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A Simple Recipe to Making Baozi: Chinese Steamed Buns

Online classes can be time consuming, and the only thing that can comfort us from the stress is food. Studies show that cooking can help relieve stress, and many people have taken up the hobby since the pandemic started. 

By following recipes, it can be calming and keep us engaged, which psychologists say helps with relieving stress and anxiety. Cooking and baking is a creative art that anyone can practice during breaks or when you're just simply hungry! 

Baozi, Chinese steamed buns, are the ultimate comfort food because they are easy to make, and they look and taste like fluffy clouds. In China, it is a popular food served for breakfast and can also be served as a meal. For this recipe (I followed Betty Goldberg book called Chinese Kosher cooking), you will need the following ingredients:

 

1 teaspoon of active dry yeast 

2 tablespoons of any sugar (this is for the yeast)

¼ cup warm water (not boiling! This is for the yeast)

½ cup of all-purpose flour (this is for the yeast)

3 cups of all-purpose flour (this is for the dough)

2 tablespoons of any sugar (this is for the dough)

¾ cups of warm water (not boiling! This is for the dough)

1 tablespoon of any oil (this is for the dough)

1 recipe filling of choice (this is for the dough)

 

Optional: spinach and cheese filling 

A handful of spinach leaves

Any cheese (I like to use mozzarella)

 

To activate the yeast, combine in a small bowl 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast, 2 tablespoons of any sugar, and ½ cup of all-purpose flour. After mixing the ingredients, stir in the ¼ cup warm water and let it mix for about 5 minutes or until you see some bubbles and foaming. If five minutes or more pass by and nothing happens, it can be attributed to one of the following: the water was too hot and killed the yeast, the water was too cool to activate the yeast or the yeast expired. If any of these possibilities happen, you will have to start all over again. 

While waiting for the yeast to activate, start making the dough. In a separate bowl, mix 3 cups of all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar, ¾ cups of warm water, and 1 tablespoon of any oil with a spoon. I recommend using olive oil or grapeseed oil. If you use coconut oil remember that the dough will have a coconut taste. Therefore, make a filling that combines well with the coconut flavor. 

Pro tip: Always mix the dry ingredients with dry ingredients and liquid base ingredients with the liquid base ingredients.

  1. Combine the yeast and stir with a spoon until it becomes hard to handle.

  2. Use your hands to knead the dough on a clean surface for about five minutes until the dough is smooth and fluffy. If the dough is sticky, it needs more flour, and if the dough is dry, it needs more water.

  3. After kneading the dough, roll it into a ball, store it in a container with a towel or a ziplock covering it, and let it sit for ten minutes to an hour until the dough rises to double its original size.  While the dough is rising, work on the filling for the bun. You can add anything you want, such as meat or vegetables. Whatever you decide to add to the bun, make sure you cook it first!

Once the dough has risen, knead it to release any bubbles and roll it into a long thin roll. Use a knife to cut it into 24 pieces or less (depending on how many you want to make and the sizes), and use a rolling pin to roll out each portion into circles. 

Pick up one piece, lay it in your palm, take two small spinach leaves, put it in the center, and put some shredded cheese on top. If you're using your filling, make sure you always put it in the center and add a small amount so it doesn't spill. To seal the dough, you have to pinch the edges together and twist it to seal the top. Repeat this process for all the pieces. 

To steam the buns, use a steamer or a rice cooker with the steam option to make the buns. First, warm the water in the steamer, then place the buns in the steamer plate, and cover with the lid. The dough will rise for 15 to 20 minutes, and the buns are done! Enjoy!

Melarie is currently pursuing her bachelor's degree at Universidad de Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus. You can find her hiking the Yunque Rainforest, growing flowers in her backyard, volunteering with environmental organizations, or lost in the pages of a good book. She is an advocate for mental health awareness and is working as a Coastal Captain of Microplastics for Scuba Dogs Society.
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