It might be foreign for some, but I’ve been brought up on a diet of mantous and paus (a variety of Chinese steamed buns) of the homemade variety – my mom is a really terrific baker (and cook) and every once in a while when she gets sick of cooking the usual 3 dishes, rice and soup for us, she’ll turn to making paus – typically of the vegetable variety, with some chicken for our protein needs. Lately, I’ve encouraged her to extend that repertoire to include a char siew filling as well as a lotus filling, on top of her usual peanut paus. Ever since I saw these beautiful rose-shaped mantous over at Wendy’s blog, I’ve wanted to make them but my mom didn’t. Why ever not? Well, my mom says that it’s because of old age – as she gets older, she feels ‘less daring’, preferring to stick to her comfort zone and sticking to her usual recipes and usual combinations. I think even she finds it appalling that her zest and courage in her younger days are slowly diminishing. Nevertheless, I’m happy to accept this baton from my mom, that of the baker in the family, and already, I’m eager to try out new recipes (for anything) as well as hammering new ‘family favorites’ every weekend. You might think me crazy, but I honestly can’t wait for CNY to arrive, because I know that I’ll have so many opportunities to experiment with cookies and such then!
So, going back to these rose-shaped mantous, they have been very high on my to-do list. Opportunity came when one day, my mom was thinking of making paus again. I volunteered to make them, using the leftover pumpkin I had from a previous attempt at pumpkin cream cheese muffins (absolutely delicious – recipe to come soon!). The original calls for steamed sweet potato of the purple variety, mainly because the purple gives rise to a really sweet lilac looking ‘rose’, but like I said, I only had pumpkin, so I made do. This is also perfect since it’s fall season in the Northern hemisphere and there will be an abundance of pumpkins. So besides carving them up as jack-o’-lanterns and pumpkin pies and pumpkin muffins, you now have another use for that leftover pumpkin :]
Adapted from Wendy
- Combine the yeast, sugar and water together and let it sit for 5 minutes, or until the yeast becomes frothy.
- Melt the shortening in the microwave and leave it to cool.
- Sift the all-purpose flour and wheat starch together with baking powder and salt. Combine with sugar. Mix in the steamed pumpkin puree until the dry ingredients are moistened.
- Pour the yeast mixture into the flour-pumpkin mixture and begin to knead. Once a rough dough forms, knead in the shortening. If using a stand mixer, continue kneading for about 5 minutes, until the dough becomes elastic and passes the window pane test. If kneading by hand, knead for about 10-15 minutes until the dough feels tacky and not sticky.
- Round the dough into a ball and leave it to proof in a bowl for about 45 minutes, or until it doubles in size.
- After it doubles in size, punch it down (degas it) and divide it into equal portions. I prefer to divide it into portions of 60g each – shape it into a smooth ball and place it on pre-cut pieces of tracing or baking paper.
- To make the rose-shaped buns, divide the dough into equal portions of 10g each and roll each into a small ball. Using both fingers, flatten the ball into a disc of about 1mm in thickness. Do the same for the balls until you get 6 discs. Then, begin layering the discs one on top of the other, making sure to leave about an inch or a two-finger spacing between each layer. Then, begin rolling the layered discs from the bottom disc up, rolling until you get a cylinder. Use a wooden satay stick or chopstick or even a butter knife, and begin sawing the centre of the cylinder until you get 2 equal pieces. Each end of the cylinder will be your rose and the part where you saw off will be the bottom of the rosebud. [Do refer to Wendy's blog for very detailed step-by-step photos - I don't have the patience to take such photos!]
- Arrange each rosebud on the pre-cut baking paper and arrange on your steamer. Allow them to rest and proof a second time, for about 30-45 minutes or until doubled in size.
- Fill your wok with water an inch below the steaming plate. Using a medium-high heat, steam your buns for about 15 minutes before removing them to cool. If using a pre-heated steamer, steam for 10 minutes.
- Taste: If your pumpkin or sweet potato puree is sweet, feel free to dial down the amount of sugar. I think that if eaten as a sweet snack, a bit of cinnamon for the pumpkin would definitely bring it up a notch. I added lotus paste filling for the round buns and they tasted lovely. Beware of using too much salt – I used 3g for one attempt and it was WAY too salty.
- Texture: Same for the shortening. I have used melted butter and although I prefer the taste of melted butter, I find that shortening gives the dough a more elastic feel. You might wish to knead the dough for slightly longer if using the butter substitute, in order to get the same texture.
- Serving size: Depending on how large you portion each of your buns, you can get quite a few of them! I got about 30 buns of varying sizes (I made them as mantous as well as filled buns).
- Modifications: Do use 500g pau flour or low gluten flour if you have them instead of the 400&100 combination I’ve stated above. You can also substitute equal amounts of sweet potato/taro or any tuber you wish. I have tried using cornstarch instead of wheat starch and it works the same way.
- Storage: Buns store wonderfully in the fridge – be sure to steam them first, then cool them before keeping them in an air-tight container in the fridge. Either microwave them on low or steam them again for about 5 minutes before consuming.
- Would I make this again?: Yes, only if I’m out to impress somebody ;p The recipe itself is a keeper though!
- Other comments: Making the rose shaped buns are rather time consuming, because you have to flatten each ball into a disc and then roll them up. The results are fantastic though, and I can imagine a number of things you can do with this. You can also fill the buns up with a filling, although it might be a little difficult because the filling will have to be placed not in the centre but at the 1/3 and 2/3 mark.