The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough Bao Zi or Mantou - anyone with experience?

J.K.L.'s picture

Sourdough Bao Zi or Mantou - anyone with experience?

I am gearing up to make some sourdough Bao Zi (chinese stuffed, steamed bun). Scoured the web and there's really hardly anybody doing something like that. Most of what I found were people using a quick yeasted dough with white flour. 


I want to try a whole wheat sourdough Bao zi or Mantou (steamed bun)!! 


But before I start with the experimenting, I wanted to gather any tips...Anybody tried steaming sourdough before? Or making a stuffed sourdough that was steamed or baked? Difference between using a whole wheat vs. white wheat vs. white whole wheat? 


Thanks! BTW, this is my first post and haven't properly introduced myself, but am glad to find this forum. Greetings to all! 

mrfrost's picture

Hi, and welcome.

While I have never steamed sourdough-or any dough for that matter(well, besides Boston Brown bread boiled in a coffee can)- I have made several recipes comparing their yeasted and sourdough versions. All were baked in an oven.

I think I can safely advise that once the dough is made, shaped, and ready to cook, however it will be cooked, it doesn't matter whether it's sourdough or yeasted dough, they will cook pretty much identically, all other things being the same.

In short, my (educated)guess is you will steam your sourdough version exactly like the yeasted version.

Ok, and as far as converting an all white flour recipe to a whole wheat version, I'll go with the standard advice of starting by replacing just a portion of the white flour with whole wheat; say 30% at most(again to start). At that point, the dough will still behave pretty much like the all white flour dough. The more whole wheat you add, at some point, it becomes a different type dough in texture, taste, etc. From that point you will have to experiment. In this case, the white whole wheat may be the better option as it may continue to behave/taste more like the all white flour. It is said to bake up a little fluffier that the red ww.

Finally, as far as how to convert from yeasted to sourdough, I pattern my conversions after the way SylviaH does it in her Buns for Sandwiches recipes, yeasted and levain versions. The key thing about sourdough is patience, and knowing your particular starter(knowing it is mature, proven, baked with before, etc).

This might even be a good recipe to start with as it is sweetish(although Sylvia's recipe really would not be considered sweet), enriched dough, similar to Portuguese Sweet Bread, which in turn is often compared to and filled like "bao" doughs, except baked.

Well, good luck and happy baking.

J.K.L.'s picture

Thanks! Sylvia's recipe looks really good and I'm really curious how it'll turn out after the steaming. 


mrfrost's picture

I am too,  now. Hope it turns out ok.

Caltrain's picture

Yes, I do. I make whole wheat sourdough mantou (sometimes w/ white wheat, other times with just regular) with leftover starter. No bao yet, though.

My finding is that the sourdough tang goes through the roof with steaming, completely changing its character. It's not simply more sour, it's definitely its own flavor. You may or may not like it; I'm personally indifferent, but family members who normally enjoy sour foods felt the taste was "off".

Anyways, my formula for whole wheat sourdough mantou is:


200 g wwf

270g water


200g wwf

30 g starter or 1 tsp yeast

6 g oil (the oil helps soften the bun)

8 g salt (sometimes up to 10 g)

Prepare the soaker by mixing the soaker ingredients. Let it sit for 30 min to an hour. Mix in the final ingredients, kneed for 4-5 minutes, let rest for 30 minutes, then finish kneeding. Let rise for ~4 hours, depending on your starter. Shape the dough into 3 or 4 balls. Let rest, covered or in the steamer, for about another 30 or 45 minutes before steaming for about 15 minutes.

You can also use the same dough for sesame-scallion bread and I'd imagine it'd be fine for bao zi.

J.K.L.'s picture

Hmm, somehow really sour mantou just doesn't sound appetizing! I definitely want to avoid that. I have read that commercial bakeries in China will add baking soda to counter the acidity, as well as sugar to sweeten the flavor up. Have you ever tried anything like that before? I might be persuaded to add some baking soda...


Thank you for your recipe and advice!

siuflower's picture

 I made cha sui bao with sour dough as the old dough in the recipe. It came out all right. If you want a softer bun use white lily AP flour with less protein. I found this recipe in the internet and I don't remember the web site.


Chinese steam bun with old dough


•                110 g Old dough

•                200 ml Warm water

•                400 g All-purpose flour

•                1 g Active dry yeast

•                1/3 tsp Salt

•                1 tbsp Salad oil

•                ½ tsp Baking soda

Some extra flour for kneading

Combine AP flour and yeast in a mixing bowl. Mix in old dough in smaller pieces, salt and oil. Knead until the dough is soft and elastic. Cover with a plastic wrap and proof at room temperature for about 3-4 hours. Place the dough on a floured board and evenly sprinkle the baking soda over. Knead and shape the dough into a loaf. Divide the loaf into 12-14 pieces.

Dust each small dough with some flour and lightly press them flat. Fold the side of the dough up with left hand, meanwhile press the upper edge down with your right hand. Repeat this step until you get the shorter edge and slightly round bottom. Pinch them together between the thumb and the index finger of your right hand. Place them on the board and let rise covered until doubled. Repeat the step of folding and pressing.

Place the dough balls in a steamer and process the final proof for about 25 minutes. Use the flour during the whole shaping process. Each small dough needs about 15 extra grams of flour to finish the kneading. So that the texture of the steamed buns would appear thick and with clear layers. To obtain a chewy-textured bun, long proofing time at the final stage should always be avoided. Take away the plastic wrap and steam for 20 minutes over medium heat with a lid covered.


J.K.L.'s picture

Thanks! This sounds like what my mom tried to describe to me about what my grandma used to do. They didn't have yeast back then. They also didn't have white flour. I am trying to figure out a recipe for whole wheat sourdough mantou/bao zi! Somehow in the passing of time, we've lost the recipe. But then again, no one alive today knows what it might've tasted like 100 years ago, as the only versions we've ever had are white flour yeasted versions. Old dough is a lost art.