These gluten free steamed Chinese meat buns are (forgive me) a relief to finally reveal to you. *phew* Since I open up my big mouth at every turn and promise over and over and over again that, if they can make it with gluten, we can make it without, I’ve got quite the cross to bear. To make matters worse, I usually follow it up with a hearty: “That’s a promise!” It’s just that I don’t want you to have to make do with less. I don’t want you to have to just wait patiently until the gluten-eating people around you are finished with their gluteny steamed Chinese meat buns. So I make that promise, and I take it seriously. In fact, my newest cookbook, Gluten Free Classic Snacks, is an ode to that promise. If you miss the gluteny packaged cookies, snack cakes, breakfast treats, crackers and candies of days gone by, you can have them back.
But it’s just that these steamed Chinese buns were so … soft. And fluffy. Could we really do it?
Yes. Yes, we could. I did, and (hopefully!) you will.
Just as they should be, these steamed Chinese buns are soft and fluffy, with the most gorgeous savory filling. I adapted the recipe from someone who knows, since I certainly did not know. As you can imagine, the filling is largely the same as the recipe from which I adapted it (I left out the Chinese 5-spice, but feel free to add that back in). The dough is the real star, and that required some more work to de-gluten. I prefer the recipe to be made with the gluten free bread flour blend from GFOAS Bakes Bread(don’t worry it’s all explained below), but I also tested it with my gluten free pastry flour (also all explained below) and it does, in fact, work. I tried steaming the buns for as long as he did in the original recipe, and found that they turned out tough. I do have a bamboo steamer basket, but I have also made these with a metal steamer. If you don’t have either, I bet these would be wonderful cooked in a large pot of simmering chicken or beef stock.
The result? Light and fluffy steamed buns filled with a delightfully gingery, salty beef mixture. My kids said, “Oh, these are like potstickers! Except better.” Well said.
Prep time:Cook time:Yield:About 16 buns
For the bread dough 3 1/2 cups (490 g) Gluten Free Bread Flour*, plus more for sprinkling**
1 2/3 teaspoons (5 g) instant yeast
1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3 g) kosher salt
2 tablespoons (28 g) vegetable oil (or another neutral oil)
1 cup + 3 tablespoons (9 1/2 fluid ounces) warm milk (11 to 11 1/2 ounces if using gluten free pastry flour in place of bread flour)**
For the filling 3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger (peel the ginger by scraping with a spoon, slice into coins, slice the coins into matchsticks, then mince)
3 tablespoons gluten free soy sauce, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon (12 g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons mirin (rice cooking wine)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons vegetable oil (or other neutral oil)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound lean ground pork, chicken or beef (if you use nearly fat-free ground meat, like ground chicken, add 2 more teaspoons vegetable oil to the filling)
1/2 cup shredded cabbage (I used bagged shredded cabbage with shredded carrots because I was lazy)
Chopped scallions, for serving (optional)
*BREAD FLOUR NOTES
1 cup (140 g) Gluten Free Bread Flour, as discussed more fully on pages 8 to 10 of GFOAS Bakes Bread, contains 100 grams Mock Better Batter all purpose gluten free flour (or Better Batter itself) + 25 grams whey protein isolate (I use NOW Foods brand) + 15 grams Expandex modified tapioca starch.
Dough made with one of the pastry flour blends will need to be handled differently, and baked differently. It will be softer and not stretchy, and more prone to tearing. Please handle it carefully.
Line the bottom of a bamboo steamer basket with parchment paper, and set it aside. If you don’t have a bamboo steamer basket, you can use a metal steamer that sits in a pot above a small amount of water, also lined with parchment. Then line a baking sheet with parchment and set it aside as well.
First, make the bread dough. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the bread hook (or fitted with the paddle attachment if using pastry flour in place of bread flour), place the flour blend, yeast and sugar, and whisk to combine well. Add the baking powder and salt, and whisk to combine well. Add the oil and milk, and mix on low speed with the dough hook (or paddle if using pastry flour) until combined. Raise the mixer speed to medium and knead (or mix) for about 5 minutes. The dough will begin as a rough ball and become very sticky, but should be smooth and somewhat stretchy (if using pastry flour, the dough will clump and begin to come together in shards, more like play-doh). Spray a silicone spatula lightly with cooking oil spray, and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl or proofing bucket, and cover with an oiled piece of plastic wrap (or the oiled top to your proofing bucket) and set it in a warm, draft-free location to rise for about 45 minutes or until it is about 150% of its original size (if using pastry flour, the dough will rise less). Place in the refrigerator, still covered tightly, to chill. This will make it easier to handle.
Make the filling while the bread dough is rising. In a medium-size bowl, place the ginger, soy sauce, sugar, mirin, sesame oil, vegetable oil and pepper, and mix to combine well. Set the bowl aside. In a large bowl, place the ground meat and the cabbage, and mix to combine. Add the ginger/soy sauce mixture to the large bowl of meat and cabbage, and mix to combine well. Cover the bowl and place the mixture in the refrigerator to chill.
Shape the buns while the filling chills. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle lightly with additional flour, and shape into a smooth ball (this will be much, much easier if you used bread flour). Divide the dough evenly into four separate pieces, then each piece into 4 equal pieces. Sprinkle all of the pieces of dough lightly with flour, and cover all but one with a moist tea towel so that they don’t dry out. Using well-floured hands, roll the exposed piece of dough into a round between your palms. Place the dough back on the flat surface and press down into a disk with the heel of your hand. Using well-floured fingers, flatten the dough into a round about 4-inches in diameter, working from the inside out and leaving the center of the dough much thicker than the edges. This will keep the filling from leaking out during steaming. Remove the chilled filling from the refrigerator and place about 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling in the center of the shaped piece of dough. With well-floured hands, gather the ends of the dough together up and over the filling like an accordion, making your way around until the bun is sealed. Place the bun in the bamboo steamer on the parchment. Repeat with the remaining buns and filling, placing the buns about 1 1/2-inches apart from one another. Cover the buns with the lid of the steamer or a large piece of oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 30 minutes. The buns will swell.
Steam the buns. Place the steamer, still covered, over just enough simmering water on the stovetop that the water nearly touches the bottom of the steamer, but does not. Steam over high heat for 8 minutes, replenishing the steaming water as it evaporates. Turn off the heat and allow the steamer to sit, covered, for another 2 to 4 minutes or until the buns are fluffy but relatively firm to the touch. Scatter a few chopped scallions on the top of each bun, and serve warm with a side of gluten free soy sauce.
Make ahead option: The buns can be made, steamed, and cooled completely, then wrapped tightly and frozen. Defrost at room temperature and steam again briefly to warm before serving.