Barbecue pork bun is the source of inspiration for the bacon and caramelized onion bun. Barbecue pork bun, or char siu bun, has to be one of the most popular dim sum items in Asia. In recent years, the oven-baked pork buns have gained popularity over the traditional steamed ones. The modernists prefer the former and the traditionalists usually go for the steamed buns. In blind taste tests, my bets are with the oven-baked ones. But, what do I know? Taste is a very personal thing. There are so many factors affecting our taste buds: nostalgia, familiarity with certain comfort food, memorable first bite, and individual cultural experiences….
The bacon and caramelized onion bun really appeals to the baker and food lover in me. This is the softest, fluffiest and silkiest bun I’ve ever tasted. Perhaps, nostalgia plays a part in my judgment, or misjudgment!
This bun takes advantage of common pantry items we most likely would have around our kitchens. Bacon, onion, flour, butter, egg, milk and yeast. All standard items. What’s thrilling about this recipe is the smell in the kitchen while you are making the bun. Imagine the intoxicating aroma of crackling bacon, caramelizing onion and followed by savoring the buns freshly baked from the oven. That’d please anyone in and out of the kitchen. Work through the steps outlined in the cheat sheet below, you’d understand what I mean. I can hardly wait to taste the bun as I took them out of the oven. No words! Pure goodness. If you don’t eat it right away, refresh by microwaving it for 10-15 seconds.
The dough can be used as master dough with sweet and savory fillings. It is very versatile. I've made buns with several variations: custard cream and duck confit with caramelized onion. They were all very pleasing. Variations are endless. Other fillings that come to mind are: nutella, pulled pork, anything curry, coconut, or beans. If you are short on time for homemade fillings, a jar of onion jam could easily do the trick.
I owe the success of this recipe to the online bakers’ community FreshLoaf. Among other things, there I learned about the Hokkaido milk bread with Tangzhong starter. It is the Tangzhong technique, making a roux paste by heating flour and water at a 1 to 5 ratio, that gives the bun its distinct soft texture. (More details on Tandzhong can be found at the FreshLoaf site.) Furthermore, I experimented with adding dry milk powder to the recipe, as a dough conditioner, which further lightens the texture of the bun. Adding about 6% (of the flour weight) dry milk seems optimal. As usual, adjust the hydration level by adding drops of water in case the dough seems dry. The dough should feel a little sticky, not dry.
|Custard cream bun|
This is enriched dough and requires intensive kneading in a mixer for 10-15 minutes. Be sure you don’t undermix it. If you find the dough too sticky to work with, use a bench knife and dust the work surface with plenty of flour. And breathe! Inhale the air of bacon goodness in the kitchen.
This post is written for my dearest friend R, who has the most exquisite taste in many areas. Her enormous strength of character and belief in me have inspired me to explore new grounds. This recipe is one of them. Bon appetit.