Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Black Sesame Steamed Buns 黑芝麻包 with Homemade Black Sesame Paste

Since young, I was told that eating black sesame seeds can make my hair grow darker or make my grey hair disappear!!!

Until today, I'm still skeptical with this belief! Whether I am believer in this saying or not, I still like to eat any food that is made with black sesame seeds particularly Chinese steamed buns or Chinese glutinous rice dumpling (Tang Yuan 汤圆) made with sweet black sesame filling.

Prior all these years of blogging and cooking, I know that I would walk into a Asian grocery store and buy packs of frozen Chinese steamed buns or Chinese glutinous rice dumpling (Tang Yuan 汤圆) to bring them home to steam or cook with less fuss and also without much hesitation. These days, I question myself the source or the contents of the food that I put into my mouth... Geez! What have I done to myself to become so fussy???

You might ask... Why am I (Zoe) going through the hassle of making my own black sesame seed paste? Well, these are my reasons... 1) After I question the contents of black sesame paste, I know that the sweet paste is obviously made with heaps of sugar and fat and so I like to make mine with just the right amount of sweetness and fat. 2) Some commercial food are made with unknown source of fat. Some are not so healthy which contains trans fat or high amount of saturated fats. I like to be the one who choose and use the healthier oil in my food. So, here I'm making my own black sesame paste with trans fat free Alfa One rice bran oil.

black sesame steamed buns with homemade black sesame paste
Black Sesame Steamed Buns with Homemade Black Sesame Paste
To start, I have to roast my sesame seeds in a pan.
Then, I processed the seeds into a nutty paste.
Not smooth enough??? This is what I did.
Then, I cooked the paste using the Alfa One rice bran oil that I like.
The sweetness of this paste is just right... Please do not reduce the amount of sugar further.
These can be kept in the fridge for about a week or in the freeze for 3 months.
To make the bun dough, I started by using a mortar and pestle to grind a small amount of  black sesame seeds. 
These are the divided and rested bun dough and they are ready for wrapping.
Shaping the buns with the black sesame filling
The bun dough is very easy to handle...
... and the buns can become pretty big after resting and steaming!
That's because they are extremely fluffy!!!

It is true that these black sesame steamed buns are very very very fluffy but they are fluffy because they are made with 450g of flour with 2 teaspoon of baking powder!!! ... which is more or even double the amount of baking powder that I have used in some steamed buns recipes, for instance at here. Due to this addition, my husband can taste some bitter aftertaste in the plain flower buns but my son and I can't. Interestingly, all of us can't detect any aftertaste when the buns are wrapped with black sesame filling. So, should we use so much baking powder to make these buns??? Obviously, if I reduce the amount of baking powder added, the buns will yield denser with less fluffy texture... Geez! Why can't we have the best of both world???

Apart from this hard-to-perfect black sesame steamed bun recipe, I have to say that this homemade back sesame paste made with trans free Alfa One rice bran oil and right amount of sweetness is more than perfect to me! After making these buns, I have decided to set myself another mission... It is to find an ideal black sesame steamed bun recipe! Wish me luck!

Here is the recipe that is mostly adapted from and Vivian Pang's Kitchen

To make smooth and velvety black sesame seed paste:

Makes about 2 cups or 25-27 medium steamed bun portions
160g (1 cup) black sesame seeds
150g caster sugar*
1 cup boiling hot water
1/4 cup Alfa One rice bran oil

*This amount of sweetness is just right for us. If you prefer the paste to be sweeter or flowy, you need to add more sugar and reduce the cooking time to retain higher amount of moisture in the paste.

Place sesame seeds in a saucepan. Using medium heat, toast sesame seeds with occasion stirring for about 5 mins or until the seeds are fragrant and start to have a few popping sound. Be careful not to over-toast the seeds as they can be bitter if they are burnt. Allow it to cool completely in the room temperature.

Transfer the cooled sesame seeds into a processor or a container of a hand held processor. Add water and process into a smooth paste as much as possible. You may add more water to process mixture into smoother texture but adding more water means that you will need a longer time to cook it off later.

For a smoother texture, ground processed mixture in batches into smoother paste using a mortar and pestle and transfer the ground paste into a clean saucepan.

Add oil into the ground paste and cook with medium heat and stirring until mixture is pasty and fragrant. Then, add sugar. You will notice that the mixture will become wet and darker after the addition of sugar. Continue to cook with medium heat with constant stirring until the liquid dry up to form a firm paste.

