The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

steamed buns, baozi, hobbang (red bean bun)

yjbus's picture

steamed buns, baozi, hobbang (red bean bun)

for whatever reason, i had a steamed bun craving the other day so i decided to attempt to make it from scratch.  i spent the entire day trying different techniques and recipes but pretty much failed to replicate what i thought was a very good steamed bun.

the problem is, every single recipe i've found on the internet is for a bun that is chewier, more to the liking of a dumpling then a steamed bun.

i've eaten these things in korea (the country) and china town (new york), and they are HUGE, pillowy, airy, fluffy, pillows of greatness.  nothing i've seen or tried could get that texture.

i've seen some one recipe that called for almost 3-4 hours of resting the dough, to allow the yeast to really work.  the longest i rested my dough was 1 hour, letting it double in size.  the resulting bun 'looked' great, white, round, pillowy, but upon biting into it, i once again got a chewy texture.  it was good no doubt, but not right.

the closest i've gotten to the right texture was to use all cake flour, no yeast, and to mix until just combined to minimize gluten developement.  the problem with this though is that the outside surface is not that smooth and pretty bumpy.  the texture is close, but not as airy and light as i would want and because of the cake flour and lack of yeast, the buns do not rise that much.

in terms of the 'regulation' recipe that 99.9% of internet sources pimp of ap flour, yeast, sugar, baking soda, etc. i don't need help with that because outside of 'maybe' the fact that another 2-3 hours of resting the dough would create the bun i am looking for (which i doubt), i just don't see how this recipe could produce the bun i want.

my next two attempts will be to use bread flour and allow at least 2 hours of resting, and to use all cake flour with a good amount of baking powder.


edit:  i finalized my recipe which can be found further down.  i included a pic of my results for the hecks of it. ENJOY!


lazybaker's picture

I've seen some recipes where the ingredients are all-purpose flour, lard (or use vegetable shortening), sugar, salt, water, and baking powder. I also read that self-rising flour could be used in place of all-purpose flour with baking powder. I prefer these ingredients.

I think using bread flour will make the buns chewy.

yjbus's picture

yeah im not so sure about the bread flour... just thought i might give it a shot.

adding fat does sound like something i could try. i was also thinking maybe adding some egg whites.

Alpana's picture

Hi yjbus,

At least in Singapore, we use a flour which is called Hongkong flour or Pau flour or Superlite flour (and few other names depending on brand) for making the steamed buns that are called Pau. You can check if you can get similar flour locally. This flour is extra bleached. The extra bleaching results in making it more like pastry flour. Bread flour will give opposite results. The closest to this flour is either pastry or cake (as you found out) flour. But neither gives the super white and fluffy result like the Pau flour. If you get this flour, substitute it in your recipe and try. Else I can give you my tried & tested recipe. Hope you manage to find the flour. These buns are a real treat if they are of the right consistency.



yjbus's picture

thanks ill check out this Pau flour.

what's your tried and tested recipe? :-)

Alpana's picture

The recipe that I have used the most comes from a Chinese book  三杯面粉  (3 cups of flour). Luckily I have plenty of friends to translate for me :). This is the link to the book :三杯麵粉做點心-連愛卿/dp/9621440769. The book gives quantities, but I have the formula with me 

Hongkong Flour - 100%

Water - 54%

Vegetable Oil - 5%

Sugar - 10%

Baking Soda 1%

Instant Yeast 1%

I knead in my bread machine till the dough is smooth and elastic. Keep in oiled bowl till it doubles and then proceed with dividing and making the buns. It gives nice snow white fluffy buns every time.

Have a nice time with these yummy treats!



SeattleStarter's picture

Thank you for sharing that recipe! My wife is Thai and we've been looking for a way to make these for ages. Looking for a way to make them from scratch that is, you can buy the mix at the Asian market. Of course, we call them sarapao ;)

clazar123's picture

I know of very soft bread rolls "stuffed" with bean paste that are yeast raised and baked. A recipe like the Hokkaido milk bread would be good to use.But it sounds like you are looking formore of a baking soda/powder leavened dough?

dabrownman's picture

an apprentice that could make great steamed bao with duck cracklings and plumb sauce i would get rid of mine toot suite!  It's a personal thing of course, but this has to be about the best mouthful goodness on the planet.

yjbus's picture

so i made it again with cake flour, whole milk, and baking soda, NO YEAST, and it turned out GREAT!!  i adjusted the ratios some and it made a pretty big difference.

i would say its about 90-95% of what i want;  light, airy, and fluffy.  i gave one to my korean friend who knows good food and knows good hoppang/red bean buns and he LOVED it. 

i still want to make a few tweaks here or there to get it as good as possible, but for the most part, i would say i figured it out. 

ill post my exact recipe when i finalize it.

Alpana's picture

Great! Do post your recipe so that we can try :)

yjbus's picture

recipe for red bean buns:  makes around 3 large buns. 

