The Fresh Loaf

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Gua Bao

Benito's picture

Gua Bao

I am still working on my steamed buns.  Today I prepped to try again with a new sourdough gua bao recipe.  I’ve added a tangzhong to make the flavour more complex and increase the hydration without making the dough handle like a higher hydration.  There is also some vegetable oil to help with moisture and tenderness.  I have kept the baking powder in the recipe since almost all the recipes I’ve seen have either baking powder or baking soda to help reduce any sourness, I’m not sure that it is necessary or not.  I decided to use a stiff sweet levain to reduce the sour tang so again, I’m not sure that the baking powder is needed.  I’ll eventually have to try making these without, that might be the only way to know.

The stiff sweet levain was at 3 times rise in the morning so everything seemed to be fine.  However, after 4 hours of fermentation at 82°F there was only 10% rise.  This the second time this has happened, both times with the sourdough boa recipe, each recipe was different, but both had baking powder in them.  I cannot think of a reason that the baking powder would have such a negative effect on the dough.  At this point, I didn’t want to have another total failure, so I dissolved 0.2 g of IDY in 2 g of water and kneaded it into the dough and reset the clock.  After that, fermentation went along quickly.  I wonder if I was just impatient, but I hate total failures that are almost inedible.  I say that, but I always taste the failures too.

I will make these again, but will start with the small amount of IDY from the start and make these as a hybrid dough with both the sourdough levain and tiny amount of IDY.  I am making these for a birthday party next weekend along with homemade pork shrimp and chive dumplings I’ve made for appetizers.  At some point in the future I’ll have another go at a fully sourdough version.

 Overnight Levain

In a large jar, combine all purpose flour, water, ripe sourdough starter, and sugar. Cover the jar loosely and let the levain ripen overnight at warm room temperature (I keep mine around 76°F to 78°F).



In a sauce pan set on med heat with about 1.5 cm of water, place the bowl of your stand mixer creating a Bain Marie, whisk the milk and flour until blended. Then cook for several minutes until thickened, stirring regularly with a spoon or heat-resistant spatula. Let cool.


In The Morning

In a mixing bowl, add the Tangzhong, water, milk, sugar and salt, mix to dissolve.  Add the stiff sweet levain and using a silicone spatula, cut the levain into small pieces.  Add the baking powder, cornstarch and flour.  Mix to form a shaggy dough.  Allow to rest for 10 mins.  On your countertop or with your stand mixer  knead the dough until good gluten development.  Drizzle in the vegetable oil and mix until well incorporated.  Remove some dough for aliquot jar to follow rise.  Shape into a boule and rest in a covered bowl at 82°F until it has increased by 40%.


Prepare six 4” parchment squares.


Remove the dough to the counter and divide into six equal portions shaping each into a tight boule.  Allow to rest for 10 mins.  Roll out the dough into a 3 × 6-inch oval. Brush the surface of the dough with canola oil and gently fold the dough in half. Place on a 4-inch square of parchment paper.

Cover the buns with a damp, clean kitchen towel and allow them to proof until they are 1 ½ times larger,


Cover the filled bao with a damp cloth and place in a warm place and allow them to ferment until they pass the poke test.  Using an aliquot jar they should reach about 100% rise.


Prepare your steamer setup and bring water to a boil.  Working in batches if necessary, arrange buns in the bamboo steamer spacing 2” apart.  Once the water is boiling turn the heat down to medium.  Steam over boiling water for 10 minutes.  Turn off the heat and leave the buns in the covered steamer for 5 more minutes to prevent collapsing.  (I left them in the steamer and on the same stove element turned off). Do not lift the lid of the steamer, doing so will cause a sudden drop in temperature that can cause the buns to collapse or wrinkle or dent.  Remove the buns from the steamer and allow them to cool for 5 minutes before serving.  


Buns can be kept in an airtight container (a resealable bag works great) at room temperature for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Room temperature buns can be reheated in the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds or steamed for about 2 minutes, until soft and warmed through. Reheat frozen buns by steaming until soft and warmed through, 10 to 15 minutes.

My index of bakes.


Isand66's picture

Anything inside these or were you just testing the dough ?  I’m sure your next attempt without the baking powder will work.  I bet a yeast water version would be perfect if you don’t want any SD taste.

Benito's picture

I was testing the dough.  I have bbq pork made and ready for Saturday.  We had one each of these to check the texture and flavour.  Yeast water is also a good idea.  I agree, I suspect they’d be fine without the baking powder, I used it because it seems to be traditional.