Like clockwork, I return to making steamed buns when it gets cold. I thought I'd lose interest by now, but steamed buns have consumed my winter once again with so many frigid, snowy days. Some arts and crafts time with pillowy, warm buns to snack on at the end is not a bad way to spend time at home.
I was into adding natural colors to the buns in previous years, but I explored the world of animal-shaped/animal face buns this year. I always try to add colors from natural ingredients, so it was fun to play with different ingredients and find right colors for certain animal features. Panda's eyes? A mix of hot chocolate powder and crushed black sesame seeds.
This is rather a short list of my notes along the way of making steamed buns this year. I'm afraid that the month of February will pass by before I know it. I'm already getting distracted by spring and summer eats for class menus and I should at least jot down some of this year's steamed buns progress.
So here are a few...
* I still use the same basic dough recipe I shared before (Steamed Buns with Nutella Pumpkin Filling, Steamed Buns with Kimchi and Turkey Filling). I received a comment a while ago that the ratio of flour to water may be off, so I tried it several times (obviously...) but I haven't seen much change. Depending on the weather, sometimes I add a bit more flour and other times a bit more water, but the recipe is a good starting point. Ultimately, we're trying to achieve a play-dough consistency - soft, smooth and stretchy dough that doesn't stick to your hands.
* I divide the dough into 16 pieces (rather than 8 from the recipe) to make them mini sized buns. If you take the time to do this, it's a good dish to bring (along with the steamer) to a potluck party. You can steam for only a couple of minutes to reheat the buns on top of a pot with boiling water. They are definitely cute whether you decorate them or not, and people tend to eat more because the size is... non-threatening?
* In general, natural powders are easy to add for colors without altering the recipe. The color in the dough will look lighter and will come out stronger after steaming.
* Turmeric adds a beautiful hue of bright yellow to the bun itself. But use it sparingly. I'd say about 1/4 teaspoon for the recipe amount of 1 1/2 cups flour. It will have a slight fragrance of turmeric.
* I added strawberry powder to make the pink nose and ears of the piggy buns. Set aside 2 tablespoons of the mix of dry ingredients and mix with 1/4 teaspoon of strawberry powder, which is enough for noses and ears for the recipe (as pictured above). I'd even add less strawberry powder to get a lighter pink. Add a spoonful of water to bring it to a smooth, pink dough. On a side note, when I added strawberry powder to color the whole buns, the color came out rather darkish, dull pink. I'll stick to the piggy nose and ears for the use of strawberry powder.
* For the dark brown/black dough for panda eyes and ears, it's a mix of flour, black sesame seeds and hot chocolate powder dissolved in hot water. Knead to make it a smooth dough. The color will be light brown, but it will come out darker after steaming.
* The dark dough from the previous point is also good for dotting eyes on other animal face buns. Otherwise, I use black sesame seeds for eyes. Yes, they are tiny.
* When you feel like you need just a tad more water to the dough, just wet your hand and knead the dough instead of adding water directly to the dough. Often, that's enough moisture to finish the dough.
In addition to playing around with steamed buns on my own, I've been teaching steamed buns classes every winter. While I'm done with public classes, I have a couple of private classes booked through March. If you're interested in setting up a private class with a group of friends, you can contact me directly with any questions or request a class from this link.