I actually have like 3 posts pending before this, but I don’t care. Imma go ahead and blog and spam this post with pictures now because I’ve just made these babies and I was successful!
I am only this happy because I’d attempted steamed goodies several times in the past, and not once have I succeeded. They were never inedible. They were never that good either. Just look at my two attempts at matcha steamed cakes and you’d get what I mean. They looked horrid, and they tasted just fine but not awesome. I was slightly discouraged then, so I backed off all steamed stuff.
Suddenly I had these pangs of craving for Tau Sar Paus (Red Bean Buns). The thing about such cravings of mine is that I don’t just want to eat them, I want to make them then eat them! Plucked up my courage and off I went searching for tau sar pau recipes. After a few hours of googling under the table while my students aren’t looking, I found one recipe that seemed promising. The recipe was simple, required minimal ingredients, and didn’t need too much rising. I never had much luck with breads so a recipe that didn’t ask for a lot of rising just called to me. I can’t remember the recipe now, but it doesn’t matter that much cause it wasn’t much of a success.
I followed the recipe to the teeny weeny details, but the dough was too sticky to work with. And that was after I added about a cup more flour than required. I didn’t want to give up on the dough though, so I worked on it for a total of about 4 hours, kneading in extra flour, proofing, realising it’s too wet, kneading in more flour, ladadi ladadum.
Still it didn’t work. The dough was simply too wet and gooey to work with. It never reached that smooth and elastic texture despite the extra flour. Of course stubborn ol’ me refused to let go of it and ended up steaming it.
One confusing thing was how none of the recipes I found actually provided the recipe for the red bean filling. Most people used store bought ones. I didn’t have the time to search for a reliable recipe, and I was too lazy to run out and hunt for the filling, so I ended up replacing the red bean with kaya.
I must have rolled the dough too thin cause the top burst open while it was steaming! That caused the kaya to dry out, so the filling ended up tasting really weird. Surprisingly though the dough tasted good! The only problem was that it was slightly sticky and had a more chewy gummy texture rather than the fluffy one I was aiming for. I wasn’t expecting much thanks to the disastrous dough, so the fact that it tasted good and was honestly (I swear!) edible made me a really happy girl.
But of course the far from passable attempt meant that my quest for the perfect pau dough recipe continues! Two weeks later, I found the perfect recipe while googling in the staff room again. Aha before you go on thinking that I’m a horrid teacher, I was free. Totally free. Like how I am now, bashing away at my laptop proclaiming my innocence while other teachers have bleeding fingers from marking examination scripts. So there (:
So I finally settled on this recipe because it looked really simple, and a few bloggers kinda swear by it. I’m glad I trusted those bloggers cause these tau sar paus I made were downright amazing.
Oh wait I meant Kaya-meant-to-be-tau-sar paus.
The moment I started kneading the dough, I knew it would work. For once in my entire bread making journey, the dough actually felt correct. It felt just like how it was described in the recipe, smooth and elastic.
By the second proofing I was 80% sure this would not be a disaster. The dough was smooth, shiny, glossy, and most importantly, *shrieks with delight* the paus actually looked like paus!!! Actually that’s probably because tau sar paus have rounded tops and it was ok to put them sealed-sides down. If not they’ll probably look like some frankenbun. I can’t pleat paus to save my life. For now at least. I am 100% sure I’ll become a pau pleating master in the future! Not.
Before I put these little babies into the steamer, I suddenly realised that something was wrong. Something was really wrong with these paus. I couldn’t pin down what was wrong though so I started panicking a little. Then I realised I left out something really important.
That little red dot. There, they look just fine now don’t they?
Haha made those little dots with red food colouring and a chopstick! Now they’re ready to be steamed.
I realised that after steaming, they lost some of that white-ness and had – albeit a really slight one – a little yellow-ish tinge. I wonder if that’s because I used normal all purpose flour instead of bao flours or hong kong flours some pau recipes call for.
Some of my bao tops also collapsed :( I’ve not read about this happening before, so I’m not really sure what exactly went wrong, but I suspect it’s because some paus were not sealed properly. There were a few I could not seal completely, for reasons that totally escape me. This happened to a few of the paus in the later batches, and I did remember having a few unsealed paus along the way, so I’m guessing that’s the cause for it.
Put aside the imperfections in its looks, these paus tasted heavenly. Soft, fluffy, puffy, moist – this was really one helluva successful pau. Lightly sweetened, the pau dough did not cause the entire pau to be coyingly sweet. I would say that most of the sweetness came from the kaya, which you could easily control if you were using homemade fillings.
Apparently my pleating wasn’t that horrid this time, and my dough was definitely the right consistency, cause the paus didn’t burst open this time round, and the kaya filling remained wet and steaming hot. The fragrance of these small paus were so enticing, this whole plate was gobbled up within minutes of peeking out from the steamer! That would have continued for the following three plates if I hadn’t stopped my sisters and kept some in the fridge for breakfast the next day!
This pau dough recipe is definitely a keeper.
Tau Sar Pau a.k.a. Red Bean Buns a.k.a. Dou Sha Bao Dough
Adapted from Shirley’s Lotus Seed Paste Pau
150g Hong Kong flour, divided to 110g and 40g
2g baking powder
1. Mix all ingredients on low. Let it stand for 10 minutes, then mix for 5 minutes.
2. Divide dough into 19g pieces. Roll each piece into 2-inch diameter disks. Fill them with kaya and pleat to seal.
3. Place each pau onto a small square of parchment paper and let it rest for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your steamers.
4. Steam the paus on high for 15 minutes, with a cloth placed below the cover to prevent water droplets from reaching the paus and causing the skin to wrinkle. Let the paus sit in the steamer for 5, then remove and proceed to gobble em up! These paus can be made ahead and refrigerated/frozen. Just thaw them and steam for 5 minutes before serving.