Monday, January 27, 2014

Chinese Steamed Buns (Mantou) 饅頭

After having enjoyed quite a few potato dinner rolls and other baked goods the past few months, I had a craving for a lighter roll and steamed buns or mantou seemed like the perfect solution. Mantou are unfilled, so you really get to appreciate the flavor of the bun itself. While I can pretty easily get mantou in my area, they don't always compare to the light, fluffy, coconut-scented mantou of my childhood and the only bakery that comes closest to that memory is a bit of a trek away. So, I decided to try making my own and now after a few tries, I think these are pretty darn good.

The recipe is adapted from a Chinese cookbook that my mom bought many years ago and other sources. The recipe should be pretty easily adapted to make other variations of mantou such as matcha and chocolate. I'll have another post when I try those out. So far, I've made them plain and with coconut milk. While both are great, I just have a place in my heart for coconut-flavored things and what's even better about making my own is that I can make them as coconutty as I want. The plain version of these can be used to make other types of buns such as barbecue pork buns or flower rolls and I've done that in the past, but I haven't tried it out recently.

Coconut milk mantou
Mantou made with milk
While these buns are pretty fluffy, they may not be quite as fluffy as steamed buns you'll find outside which could be made using a sponge starter method. I'm also going to try that method soon. I've used a lower protein all-purpose flour here rather than a Chinese flour specifically for steamed buns as well as organic unbleached sugar, so the buns are not super white. I might try using cake flour to see how they come out, but I'm quite happy with the recipe as it is. If you like your buns a little less sweet, take out some of the sugar though I personally think mantou need to have a slight sweetness to taste right.

It's important that your dough doesn't sit out rising for too long and also to give it enough time to rise. The time your dough needs may be more or less than the times I've included here, so just keep an eye on it and go on to the next step when it has risen to the right size.

Recipe adapted from The Food of China by Deh-Ta Hsiung and Nina Simonds
Makes 24 buns

5 1/2 cups (700 g) all purpose flour, plus more for kneading and shaping
2 cups milk, whole or reduced fat or coconut milk
6 tbsp (75 g) granulated sugar
3 tsp (13 g) active dry yeast
3 tbsp (45 g) coconut oil or vegetable oil
3 tsp (12 g) baking powder

Sift the flour into a large bowl. Reserve about half a cup of the flour on the side. In a small saucepan, add the sugar and coconut oil to the milk and heat over medium until the sugar is dissolved and the coconut oil has melted. Let cool to 110-115 deg F.

Sprinkle the yeast over the milk and let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy. Gradually pour the milk mixture into the sifted flour and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to come together.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes adding in the remaining half cup of flour as needed. Use a little more flour if your dough is very sticky. The dough should be smooth and able to be handled, but still sticky.

Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for about 2 hours until at least doubled in size. After the dough has doubled, turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Flatten the dough slightly into a rectangle. Sprinkle the baking powder over the dough, fold up the edges of the dough sealing the baking powder and knead the dough for a few minutes to incorporate the baking powder. Cut the dough in half.

With one half of the dough, roll the dough out into a rectangle about 18 inches by 12 inches, fold into thirds along the long edge so that you end up with a rectangle that is about 6 inches by 12 inches. Roll out the dough into a rectangle about 18 inches by 12 inches again. Lightly dampen the surface of the dough with water and tightly roll up the dough on the long edge into a log. Pinch the edge to seal. Cut the log into 12 pieces and place each one on a piece of wax paper. Place in a steamer about 1-2 inches apart.

Repeat rolling and shaping with the other half of the dough. Let the buns rise, covered, for 30-40 minutes until they are at least 1.5 times their original size.

When ready to steam, heat water in a pot and steam the buns in a single layer in batches for 15 minutes on high heat. After 15 minutes, turn the heat off and lift the lid slightly leaving a small gap. Let the buns sit for another 2-3 minutes before removing them from the steamer to serve.

To reheat, steam the buns over high heat for 5 minutes or microwave for 15-20 seconds. They can also be frozen and reheated as desired.

For a visual of how to shape the mantou, check out this youtube video: Chinese steamed bun

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Milk Bar's Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookies

I've been meaning to make these for a long while now. Although I've never been to Momofuku or Milk Bar, I'm a huge longtime fan of David Chang and Christina Tosi simply because everything they do just seems so dang cool. (I know, very uncool of me to use the word "cool".) Back in one of my earliest posts several years ago, I mentioned that I had wanted to make Christina Tosi's Banana Hazelnut cake and I'm sad to say I haven't done that yet. It's definitely still on my ever-growing list of things to make, but I have to blame the discovery of blogs and my daily blog reading for adding to the list. Sometimes, you just need an occasion to kick start your baking and my sister's holiday office cookie swap was just the kick I needed to try these cookies out.

