Chinese Steamed Milk Buns, Mantou Recipe

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Mantou or Chinese steamed bun is eaten as a staple food in the northern parts of China. It’s airy, spongy, and soft. Who can resist a delicious homemade Mantou?

Makes 6 to 8 pieces
Prep time: 30 minutes
Rest time: 45 minutes to 90 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Equipment:
1 large mixing bowl
1 rolling pin
1 pastry brush
1 steamer
1 knife
6 wax paper

Dry ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon rapid rise instant yeast
1 teaspoon baking powder

Wet ingredients:
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons whole milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Instructions:

To mix all the dry ingredients, in a large mixing bowl, add the all-purpose flour, sugar, rapid rise instant yeast (instant yeast doesn’t need to be dissolved in water, so we can just put it in the dry ingredients), and baking powder (other than yeast, baking powder is another type of rising agent).

To add in the wet ingredients, in the mixing bowl, introduce the milk and vegetable oil in it. First, combine with a pair of chopsticks. Then use your hand to massage the dough until the mixing bowl is clean. Move the dough to a flat working surface. Continue to knead the dough until smooth for about 10 minutes.

Cover and let it rest for 3 minutes in the summer and 5 minutes in the winter.

To roll the dough into a rectangular shape, first, use a rolling pin to roll from the middle to the top. Then roll from the middle to the bottom. Roll from the middle to the sides. Repeat until it becomes a rectangular shape, and there are no more air bubbles. (This is a really great arms work out. Your arms become sore really fast if you are not used to doing this. You have to put lots of patient and love into it.)

To fold the dough up like a letter, first, take the bottom 1/3 of the dough and fold it upwards towards the top. It should be folded about halfway to the top. Next, fold the top down. Roll it into a rectangular shape again. Roll from the middle to the top. Then roll from the middle to the bottom. Roll from the middle to the sides. Repeat until it becomes a rectangular shape, and there are no more air bubbles. (By doing so, we are ensuring our mantou will not have any air bubbles after they are done.)

Again, repeat the above step. Fold it up like a letter. Take the bottom 1/3 of the dough and folds it upward toward the top. It should be folded about halfway to the top. Fold the top down. Roll it into a rectangular shape. First, roll from the middle to the top. Then roll from the middle to the bottom. Roll from the middle to the sides. Repeat until it becomes a rectangular shape, and there are no more air bubbles.

To roll up the dough, first, use a pastry brush and brush a thin layer of water on the dough. Slowly roll it up. Make it into a cylinder shape. Flatten the end. Then roll the dough until it becomes similar in size everywhere.

Slice off the two ends. Cut it into 6 pieces.

Put them on wax papers.

Transfer them in a steamer. Cover the lid until they double in size for about 45 minutes to 90 minutes. (The waiting time depends on your room temperate and humidity level. So you could speed up the waiting time by putting the steamer in a warm and humid place. This is another tip from Auntie Liu.)

(Since the winter in New York is very cold and dry. I speed up the waiting time by preheating the oven to 170°F/77°C for 1 minute. And turn it off immediately. Then I put a pot of boiling water on the bottom of the oven. Put the steamer inside with the dough inside. By doing so, the total waiting time for me is 45 minutes. And the dough that I leave at room temperature needs 90 minutes to rise double in size.)

Bring water to a boil. Steam on high heat for 15 minutes.

Uncover a small gap and let the hot air out for about 5 minutes. (If you open up the cover immediately, the mantou might deflate.)

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