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The Bread Dough
400g whole white wheat flour
70g caster sugar
½ tsp organic bread / dough improver (optional, but you can find this easily online)
7g fast action dry yeast
200g warm water (around 30–35°C)
The Char Siu
2 × 300g pieces of pork fillet
½ finely chopped thumb-sized piece of ginger
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
½ tbsp five spice
½ tbsp white pepper
2 tbsp tomato paste or puree
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp Shao Xing rice wine
1 grated or blitzed large pear
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp palm sugar
Kneading & Proving the Bread Dough
Measure out dry ingredients in the ‘bread dough’ along with the margarine into a dough mixer and with the dough hook attachment and start to mix at a low speed. Gradually pour in the warm water, until all the flour has come off the edge of the mixer. Turn the speed up to a high speed and knead for 3–4 minutes until the dough becomes a little ‘stringy’ in texture-tacky and slightly moist. Once happy with the texture, remove from the mixer and knead by hand for a minute or so before rolling into one large ball and placing back into the mixer. Rub 1 tbsp of vegetable oil completely around the dough and then cover the mixing bowl with a clean damp tea towel.
Place in a warm, humid environment and allow it to rise for 1–1.5 hours.
Tip: Try preheating your oven onto a low heat at around 40°C for 10–15 minutes whilst the dough is being kneaded, including a small, metal mixing bowl of boiling hot water into the bottom of the oven. Turn the oven off right before you put the dough into rise, placing the mixing bowl of dough into the middle shelf of the oven to rise.
Make the Char Siu
For full preparation instructions see School of Wok’s Char Siu Salad recipe. Or a quick summary of cooking method below:
Marinade the char siu and roast in the oven at 160°C for 20 minutes turning once and basting intermittently with the sauce. Char the pork under the grill or roast in the oven at 230°C for the last 5–10 minutes until nicely charred. Allow to cool and then dice the meat ready to fill the baos. Place the diced meat back in the marinade and mix well. Cover and cool in the fridge.
Back to the Dough
Once the dough has doubled in size, knock it back by punching into the dough a few times and shaping into a rough ball once more, then allow to prove once more for a further 30 minutes, in the same, humid and warm environment.
After the second proof, the dough should have doubled in size once more. Shape the dough into 8–10 buns as follows: roll the ball of dough into a large cylinder, and then cut pieces roughly 6–7cm wide. Roll each piece of dough into a smooth ball and then flatten each ball into a circle. Roll each circle out gently to make space for the filling. Hold the dough lightly in the cupped fingertips of your non-dominant hand. Now, using the thumb and index finger of your dominant hand, start to bring the sides of the dough up around the sides of the filling until you are able to close the filled bao entirely. Tightly pinch the dough together at the top of the bao, while twisting the very top and maintaining a smooth sphere around the sides. Turn it over once and place on the work surface, twisted side down. Your filled snowball of dough is now ready.
Once you have made the snowball shapes, place onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and cover with a damp cloth and set aside to rest for a further 15–20 minutes and prove one last time.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Brush the top of each bun with beaten egg, and then bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes, until the top of the crumble is golden brown and crispy. The buns should rise in the oven by at least 50% more whilst baking.