Basic Steamed Milk Buns (Mantou)

The basic yeasted steamed bun recipe to build upon for all your customizations. For a sourdough version, see this post: Sourdough Basic Steamed Buns (Mantou).

As much as I love naturally leavened bread, believe it or not, my preferred way to make steamed bread is actually using commercial yeast aka active dry yeast. A lot of it probably has to do with the nostalgia factor: growing up 100% of the steamed buns I have eaten is most likely made with commercial yeast. Sourdough imparts a flavor that I don’t think enhances the experience. It’s like queso– the best queso to me are the ones made with artificial cheese, like velveeta/kraft. Fancy queso made with real cheese just isn’t as good!

The Process

Make the dough

Heat up milk in a microwave for 30s. It should be hot but not unbearable to the touch. Dissolve sugar and oil and sprinkle yeast on top. Let rest for 5 minutes or until foamy. Combine together flour and baking powder. Mix flour mixture into the yeast mixture and knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. A good test to perform to see if the dough is ready is the “window pane” test. Take a piece of dough and stretch it out between your fingers. If you can stretch it out to a thin translucent sheet that you can see light through, like a windowpane, then it is ready.

First rise

Once the dough is smooth and elastic, cover and let it rise for 1 hour or until it has nearly doubled in volume.

basic steamed mantou

Shape and 2nd rise

Using your hand, flatten the dough onto your work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a rectangle. Take one side and tightly roll into a log. Slice into 8 even pieces and place them seam side down in the steamer. Cover the steam basket and let the dough prove for 30-60 minutes.

Steam

Add water to a pot and turn your stove on high. Place the steam basket on top and steam for about 10-12 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the buns sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

Tips & Recommendations

  1. Use bleached flour. This is probably one of the few times I would recommend using bleached flour over unbleached. It really helps to give the mantou its classic white color.
  2. Make sure the milk is warm before adding the active dry yeast. This help jump start the yeast activity and reduce the rise time.
  3. Make sure to properly knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. This gives you fluffy bread that tears into strips.
  4. Be patient and allow your dough to properly rise. Improperly risen buns will be dense and heavy.

Basic Mantou (Steamed Bun)

The basic mantou (steamed bread) recipe to build all your customizations.
Total Time3 hrs
Course: Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: bread
Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 140 g milk or milk of choice or water
  • 25 g granulated sugar
  • 3/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 15 g vegetable oil
  • 240 g all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

Instructions

  • Heat up milk in a microwave for 30s. It should be hot but not unbearable to the touch. Dissolve sugar and oil and sprinkle yeast on top. Let rest for 5 minutes or until foamy.
  • Combine together flour and baking powder. Mix flour mixture into the yeast mixture and knead until a smooth and elastic dough forms. Let rest for 1 hour.
    knead till windowpane
  • Prepare your steamer with parchment paper, steaming cloth/liner.
  • Make mantous: Using your hand, flatten the dough onto your work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a rectangle. Take one side and tightly roll into a log. Slice into 8 even pieces and place them seam side down in the steamer.
  • Cover the steam basket and let the dough prove for 30-60 minutes.
  • Add water to a pot and turn your stove on high. Place the steam basket on top and steam for about 10-12 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the buns sit for about 5 minutes before serving.
  • Storage: You can freeze the buns once they have cooled. To reheat, just pop it back into the steam basket and repeat the steaming step.

Some shapes options: 

Log: Flatten the dough and using a rolling pin, roll out into a long rectangle. Take the shorter side and tightly roll into a log, like making cinnamon rolls or rolling up a poster. Slice into even pieces and place it seam side down on parchment in the steamer

 

Twists: Divide the dough into golf ball size pieces. Flatten and cut strips in the dough, leaving the top and bottom connected. Brush with oil. Holding the top and bottom edges, stretch and twist the dough into a rope. Hold one end between your thumb and pointer finger and twist the rope around your pointer finger, creating a gap in the middle. Tuck the end into the gap.

Gua bao bun: Divide the dough into golf ball size pieces or larger if desired larger buns. Flatten with the palm of your hand and roll out into a circle. Brush with oil and fold over

Baos: Divide the dough into golf ball balls. Flatten and roll out into circles having the edges being thinner than the middle. Roll out filling into even balls and place the filling in the center of the dough. Wrap the dough around the filling and seal the ends. 

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