As I thumbed through the Milk Bar cookbook recently, most of the stuff did seem a bit more time consuming though I'm sure it's all worth it in the end. This recipe in comparison seemed relatively tame and as it might be obvious to you already, I'm always up for a chocolate chip type cookie. This one is thin, crunchy, caramelly in flavor, and chewy. Some of the mini marshmallows melt and caramelize a bit into toffee-like chewy bits while the cornflake crunch adds just that, crunch. It is a sweeter cookie than most with all the awesome add-ins, but I can't imagine it any other way. I'm sure it's the perfect accompaniment to a bottle of Milk Bar's famous cereal milk.

Be sure to follow the instructions closely for these and keep them in the fridge for at least the minimum amount of time, they really do flatten out tremendously.

Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookies
Recipe adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar
Makes 15 to 20 cookies

Cornflake Crunch - Makes about 4 cups
5 cups (6 oz) cornflakes
1/2 cup milk powder
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
9 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 275 deg F. Crush the cornflakes to about a quarter of their original size. Mix with the milk powder, salt, and sugar. Mix in the melted butter. Spread mixture on a lined baking sheet, bake for 20 min. Let cool completely before using.

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt (half the amount of fine salt)
3 cups cornflake crunch
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups mini marshmallows

In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugars on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides with a spatula. Mix in the egg and vanilla. Beat for another 7-8 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, mix in the dry ingredients until the dough just comes together. Mix in the cornflake crunch, chocolate chips, and mini marshmallows until just combined.

With a 2 3/4 oz ice cream scoop or a 1/3 cup measure, scoop out mounds of dough onto a lined baking sheet. Pat the tops of the dough to flatten slightly. Wrap the pan in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, up to a week.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 deg F. Place the mounds of dough on a baking sheet spaced at least 4 inches apart. Bake for 13-15 min until golden brown on the edges and starting to brown in the center.

Cool cookies on the sheet pan completely. Store in an airtight container at room temp for up to 5 days.

Potato Dinner Rolls

These are seriously the fluffiest rolls ever and that is no exaggeration. I've made rolls a few times, but there's just something about the mashed potato in these that makes them suuuuper soft. If you need a dinner roll recipe, this is the one to try.
I first made these this past Thanksgiving and made them again around Christmas because they're just that good. Besides being superbly tasty, these are also pretty easy to put together because you can make the dough the day before, let it rise overnight in the fridge, and then bake them the next day. An overnight rise should also contribute to better overall flavor in the rolls. The recipe is meant to be no-knead, but I make it in a stand mixer and knead it a bit anyways so that it's soft, but still has some texture. It's up to you to decide how to make it, but as with most bread, it's better to err on the side of less flour so your bread doesn't come out too dense. 

To make the rolls all in one day, follow the directions over at Completely Delicious.

Potato Dinner Rolls
Recipe adapted from Red Star Yeast via Completely Delicious
Makes 18 rolls

1/2 cup (1 stick/113 g) unsalted butter
1/2 cup water
1 cup whole milk
1 cup (213 g) mashed potato
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
1 tsp kosher salt (1/2 tsp fine salt)
2 large eggs
4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (2 packages, 14 g)
5 - 6 1/2 cups (600-780 g) bread flour
Egg wash, for brushing before baking
Honey butter, for brushing after

Heat milk and butter over medium low heat in a small saucepan until the butter is melted, add water, set aside to cool until it reaches 110-115 deg F.

In the bowl of a standing mixer with a dough hook, mix the milk mixture with the mashed potato. Add the sugar, salt, and eggs. Mix until combined. Sprinkle the yeast over the mixture. Add the flour slowly, 1 cup at a time. (I used about 700 g) Knead on medium speed for 5 min.

Sprinkle a bit of flour over the dough and with the help of a rubber spatula, gather the dough into a slightly sticky ball and place in a well-oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. After one hour in the fridge, punch down the dough and let it continue to rise in the fridge overnight.

The next day, at least an hour before you want to bake the rolls, take the dough out of the fridge to warm up. Shape the dough into 18 rolls and place in a baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place such as a slightly warm oven for 30-45 minutes until the rolls have doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 400 deg F. Brush with egg wash and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Melt some honey butter as the rolls are baking. When the rolls come out, brush with honey butter. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.