Tangzhong (Roux) Preparation:

Tangzhong (Roux) Preparation:

  1. Ingredients:
    • ¼ cup whole milk
    • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  2. Procedure:
    • In a small saucepan, combine ¼ cup whole milk and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour. Whisk until the mixture is smooth.
    • Heat over medium flame, constantly whisking, for about 2-3 minutes. The goal is to cook until it forms a thick paste, similar in consistency to toothpaste.
    • Once achieved, remove from heat and place in a small bowl.
    • Refrigerate the paste to cool for about 8-10 minutes.

Scientific Explanation: This process, known as making a roux or Tangzhong, involves cooking flour and liquid (milk) together. This precooking gelatinizes the starches in the flour, meaning they absorb more water. This results in a softer, fluffier texture in the final bao.

Dough Preparation:

  1. Ingredients:
    • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour (extra for dusting)
    • 1¼ teaspoons instant yeast (also known as “fast-rising” or “rapid-rise”)
    • ½ teaspoon baking powder
    • ¼ cup whole milk (slightly warmed)
    • 2 tablespoons honey
  2. Procedure:
    • Mix the dry ingredients: In a large bowl, combine 1¼ cups of all-purpose flour, 1¼ teaspoons of instant yeast, and ½ teaspoon of baking powder.
    • In a separate bowl, mix ¼ cup of slightly warmed milk with 2 tablespoons of honey until well combined.
    • Combine the milk-honey mixture with the dry ingredients. Mix until a dough forms.
    • On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until smooth and elastic.
    • Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and let it rise in a warm place until it doubles in size.

Scientific Explanation: Yeast, a living organism, feeds on the sugars in honey and flour, producing carbon dioxide gas. This gas gets trapped in the dough, causing it to rise and creating the soft, airy texture of the bao. Warming the milk slightly helps activate the yeast more quickly.

Filling Preparation:

  1. Ingredients:
    • 2 tablespoons whole milk
    • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
    • ½ slice white bread, chopped
    • ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
    • 1 scallion, finely chopped (light and dark green parts only)
    • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
    • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
    • 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar (light or dark)
    • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • ¼ pound ground beef (preferably 80% lean)
    • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  2. Procedure:
    • In a mixing bowl, combine the milk, mayonnaise, chopped white bread, mozzarella cheese, chopped scallion, soy sauce, cornstarch, brown sugar, and black pepper.
    • In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil over medium heat. Add the ground beef and cook until browned.
    • Mix the cooked beef into the bowl with the other filling ingredients.

Scientific Explanation: The cornstarch in the filling acts as a thickening agent, helping to bind the ingredients together and prevent the bao from becoming soggy. The combination of soy sauce, sugar, and other seasonings creates a rich umami flavor, enhancing the overall taste of the filling.

Assembly and Cooking:

  • Divide the risen dough into 8 equal parts.
  • Roll each part into a ball, then flatten to form a small disc.
  • Place a portion of the filling in the center of each disc.
  • Gather the edges of the dough and pinch to seal, forming a bao.
  • Steam the bao for about 15 minutes until they are puffed and cooked through.

Enjoy your homemade bao!

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