Bread is the staple food to Western Cuisine as in steamed buns is to Chinese cuisine. Steamed buns (Mantou) is especially popular in the breakfast, either plain or with savory or sweet stuffing, usually served with porridge. Buns making shares similar process to bread making which started with a yeast dough, kneading and proofing with the only difference in its cooking method at the end – steam instead of bake.
If you have ever made cinnamon rolls or sticky buns, then you will find it is essentially the same thing except you steam the buns at the end.
For the yeast dough:
1 tablespoon (or 1 packet) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water, plus additional as needed
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the fillings:
4 bunches of green scallions
1/4 cup olive oil
pepper & salt
To make and proof the yeast dough:
In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over luke warm water sweetened with 1 tablespoon sugar. Allow to proof until bubbly and creamy, about 10 minutes.
Sift the flour, remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, salt and baking powder into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Turn the mixer on low speed, and pour in the warm water-yeast mixture until the dough begins to form a ball. If it looks too dry and don’t come together, add more water, tablespoon by tablespoon, until it forms a ragged clump. Continue to knead on low speed for 5 to 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth, shiny, and springy to the touch, and your mixer bowl is clean on the sides.
(Alternately, you can do this by hand: Make a hole in the flour mixture, dribble the water into a large bowl holding the flour mixture, using one hand to slowly mix it in a circular direction. When it forms the ragged clump, turn the dough out onto a floured counter top and knead by hand until the dough is smooth and shiny.)
Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl, flipping the dough to coat it in oil, and cover with plastic wrap. Store the bowl in a warm, draft free place until it doubles in size, approximately 3 to 4 hours.
To make the scallion oil:
Dice and mince the green scallion, set aside. Heat the olive oil in a shallow pan on medium high heat for about 5 minute or so, when the oil seems hot but not smoky hot, throw the minced scallion over the oil, you should hear a sizzling sound, then immediate remove the pan away from the heat. Stir the scallion a little bit to submerge them into the oil, season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside and allow them to cool.
To make the scallion rolls:
Now you have the proofed yeast dough and scallion oil ready. Punch the dough down, then divide in half. Pat each half into a rectangular shape, then use both hand stretching and rolling-pin to roll each half into a rectangular sheet that is about 1/8 inch thick. To stretch by hand, hold one hand in the center, use the other hand to stretch from center out, while keeping the rectangular shape. You do the same thing as you would to make stretch pizza or flat bread.
Once the dough has been rolled into a 1/8 thick sheet dough, brushed the scallion oil all over the dough, sprinkle additional salt and pepper if you desire. Starting from the longer length end, you roll the dough into a thin log. Cut 1 inch pieces from the log. Stack two pieces together, use a stick to pinch deep down in the middle, this way the cut side will show up to have a “thousand layer” look. Remove the stick, twist two ends of the bun and tuck the end down underneath. Repeat with the rest of the pieces.
To cook, prepare the steam basket or a large steam pot. Working in batches, position scallion rolls into the steamer, allowing room on all sides. The rolls will double the size during the steaming. Turn the heat on high, once the water is boiled (you will see steam comes out of the lid), steam the scallion rolls for 15 minutes, then remove the pot from the heat. Let it sit for 5 minutes before removing the lid. Then serve immediately. They are the best right after the steaming.