Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Food Desert Project - Pumpkin Bao with Creamy Date Filling


If you live anywhere where there is a Chinese population (and thankfully I do) you have run into Baozi (包子) or bao for short.  Bao have traveled all over Asia and are rapidly becoming popular in the US: you've probably run across Char Siu Bao, or barbecue pork buns.  They are yet another filling-stuffed bread I love, as they can be stuffed with pretty much any reasonably viscous filling.  They have the distinction of being steamed rather than baked or fried (although many bao recipes, including this one, could be baked or fried) which makes them into light, fluffy pillows.

Since we've moved into pumpkin season, and pumpkin bao are not unheard of, I thought I would mash up several recipes and make an autumn Bao.  You could also fill this with meat (the chicken b'stilla filling strikes me as something that would work well) or spiced fruit, or just standard pumpkin-pie custard if you like (cook it slightly first so it sets slightly.)

Bao dough:

1/2 cups Oats (quick-cooking will give you a finer texture)
1 cup All-Purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp instant yeast at room temperature


6 oz cream cheese, chevre or labneh
6 tablespoons chopped dates, rinsed well with hot water (you may need to soak and drain them if they are particularly dry)
Pistachios for garnish

First, put the oats in the blender and process on high speed until you have a fine dust.  In a medium-size bowl, combine the oats, flour, and baking powder.  Cut the butter in small bits and add it, mixing thoroughly until the flour looks like sawdust.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.  Slowly add the dry ingredients and knead until it comes together.  Continue kneading for a few minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Cover with a damp towel and set in a warm place to rise until it is doubled in size.

002After the rise, punch down your dough and cut it into 12 equal pieces (first half, then quarters, then each quarter into thirds.)

004Take one piece and roll it into a tight ball.  Flatten it slightly with your rolling pin, and then curl the outside edge underneath so it has a solid edge all the way around.  With quick outward motions of the rolling pin around the perimeter of the disk of dough, flatten it into a circle whose outside edges are thinner than the center. Pile about a tablespoon of dates in the center of the dough, and top it with approximately the same amount of cheese.

005Pinch together one side of the wrapper, as shown.
Gather another small amount of the wrapper and pinch it to the first pleat...

006and continue until the wrapper is pleated all the way around, and pinch the entire pleated area together.

Top with a pistachio for the "stem." Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

Allow the Bao to rise for 45 minutes.  Line a steamer basket with coffee filters or squares of parchment paper.  Place the Bao in the steamer basket, leaving an inch of space between them (you may need to make several batches.) Steam the Bao for 15 minutes until fluffy and hot.  Enjoy!


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