These Hoisin mushroom stuffed Bao buns were AMAZING. Even if you decide that bao buns are beyond your interest level in home cooking, I highly recommend that you make the hoisin mushrooms. They would be delicious over rice as well or as part of a Buddha bowl. They were so delicious that I am surprised that any made it to the filling stage as I kept on stealing from the pan.
I will be honest with you, making bao buns is a bit of project, but it is a fun one and the end results taste amazing. I make this in my stand mixer, but you can definitely make these by hand (I have in the past before my sister and son kindly gifted me the aforementioned stand mixer for a birthday); just knead by hand until you have a very glossy and supple dough. I only realized as I was making these that I only had stone ground flour on hand, which is why the bao buns pictures above are brown rather than the usual glossy white. That being said, they were sturdier than usual bao buns and stood up to the hearty filling well.
This makes 8 bao buns, but they freeze well so you can make these from time to time and keep a stash in the freezer for when bao cravings hit! And you can fill them with anything you want, from traditional pork belly to an extravaganza of your own creation.
For the bao buns:
⅔ cup warm water
2 tsps instant yeast
2 Tbsps sugar
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1¼ cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
Measure the water, sugar and yeast into a bowl or into the bowl that comes with your stand mixer. Leave them to bubble up while you measure the dry ingredients into a separate bowl.
Add the oil to the yeast mixture. Stir to combine.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well to combine. Scrape out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until a smooth and shiny dough forms. Or use the bread hook on your stand mixer and beat the dough into submission that way until a glossy dough forms.
Lightly oil your hands and bring the dough together into a ball. Place back in the bowl and cover with a damp dish towel. Set aside in a draft free place for 90 minutes. (I use my microwave.)
After 90 minutes, tip the dough out onto a very lightly oiled piece of parchment paper and gently press it down into a rectangle about the thickness of a pie crust, a bit less than half an inch.
Using a round cookie cutter or a glass, cut out dough rounds. Set them aside and press the remaining dough together and back into a rectangle and cut out additional dough circles.
Fold the dough circles into half moons and place each on a small square of parchment paper that you have previously prepared. Most recipes specify that one should use a chopstick to make a crease in the dough when folding the rounds in half but I found that just folding them worked fine too.
Place each of the prepared dough rounds on their parchment paper squares in a steamer. Cover with the steamer cover around which you have placed the damp dish towel previously used to cover the proving dough. This will keep condensation from falling back onto the dough.
Place a pan that is just large enough to hold your steamer on the stove top and add an inch of water to it. Bring to a boil over medium heat. As soon as it boils lower the heat to its lowest possible setting and place the covered steamer over the water. Cook for ten minutes.
After ten minutes, turn off the heat and leave everything alone for one minute before lifting the cover from the steamer.
Remove the bao one by one from the steamer, peel off the parchment squares, gently loosen the bao at the seam and fill with the filling of your choice or the mushroom one below.
For the Hoisin mushroom filling (this is enough stuffing for 2 bao; I froze the rest of the dough for later):
2 cups assorted chopped mushrooms (I used a mixture of baby Bella, shiitake and oyster mushrooms but use what you prefer. Some supermarkets also offer pre-sliced packets of Asian blend mushrooms, which could prove helpful in this case.)
1/4 tsp freshly ground ginger
2 tsps chopped green onion
1/2 tsp sake or dry white wine
1/2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsps Hoisin sauce
1 tsp vegetable oil
Heat the vegetable oil in a pan until shimmering. Add all of the sliced mushrooms, stir to combine with the oil and let cook over medium-low heat for several minutes, stirring from time to time until the mushrooms have started to release all of their liquid.
Add the sake and soy sauce and cook for an additional several minutes, stirring constantly, until the pan is nearly dry and the mushrooms are soft and cooked through.
Remove from the heat and stir in the grated ginger, the green onion and the Hoisin sauce. The green onions will cook in the residual heat and the Hoisin will form a sticky and addictive glaze on the mushrooms.
Stuff your bao buns with this filling and enjoy as is or, as I did, steam some greens and then stir in some sesame oil and some chopped Kimchi. Add the greens to the bao and top with the mushroom filling and a sprinkling of extra green onion.