Servings: 16 bao
Time: 3 hours and 40 minutes
11g (3 tsp.) active dry yeast
75g (5.25 Tbsp.) white sugar
375 g, approx 2 1⁄2 cups low-gluten bao
flour such as Purple Orchid Brand or
cake flour, or 3 cups all purpose flour
10g (1 Tbsp.) baking powder
12g (2 tsp.) iodized table salt
11g (2 1⁄2 tsp.) vegetable shortening
Red and white food coloring gel paste
2 qts/12 oz. whole shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and finely diced. (Save stems for stock or another use!)
1 1/2” piece ginger, peeled and minced
7 fat cloves garlic, peeled and minced
Neutral oil for frying, such as peanut,
canola, corn, or vegetable
1 tsp. ground Sichuan peppercorns (more if you want it extra numbing)
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. coriander
2 tsp. gochugaru
3 Tbsp. Shaoxing cooking wine, plus
more as needed (or sub dry sherry)
2 Tbsp. soy sauce, plus more to taste
1 Tbsp. Chinkiang black vinegar (or sub balsamic)
5 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
Stand mixer with dough hook (optional)
Digital scale (optional)
Rolling pin (ideally small)
Small food-safe paint brush
Clean pencil with intact eraser
Bamboo steamer basket with lid that fits
your pot (ideally three-tiered)
Step 1 - MAKE THE DOUGH Put 188g (3/4 cup) of warm water (approx 100-110°F) in a small bowl. Add sugar and active dry yeast and stir well until all sugar is dissolved. Let sit for five minutes, stirring again if needed to dissolve sugar.
Step 2 - While the yeast activates, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir to combine ingredients.
Step 3 - When the yeast is activated with a thick layer of bubbles on the surface, pour the yeast mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Use a spatula to mix and incorporate wet and dry ingredients. If you don’t have a stand mixer, follow below kneading directions with a good deal of elbow grease.
Step 4- Use the dough hook attachment to begin mixing at low speed, then gradually increase to setting 4. Knead for five minutes until the dough is very smooth and cleanly clears the sides of the bowl.
Step 5 - Add the shortening and continue to mix for another five minutes, until
shortening is fully incorporated. The dough should be soft, smooth, and easily lifted from the bowl without sticking to your hands.
Step 6 - Lightly grease a large bowl with butter or non-stick spray. Transfer the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest in a warm, draft-free place until dough is tripled in size and doesn’t fully spring back when poked, about two hours.
Step 7 - MAKE THE FILLING Heat a wok or large pan over medium heat, then add 1 Tbsp. of oil and the minced ginger and garlic, and stir fry for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add Sichuan pepper, cumin, coriander, and gochugaru, and stir fry for another 30 seconds. Add another 2 Tbsp. oil and increase heat to medium
high. Add mushrooms and stir to coat. Fry, tossing and stirring, until mushrooms start to lose water and take on a nice brown color, about five minutes.
Step 8 - Add 3 Tbsp. Shaoxing wine to deglaze, scraping up any burnt or
stuck bits at the bottom of the pan. Add 2 Tbsp. soy sauce, stir, and taste. Add an additional Tbsp. soy sauce if more salt is needed. Add vinegar and an additional splash of Shaoxing wine to deglaze. Taste a final time for seasoning, adjusting as
needed. Remove from heat, let cool slightly, then stir in scallions. (You should have about two cups of filling.) Let mixture cool.
Step 9 - ASSEMBLE THE BUNS Line three bamboo steamer basket inserts with parchment paper. (If you have fewer than three baskets, you can reuse the same basket for multiple rounds of steaming.) When dough has proofed, use a bench scraper to divide dough in half repeatedly until you have 16 approximately equal pieces. Cover all pieces with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Step 10 - Removing a few pieces from the refrigerator at a time, use a small rolling pin to roll each dough piece into a round disc that is thicker in the middle and thinner on the edges, about 2.5”-3” in diameter.
Step 11 - Place a generous Tbsp. of the mushroom filling mixture in the center.
Wrap the bun by pinching the ends of the dough together to seal and then rolling the bun so it maintains a roughly circular shape. Place each completed bun
seam side down in a parchment-lined steamer basket, with five or six buns per basket layer, leaving plenty of space between buns as they will expand as they steam.
Step 12 - Paint tops of buns red using a small clean food-safe paint brush and red food coloring gel paste that has been thinned with a few drops of water, or carefully dip buns into a bowl of thinned coloring gel. Let the red dry for a few minutes, and then add mushroom dots using a clean pencil eraser dipped in white food coloring gel paste (thin with a few drops of water if needed.) Try to
work quickly so buns aren’t sitting out for too long.
Step 13 - When you’ve completed one basket’s worth of buns, set aside to proof for 15 minutes.
Step 14 - Meanwhile, fill your pot with a few inches of water and bring to a boil. Place a basket of completed buns on top of the pot, cover with steamer basket lid, and steam over medium heat for 10 minutes. When done, carefully uncover pot, remove steamer basket, and let buns cool.
Step 15 - While first basket is steaming, repeat assembly and painting steps with remaining two baskets of buns, and then steam each as above. Serve immediately, or make up to two days in advance before reheating, either covered loosely in plastic wrap in the microwave or by resteaming for a few minutes.