On the dim sum menu, the steamed custard buns sell like hotcakes. For many, they are just what the doctor ordered. Just the feel of that warm, soft bun in your hands transports you back to a time of endless happiness and innocence. Not that this bun needs any introduction.
In terms of more pressing, technical queries, I anticipate being asked many inquiries about the flour. I used bleached flour to achieve a baby’s bottom’s light and airy texture. I wouldn’t have picked it on my own, but the other Woks of Life writers convinced me they were being more genuine by doing so. Use whole wheat flour or non-bleached flour instead of some of the all-purpose flour if you choose. If you want fluffy buns, avoid using entirely whole wheat flour.
These days, a Chanel bag or a Rolex watch are seen as status symbols, but calories and nutritional value are more likely to be considered while purchasing food. However, in the past, this was a major indicator of one’s social standing.
While the wealthy ate refined grains, the poor subsisted on uncooked grains. In other words, the impoverished ate pickled radishes with gruel, while the affluent dined on carnivorous feasts with soft steamed buns and white rice. That small piece of history comes back to me every time I see one of these lily-white buns.
Since the custard filling in these nai wong bao buns is sweet, I gave the dough a sugary twist. There was also coconut milk that I put in there. Although this isn’t what you’d expect, it gives the dish more character through its deep aroma and savory flavor.
A hand mixer or a stand mixer comes in very handy for whipping up the custard filling. If you don’t have a power tool, the good old-fashioned muscle will do the trick.
I’ll show you how it’s done here.
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup of powdered sugar
- ¼ cup of cornstarch or wheat starch
- ¼ cup of dry milk powder
- ¼ cup of milk
- 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons of heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons of melted butter
- 1½ cups of all purpose flour
- ¼ cup of warm water
- 3 tablespoons of coconut milk
- 3 tablespoons of milk
- 3 tablespoons of powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon of yeast
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- The filling should be prepared first. Boil water in a large, deep saucepan. The pan should hold the mixing bowl and have 2 inches of water. Once the water begins to boil rapidly, lower the heat.
- Eggs and powdered sugar should be combined in a large, heat-safe basin or the metal mixing bowl that comes with your stand mixer. Using a modest speed beat for a whole minute. Then, pour in the milk and whipping cream and mix for a few seconds to incorporate. Mix the flour, starch, and dry milk powder by sifting them. Make sure there are no clumps by thoroughly combining everything. Toss in the melted butter and mix well.
- After that, place the bowl gently into the water and start swirling the ingredients rapidly and constantly. The mixture set in approximately a minute when I mixed the eggs and sugar in a stainless steel bowl. You must stir fast at this stage. Using a deeper dish could increase the preparation time. Let the egg mixture cool to a thick custard. Please don’t overcook! If you give it some time to cool off, you can use it right away.
- It’s important to keep the custard moist while you work on the dough, so cover it. If you want to create the filling ahead of time, you can chill it in an airtight container for up to two days.
- Continue with the dough’s preparation. To activate the yeast, combine 1/4 cup of warm water with the yeast in a large mixing dish. After around 10 to 15 minutes, you should be able to observe yeast bubbles rising to the surface of the water.
- Now mix in the coconut milk, salt, powdered sugar, and flour. With the dough hook attachment in place and the mixer running on low, gradually add the ordinary milk, tablespoon by tablespoon, until a dough forms. You can tell whether your dough is excellent because it won’t stick to your hands or the bowl and has a texture like a baby’s bottom.
- Let the dough rise for an hour in a covered bowl or pan. My go-to method for proofing dough is in the microwave with the door closed and a mug of freshly boiled water sitting next to it. Let’s get a few things ready while the dough rises:
- Roll 12 even portions of the egg custard filling into balls using your palms. Don’t let them dry out. We’ll be steaming straight from cold water, so there’s no need to bring a pot of water to a boil in preparation for this recipe. Make 12 squares of parchment paper, each 4 by 4.
- The dough, after proofing, should expand to roughly 2.1/2 times its initial size. After the dough has been proofed, it should be mixed for an additional two to three minutes to eliminate any remaining air pockets.
- The dough should now be moved to a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough in half using a kitchen scale, and then cover with a dry kitchen towel while you prepare the filling. This will allow the dough to rest at room temperature. Roll out one ball of dough into a 4-inch disc, making sure the borders are slightly thinner than the middle. See the video for how to fill the bun with a custard ball, fold over the top, and seal it. Cut parchment paper to suit your steamer’s tray. To finish making all the buns, just keep repeating the process.
- Submerge the steamer’s bottom in heated water and cover it with the buns (do not turn on the heat at this time). Please give them 30 more minutes to proofread. Turn on the stove after 30 minutes and place it on medium heat. You should give yourself 12 minutes. The buns will be steamed for 12 minutes as the water comes to a boil over a medium flame. Even though it appears to be slow and lacks any real activity at first, the buns will be perfectly steamed after only 12 minutes.
- URGENT NOTICE!! After the initial steaming timer goes off (after 12 minutes), set a new timer for 5 minutes and then turn off the heat. The lid should not be opened at this time. Keep your patience; the buns need around 5 minutes to cool and firm before they can be handled. Once the five-minute countdown has elapsed, they will be unveiled.
- They should be eaten when still hot, just like dim sum from a street vendor. If you have any buns left over, you can freeze them in a zip-lock bag and re-steam them for a quick and easy meal on the fly or a rainy day snack.