring in addition to the berries infused juice as the colour was not as vibrant. Perhaps the next time I will try using more berries for a thicker concentration to enhance the colour.
  7. I covered the rest of the divided dough with a clean towel while working on one.
  8. I rested the dough for 15 minutes during the second proofing and steamed buns for 10 minutes.
  9. I wrapped the lid of the steamer with a clean towel to absorb any water during the steaming so as to prevent the water from dripping onto the buns.

My rolled out dough was more of a broad oval shape than a rectangle. This is why the ends of the log did not have a straight edge.

I sliced my dough log into six pieces (discarding both ends), each between approximately 1 1/2-inch to 2-inches thick because I only have one steamer pot and I was lazy to steam two rounds. @_@
Guess how my steamed buns turn out? (See below)

The steamed buns actually expanded in height and crowded the foil pan! 

I learned this method (which I have forgotten where I read from) during my online researches.
Since then I have been using this method when steaming buns or pau (although the recipe did not call for) using such metal pot because I'd experienced once when the "skins" of the pau became wet and soggy after the steaming process before I learnt of this method. 

Although the steamed buns became hard after left to cool for hours at room temperature, they were definitely soft and tasty when eaten warm, best to eat them piping hot!

I am submitting this Four-flavour Spiral Mántóu (a.ka. Chinese Steamed Buns) to the Aspiring Bakers #40: Rainbow and Ombre Party! (March 2014) hosted by Cynthia of The Baking Biatch.

One of the days I shall try to make this Mántóu using the sponge-dough method to see what difference would it make. ^_^

Dare to dream.
The Dream Baker

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