The steamed egg custard bun
What do you get when you put together three avid bakers for an afternoon in the kitchen that falls exactly one week before Chinese New Year? A decision to make Asian desserts, a few too many mishaps but some decent steamed egg custard buns and a pandan sponge cake! The following post details our (with themacarondiaries and pamoola) custard bun adventure thanks to the folks at HKF Co. for their bao premix (instructions comes in Chinese, Vietnamese and English) and the custard filling recipe from a post by Jessica Gavin.
Egg custard filling:
10g custard powder
50g butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1 packet 400g steamed bun cake premix (we used ‘Rooster’)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cooking oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar (for steaming)
The custard filling.
*note. must get myself a set of kitchen scales… On another note, the measurements given on the side of the butter packaging is very accurate.
1. Add the dry ingredients for the custard filling to a saucepan followed by the milk.
2. Stir over low heat until the ingredients are fairly combined and gradually add the butter (a quarter to a third at a time) until completely melted. Remove the saucepan from heat.
3. Gently beat the egg. Whilst continuing to stir the mixture (off the heat), slowly add the beaten egg and mix until combined. (It helps when you have three people in the kitchen!)
Our mixture was still quite runny at this point but we figured that it would thicken after being set aside to cool. After 45 minutes and no such luck, we decided to put the mixture back onto the stove but this step can be done immediately after step 3.
4. (If your custard mix is runny) Continue to stir the custard filling over low heat for 5-10 minutes until the mixture has thickened to the consistency shown below. Set aside to cool.
*Note. Constant attention is required during this step whilst the custard is on the stove. Do not leave the mixture alone to avoid overcooking or lumps.
When the custard filling is done, get started on the bao. There are plenty of recipes to do this from scratch but being our first time making bao (without the supervision of our mamas who have long been making them since before we were born), we decided to go with a premix. No mucking around with yeast!
5. Follow the instructions on the packet. In a nutshell:
a. Remove two tablespoons of flour from the packet. *THIS IS IMPORTANT since you’ll need the flour during the kneading process and when the dough is being rolled out.
b. In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining flour with the sugar and milk.
c. Thoroughly bring together the ingredients with a wooden spoon.
d. Get your hands dirty and knead the dough for 10 minutes.
The dough will get quite sticky at times and this is when the flour that has been put aside comes into use. Grab a pinch of the flour and rub the flour between your hands. In doing so, the sticky dough on your hands will come off in clumps and the dough mixture becomes less stick. Do this whenever necessary.
e. Add a tablespoon of cooking oil to the dough and knead until combined. Set aside to rest for 30 minutes.
Instead of playing the waiting game, we spent this 30 minutes prepping the pandan sponge cake mixture (post to come soon).
6. Roughly break the dough into four portions and for one portion at a time, roll the dough into a rope (about the size of a rolling pin) on a floured surface.
7. Break the rope into 6 equal portions by hand.
*Note. we used a knife and learnt the hard way that the ‘sharper edges’ created by the knife made it harder roll into a ball.
8. Roll the dough into a ball and flatten into a circle using your palm and the floured surface. Use your fingers to press the dough into a ‘cup’.
9. Add 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon of the custard to the middle of the cupped dough. Working your way around the edges and in one direction, pinch the dough together to seal the custard filling inside.
WORK FAST. The dough is quite elastic-y and will start to retract as soon as you remove it from the floured surface in step 8. It continues to do so as you fill it with custard and pinch the dough together. Aside from being nimble, flattening out the dough into a larger-sized circle will also help.
10. Continue to pinch the dough together until a relatively smooth surface is attained. This side becomes the ‘bottom’ of the bun. Place the bun onto baking paper. Continue to fill the rest.
11. Once assembled, allow the buns to set for 10-15 minutes.
The first few were duds but we got better at putting the baos together as we went along. You can see a clear difference between our earlier and the later ones.
12. Bring water to boil in a steamer and add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to the water (this will help whiten the buns). On high heat, steam the buns for approximately 10 minutes.
*Note. Despite the probable temptation of wanting to check on the progress of the buns during the steaming process, do not open the steamer whilst the buns are cooking!
The duds. I like to think that the imperfections give them a bit of character… We definitely meant for these ones to turn out like this…
I thought we’d end up with some cute mini custard buns but was surprised to see how much they had expanded in the steamer.
An egg tart version of the custard bun!
We ate the uglier ones first (they still tasted GREAT) to hide the evidence of our failed ones. So it makes complete sense that I’d be putting up photo evidence of them onto the internet for the whole world to see!
Considering the fact that none of us had ever made bao before, we were quite pleased with how they turned out. The dough was consistent in texture, fluffy and light, and the egg custard filling was delicate and velvety smooth. We weren’t the only ones who thought they were tasty… I came home from uni after nine hours to find my share of buns completely devoured.
Enjoy and happy Chinese new year!