This is what I define as a starter or base recipe... one that can be used to make several other dishes.
It is a basic recipe for the dough used in many Chinese recipes such as: Mantou (steamed buns), Dim Sum dishes, and Bao (steamed meat buns)… to name a few. The recipe produces a very light, yet sturdy dough that is perfect for steaming.
Chef's Note: This recipe produces a very sweet dough, which is how they are typically made in China. However, if you want something a bit less sweet... say for meat pies, then you might want to reduce the amount of sugar.
Gather your ingredients
Start by proofing the yeast… Take the yeast and place it in a small bowl, then add a pinch of sugar to the warm water, and mix into the yeast.
Chef’s Note: You should never use yeast (well, almost never) without first proofing it. If you see the yeast getting foamy after about 5 minutes, the yeast has “proved” that it is good. If it doesn’t foam… stop and get some more yeast.
Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
Chef’s Note: Test baking powder for freshness: Put a few tablespoons of warm water into a bowl and then add a teaspoon of baking powder. The mixture should make a fizzing noise and, the baking powder will begin to fizz and the water will become very cloudy with tiny bubbles. Baking powder reacts with liquids and heat, but does not react as well with cold water (even fresh powder won’t fizz much in ice water), so do not use it for this test. If it doesn’t fizz… buy fresh.
Chef’s Tip: You can always knead the dough by hand. I usually hand-knead dough, when I have some particular problem I’m working out. It’s a great way to take out your frustrations. Oh yeah.
Turn on the mixer to low, and slowly add the yeast mixture, the milk, and the oil.
Chef’s Tip: Here’s the trick, as the dough forms keep and eye on what it looks like. If it’s a bit hard, add a bit more milk (just a bit at a time), if it’s too wet, add a bit more flour.
Chef’s Note: What oil is best when I’m baking? Well, the easiest answer is that all oils are liquid fats, and can be used; however, remember this: When it comes to baking, it’s about flavor, while in cooking; it’s mainly about smoke point. Some oils, if used in baking would overpower the subtle flavor of whatever it is that you’re baking. I like canola oil for most of my baking needs because it has no flavor of its own, but other chefs will use other oils.
The perfect dough will not be sticky, and will begin climbing up your dough hook.
Remove from the stand mixer, and place in a bowl that has been lightly oiled, and then turn the dough to coat in the oil.
Cover with a piece of cling wrap, and allow it to rise in a non-drafty corner of your kitchen until it doubles in size. Depending on temperature, and the state of your yeast, this process should take from 45 to 60 minutes… longer if the room is cool.
Chef’s Note: That’s it for now. As I post some recipes for Dim Sum, Mantou, Beggar’s Purses, and Bao, I’ll be referring back to this recipe.