Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Custard bao is a dim sum item I have a particular weakness for. The salted egg yolk version as well. I've always wanted to try making some for myself. It sounds pretty simple- the dough is almost like making bread and the custard can be viewed as making pastry cream. Two things that I have done many times before, so how difficult can custard bao get?
Turns out that there are secrets that lie enclosed within its white exterior. (Actually, this dough isn't very white but I'll explain later.) My baos like they have been run over by a truck. They aren't like those perfectly semi-spherical ones that I can get from a shop. Yeah, I know that those who sell them are somewhat professionals and I cannot compare my first-time results with them but I wasn't expecting something as mutated as this! I don't take failure very well, so I began my mad search for the cause of the problem.
Although what I found weren't very specific, I gathered that the reason for my flattened baos was having too soft a dough. This is a major difference from bread dough. When making bread, I always err on the side of having a very soft and pliable dough rather than a firm one so that it would remain moist after baking. It doesn't work for bao here because the dough would be too soft to retain its shape and slump rather sadly.
I thought that the baos were also quite moist and dense, almost gummy when hot out of the steamer. Again, this could be due to the moisture of the dough. I didn't think that a soft dough would be so detrimental to the final result. When I'd finished kneading it, the first thought that came to mind was, this is the best dough I've ever worked with. The flour I used, Hong Kong flour or also known as pao flour, is probably the main reason. It has an extremely low gluten content which yields soft baos. You know when a dough is described to be "like a baby's butt", its extremely soft and smooth. Well let me tell ya, this dough is softer than a baby's butt.
This dough recipe is quite untraditional in the way that it uses milk and butter, very western ingredients. Water was supposed to be in place of the milk, and shortening instead of the butter. Apparently, milk is supposed to result in a softer fluffier texture. The butter is a preference of the blogger whom I got the recipe from. She said she preferred the fragrance of the dough with it but the dough would not be as white. To achieve that traditional snowy colour, just use shortening and a bit of vinegar. I'm not sure about the actual amount of vinegar to add, but it shouldn't be more than 1 tablespoon for each full quantity of dough. The vinegar helps to make the dough even whiter.
The custard wasn't very outstanding either. It tasted too milky and sweet. I don't have full confidence in both components of the bao so I shall not post the recipes here. However, I'll include the links so that if you're interested, you can check it out. I think the dough recipe should have been good, it was a mistake on my part that resulted in an unsatisfactory texture. Pao dough here, and custard here.