Saturday, May 2, 2009

Sweet Potato Bao

Everytime I buy a sweet potato, I have nothing in mind on what to do with it. Perhaps it is the bright orangy color that attracts me, I always think that there are alot of things I can do with it and yet it normally sits inside the countertop basket with potatoes and onions for weeks, ever so patiently waiting for me to find the right recipe!

I have attempted Chinese steamed Buns or Bao in the past but using the special Bao flour that I got from the Asian store. Those were the days when I believed that a specialty flour can do magic instead of really studying the recipe itself to produce the best result of my cooking! These days, I tend to use my brain more and try to concoct recipes with more understanding of the ingredients in hand and rely less on ready made or ready mix ingredients.

Bao can contain savory or sweet filling and it is the bread of the Chinese people, steamed and not baked. There is a plain Bao with no filling and white in color called 'ManTao' and usually available in Shanghainese restaurants, served in place of rice with meat and vegetable dishes. Although it has not much taste in it, its soft texture inside with slight chewiness on the outside makes it so good to eat on its own and also complements dishes with sauces. The good thing about these Bao is that they can be frozen and re-steamed anytime for a quick snack and low in fat and good for all! My kids are always looking out for tea time and they love any types of Bao, bought or homemade.

This recipe is very easy and the sweet potato can be omitted wholly if a plain Bao is preferred. The only thing with working with this sweet potato dough is that gets very sticky and wet during kneading and extra flour is required to dust both the hands and kneading surface. At first I thought of a 2 tone colored spiral shape by rolling the white dough and orange sweet potato dough together. It looked successful during the rolling but after the steaming, the whole of the Bao turned orange! But the 2 toned color effect was still visible inside the Bao, although not spiral but in patches! The taste of sweet potato is subtle and the Bao is not sweet, similar to plain white bread.

Ingredients :
2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 tsp yeast
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tbsp sugar
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
6 to 8 oz mashed sweet potato (steamed & mashed)

1)Sift the flour & baking soda together. Stir in the yeast and sugar.
2)Stir in the water to mix. Add in the vegetable oil. Mix into dough ball.
3)Add in the mashed potato. Dust hands with flour and mix the dough thoroughly. Sprinkle more flour to get a firm dough but still feel wet on the hands and no longer sticky. Knead for 3 mins. Shape into a ball and let it rest in a deep bowl for 2 hours.
4)Cut 8 to 10 pieces of 3'x3' square from parchment paper.
5)Lift dough out and work on a floured surface. Roll the dough into a long log and cut into 8 to 10 pieces. The dough will expand during steaming.
6)Shape each piece of dough into round balls and gently press down to flatten the dough slightly. Put the dough ball on a piece of the parchment paper and continue with the rest.
7)Boil water in pot and prepare steamer.
8)Put the individual Bao into a big steaming plate, at least 1 inch apart from each other. Steam on high heat for 25 mins. Steam in 2 batches.
9)Remove from heat and serve while hot. Can be frozen and re-steamed.

Makes: 8 to 10 medium size Bao