SIFTED 2 cups Softasilk cake flour (8 ounces)
2 tbl sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 TBL baking powder - put the baking powder in LAST and on top of all the dry ingredients.


2 tsp vinegar
1/2 cup + 1 tbl whole milk

pour the vinegar directly on top of the baking powder to purposely cause it to bubble and react.  if you skip this step, the buns will be noticeably denser, smaller, and not as airy or fluffy.

as soon as it bubles, mix into rest of dry ingredients.

add milk then mix on low speed with dough hook until dough starts to come together.

continue mixing, adding whole milk, a few drops at time if necessary, just until cohesive ball forms with some crumbs on the bottom of bowl.

scrape down bottom and sides of bowl and continue mixing until all crumbs are incorporated into dough.  the dough should be relatively dry, not stick to the bowl, and just form a cohesive ball.

then, mix on speed 3 (assuming you're using a kitchen aid stand mixer) for 30 seconds, cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 min.

meanwhile, start to heat up the water in your steamer.

after 10 min, tear off a good chunk of dough, roll into ball, then flatten out into disk and fill with a good dollop of red bean paste. fold shut, and place on square of parchement paper, seam side down.

steam them for 13 minutes on medium high-high heat.

do try out this recipe.  in my opinion its much better than the regulation, yeasted steamed buns you find from every single internet source.  it is far closer, if not better, than the authentic ones i've had in korea and china town.  thank me later.

yjbus's picture

the cake flour is obviously key here.  i live in new york, and Softasilk cake flour comes in a pink box.  i've found it in the middle of the suburbs at a supermarket and in the city at a few supermarkets.  the only other brand i've seen is presto, self rising cake flour which i don't trust.  it just looks and feels far grittier and harder than softasilk.  i can't speak for any other brands of cake flour, but im sure any very low protein cake flour would work.

yjbus's picture

i revised my recipe after discovering something very interesting.  i made these buns 5 more times, adjusting things here and there, but every time they turned out flat, kind of weird tasting, and did not reach the level of the ones i made the day previous.

i even tried the same exact recipe again and it just didn't turn out quite right.  i then remembered that the first time it did turn out great, i had accidentily poured the vinegar directly on top of the baking soda causing it to activate and bubble.  i initially thought this was a mistake, so afterwards, i made sure to add the vinegar only after all the dry ingredients were well incorporated.

so, i then made these again, but this time i purposely poured the vinegar on top of the baking soda to induce some bubbling and chemical reactions and  IT WORKED! the resulting bun was "significantly" more airy, light, and fluffy.  im assuming that by purposely causing an initial reaction in the baking soda which causes bubbling and gasses to be released, the resulting dough structure contains far more air bubbles and as a result the texture of the dough is far lighter and fluffier.

anywayz, ill continue to try and tweak some things and perfect the bun.

Winter1008's picture

there are many kinds of baozi in china, some use all- purpose flour.

I translate a recipe of Guangdong baozi, I like it very much, airy and fluffy, you can try this~   

cake flour     140g

warm water     90g

yesat          2.5g

corn starch    60g

lard           20g  

sugar          20g

baking powder  5g

1.mix all except baking powder, resting until double size

2.add baking powder to the dough, and rest for 15min

3.devide the dough about 50g each, stuff with pork or what you like

4.steam for about 8-10min


ps. my english is not so good, I hope you can understand the process~



yjbus's picture

im assuming you mean ap flour in the recipe and not cake flour because cake flour does not have enough gluten to support all the yeast expansion so it's pretty much useless.

i have seen recipes where they instruct to add the baking powder after the dough has already rested with the yeast.  i have even seen one where they say to rub the baking powder into the individual balls of dough before steaming.  i wonder how this would effect the bun in comparison to just straight adding it to the initial dough.

the corn starch and lard seem interesting and im curious how that would effect the buns. 

all that being said, the recipe i currently use is easier, requires less ingredients and less time to prepare.  i feel like my buns are nearly perfect, while the yeasted ones i have made are FAR from what i want.  

thanks anyway for the recipe.  i might try out a few of those ideas.

lazybaker's picture

Lard and cornstarch are probably used to make the dough tender.

Like Alpana said, Hong Kong flour is used. I think that kind of flour is what makes the buns fluffy and very white.

Has anyone used White Lily all-purpose flour to make this kind of buns? Well, it's not like I can purchase White Lily flour either since they're sold mainly on the eastern side of the U.S.

clazar123's picture

I have never seen a recipe for the red bean filling. Sweet or savory?

Or do you just buy it?

yjbus's picture

its sweet.  i've never made it from scratch and always just buy it from a can.  it can be found at asian markets.

varda's picture

red bean paste?   I'm not fond of that, but would love to have these buns with something else.  -Varda

baozi's picture

Any updates to this recipe? I have read various recipes online, and they are all over the map in terms of what flour to use: cake, bread, pastry, "baozi" flour, etc. Some recipes call for a mix of flours.