Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Vegan chocolate bao

I was doing some of the usual Internet browsing on my phone and came across the Instagram page for a little shop called Bao Town (they're username is @bao_town) in Sydney which make a selection of sweet and savoury baos. Baos are called a few different things such as banh bao, if you're Vietnamese or baozi, humbow or pau if you're Chinese. Essentially what it is, is a steamed bun with some kid of delicious filling. 

I love a good bao! I do miss a good pork bun, but there are still vegan baos around so that will suffice. There are also delicious taro and red bean baos available at the Asian grocer. My mum comes home with every now and then, and I'm always the one to demolish them all. 

While I was looking at the Bao Town Instagram page, I saw that they did a chocolate bao. It was the traditional white bun with melted chocolate on the inside. Sounds delicious right?! Aside from the unfortunate fact that Bao Town is only in Sydney, their baos aren't vegan :(

Not to fear, because this got me thinking about my own vegan recipe for a chocolate bao. Luckily, the dough for the buns are usually vegan friendly anyways, so this made it an easy job to come up with a vegan version of Bao Town's chocolate bao. I did my research and tried to find a good recipe and decided to make a few changes to the recipe I found from an online article for the LA Times. The article was called The trick to making bao? Starting with the perfect dough. How could I not resist reading this!

For the chocolate filling, I could use either vegan dark chocolate (e.g. Lindt 70% or 85% dark chocolate) or the Sweet Williams dairy free chocolate. While I was searching the grocery store for chocolate, I also came across the Freedom Foods brand for a nut and dairy free chocolate spread. I've never tried this before so I thought I might use it. For all you non-vegans out there, you could use any brand of milk chocolate or even use Nutella. Yum!

The Freedom nut free chocolate spread doesn't taste like ordinary chocolate, but it was still pretty good. I much prefer the Lindt dark chocolate. So rich and chocolaty...mmmmmmm. 

These were such a wonderfully simple and tasty sweet treat. The bun was light and fluffy and the chocolate was oozy. They're best served warm...any time of the day or night :P

Vegan chocolate bao

Makes roughly 30 small baos (30 may seem like a lot, but they won't last a day ;P)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil (I used vegan shortening)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Scant 3 cups (12 1/2 ounces) Hong Kong flour (from the Asian grocery store), bleached flour or white all purpose flour. I found that the Hong Kong flour produce a super white bun. 
  • Vegan chocolate cut into small squares, or vegan choc chips
  1. Put the yeast in a small bowl, add the water and set aside for 1 minute to soften. Whisk in the oil to blend and dissolve the yeast. Set aside.
  2. To make the dough in a food processor: Combine the sugar, baking powder and flour in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse two or three times to combine. With the motor on, pour the yeast mixture through the feed tube in a steady stream and allow the machine to continue running until the dough starts coming together into a ball, about 20 seconds. (If this doesn't happen, add lukewarm water by the teaspoon.) Let the machine continue for 45 to 60 seconds to knead most of the dough into a large ball that cleans the sides of the bowl; expect some dangling bits. Press on the finished dough; it should feel medium-soft and tacky but should not stick to your finger.
  3. Alternatively, to make the dough by hand: Combine the sugar, baking powder and flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture. Slowly stir with a wooden spoon, moving from the center toward the rim, to work in all the flour. (Add lukewarm water by the teaspoon if this doesn't happen with relative ease.) Keep stirring as a ragged, soft mass forms. Then use your fingers to gather and pat the dough together into a ball. Transfer to a work surface and knead for about 5 minutes, until smooth, fingertip-soft and slightly elastic. (You shouldn't need any additional flour on the work surface if the dough was properly made. Keep kneading, and after the first minute or two, the dough shouldn't stick to your fingers. If it does, work in a sprinkling of flour.) Press your finger into the dough; the dough should spring back, with a faint indentation remaining.
  4. Lightly oil a clean bowl and add the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm, draft-free place to rise until nearly doubled, 30 to 45 minutes (timing will vary depending on the temperature of the room). If not using immediately, cover and refrigerate the dough until needed.
  5. Divide the dough into 30 equal balls, place on tray or plate, cover and leave to rise for another 10-15 minutes. You might want to use measuring scales to ensure that they're all the same size.
  6. Using a rolling pin, roll out the balls of dough so that they're about 10cm (4inches) in diameter (but don't make them too thin). Place about 1 teaspoon of the vegan chocolate into the centre. 
  7. Gather up the edges and pinch the bun closed at the top. Make sure there aren't any gaps at the top or else the chocolate will melt out. Place each bun on a small square of baking/parchment paper. 
  8. Steam the buns over briskly boiling water for 10 minutes. Serve warm and enjoy!

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