Luscious Buns

27 Sep

They are.  Just you wait.

I don’t know about you, but the whole phenomenon of the dumpling was, for a very long time, a complete mystery to me.  I cannot count the number of drunken Manhattan evenings I ended sitting at a folding table in one of those walk-in takeout Chinese places, waiting for my dumplings to come to the counter.  When I moved to Boston and could no longer find the veggie variety (much kinder to the diet) Dan and I started the intimidating task of learning to make our own.

We still make dumplings, but what we like even better now are the yummy, doughy steamed vegetable buns.  I don’t really want to pick up my Weight Watchers points ruler and try to figure out what the dough is costing me, so I just say “Hey, the filling is basically point-free.”  I’m lying to myself a little, because there’s always the chili sauce in there and also…what of the dipping sauce?  But, seriously, peeps.  Give yourselves a break.  As hangover food or rainy day food goes, you can’t beat these babies.

Before you start, you need to buy yourself a bamboo steamer.  These are not hard to find and are not super expensive.  You’ll see a picture later in the post of what this looks like.

Most of the wonderful recipe that we use must be attributed to the fabulous chef and owner at the Hartstone Inn in Camden, ME.  His name is Michael Salmon.  If you are a foodie, I highly recommend his fabulous cookbook, which you can find here:

http://www.hartstoneinn.com/gift.htm

We have used the recipe for his dough and also for his dipping sauce – and they are not the only wonderful things he makes!   We also use his filling recipe as a guideline, and I hope he wouldn’t have a heart attack to know that we have added some things and removed others for our own buns.  I do think there’s flexibility there.   You can play around with the ingredients – I’ve put my own ingredient suggestions in italics.  His are in plain type.

The first thing you want to do is make your dough, because you have to give it time to double in size before you punch it down, knead it, and cut it into pieces.

Luscious Vegetable Buns

First, the dough…

3 tsp. active dry yeast (buy the jar, because the packets are only 2 1/4 tsp)

1 C warm water

1/2 C granulated sugar

3 C all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 Tb. unsalted butter, melted

Combine the yeast with 1/4 C warm water, 2 tsp of the sugar and 2 tsp of the flour.  Mix well, cover and set ina  warm place for about 15 minutes, until frothy.

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and form a soft dough.  Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.  Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to double in size, about an hour.  Dan likes the oven with the light on (no heat!).

Then, the filling…possible ingredients

Shredded cabbage (chinese, napa, bok choy…regular)

scallions

shitake mushrooms (or lots of other kinds)

diced water chestnuts

shredded carrots

minced snow peas

and then…

1 Tb minced ginger

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp sweet chili sauce

1 tsp sesame oil

I like to use about a cup of shredded cabbage and carrot, maybe 1/4 C of mushrooms (mince them up), and about three scallions.  Chef Salmon (whose recipe I use as a guide) says green parts only.  I don’t really worry about that, but you can see what you like.

Mix any hard veggies together and then saute them for about two minutes in a pan in some vegetable oil.  Dump them back in the bowl and mix them with the sauces and sesame oil.  I like to let this sit in the fridge until the dough is ready.

Ready to saute...

lastly, assembly!

Punch down your dough and put it on a floured surface.  Knead again for 5 minutes.  Divide it into 24 pieces, rolle each one into a 2 1/2 in. circle and then keep them covered under a damp kitchen towel.

William helps with the dough

Put 1 tb. of filling in the center of each circle, gather the edges, pinch and twist to seal.

Dan demonstrates like a pro

Then turn the bun upside down and put it on a small square of parchment paper in your bamboo steamer.

Ready to steam!

You will probably get about half the buns into the two levels of the steamer.  You can then steam them over a pot of boiling water for 15 min., remove them to eat, and load the other half in to steam while you’re enjoying the first ones.

Chopstick ineptitude

Serve with your ginger-sesame dipping sauce.  Here’s Chelf Salmon’s recipe for that:

1/2 C soy sauce

2 cloves minced garlic

2 Tb minced fresh ginger

2 Tb granulated sugar

1 C rice wine vinegar

1/2 tsp of black and 1/2 tsp regular sesame seeds (optional, imho)

We actually find this makes way more sauce than we need, so we cut it in half. Also, he calls for half of your rice wine vinegar to be Chinkiang, but we’ve never found it.

So that’s it.  Your buns may not all be perfectly round, but they will be tasty, nonetheless.  A word of warning – you will ruin your dinner, so forget making any.

Cormac also loves these.  William only likes to help make them, as usual.  But they are very baby-friendly, provided you don’t have a sesame seed allergy, in which case you can easily omit those.

Baby loves him some veggie buns...

If you can make these, dumplings are even easier, so prepare to dumple!


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