To make the black sesame steamed buns:

Makes 12 medium buns
180ml water, lukewarm but I had to add extra 2 tbsp water because the dough is too dry.
15ml (1 tbsp) oil, preferably something light like canola oil*
450g (3 cups) Hong Kong flour (1 pack) or any low protein (7-9%) bleached flour
2 tsp** baking powder, preferably double acting baking powder
10g black sesame seeds, roughly ground by mortar and pestle
20g caster sugar
1 tsp yeast
black sesame seed paste, chill in fridge for at least 1-2 hr, divide into portions and shape them into 3-4 cm (diameter) balls

*Due its lightness, canola oil or corn oil is most appropriate to use to make steamed bun dough. To add on, I like to clarify that it is ok to use Alfa One rice bran oil to make steamed bun dough but I would prefer oil that is lighter in colour and texture.

**This amount is required to make the bun extra fluffy but might give the buns a little bitter aftertaste.

Place water, oil, sugar, flour, baking powder, ground sesame seeds and yeast according to this order into a breadmaker and use "dough” setting to knead and prove the dough for 1 hr or double in size.

If breadmaker is not available, kneading by hand is possible. Combine flour, baking powder, yeast, caster sugar in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the flour mixture, add water to form a dough, then add oil to knead into a smooth and elastic dough (at least 20 mins) and then let it rise for 1 hr or double in size.

Divide the dough into 12 equal portions. Shape into balls and allow them to rest for 10 min. Flatten each portion and place each portion of filling in the middle. Wrap and seal the sides of the dough to completely enclose the filling. Place each bun on each paper cup liner or a small piece of baking paper with its seam sides down. Rest the buns in warm mist for about 20 mins or until they look puffy. Steam bun for about 12-20 mins until done. The steam timing varies if you have multiple layers of baos to steam. The layer that is closest to the direct steam will take 15 mins to cook, When ready remove the buns immediately from the steamer and serve warm.

Happy Steaming
Like Alfa One rice bran oil that I have used?
You can win these?

For January 2015, Alfa One rice bran oil will be giving prizes to FOUR lucky winners!!! This giveaway is open to Australian residents only!!! Be quick!!! The submission ends on 31st Jan 2015, 11:59 Melbourne, Australia time.

Each set of prize worth more than A$40 and they are:

One 1L Alfa One rice bran oil
One 500ml Alfa One rice bran oil
One 225g Alfa One rice bran oil cooking spray
One 225ml BBQ spray Alfa One rice bran oil
(Butane-free so you have no worries that your spray will cause any fire!)
750ml brown rice Alfa One rice bran oil - a newly launched product at Woolworths
All in a nice hessian bag as shown in the following picture.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
I would like to make a disclaimer here that I'm not paid by Alfa One rice bran oil. I'm always a big fan of this healthful product and was provided with the oils to demonstrate the benefits and goodness in my cooking and baking.

Before ending this post, I have two announcements to make:

1) Yen from Eat your heart out, Diana from Domestic Goddess Wannabe and I from Bake for Happy Kids are organising a Chinese New Year cooking / baking event named Cook and Celebrate: CNY 2015 and it is starting on 1st Feb 2015. Please link your post with us if you are cooking or baking something special for your CNY celebration for the whole of February 2015.

2) Who wants to win US$160???
I'm one of the 16 bloggers who are giving away US$160 cash to one lucky winner for a Chinese New Year Ang Pow Giveaway starting on 2nd Feb 2015. So remember to stay tune for this!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

An Aussie but Chinese-influenced Crunchy Noodle Salad

Remember I mentioned before that I always trust recipes that are printed at the back of some food packaging...

I wonder if this is a good habit as I started doing this about 10 years ago since I discovered this recipe at an Aussie backyard party.

A Chinese style salad in an Aussie BBQ boozy party??? Odd, isn't it? I was totally surprised when I had a first taste of this salad at my friend's birthday party. I'm 100% sure that I wasn't drunk when I tasted this salad because I can remember and name the drunken friends that threw up in this party... LOL!

While my drunk friends were doing crazy things like pole-dancing with the backyard rotary clotheslines, I was busy eating this salad and can't help to ask my friend how she made it.

"The recipe is at the back of Chang's crunchy noodle..." she said.

"Oh! I see ..."

Since then, I have been trying out recipes via food packaging.

Chang's crunchy noodle salad
An Aussie but Chinese-influenced crunchy noodle salad
This recipe can be found at the back of these!
Trust me! I'm totally impressed too that these basic ingredients can create such a beautiful salad dressing. 
For a nutty crunch, I have also deep-fried these cashew nuts to serve with salad.
I'm too lazy... I'm using this ready-to-use coleslaw instead off shredding the cabbage myself. 
Add chopped spring onions and combined dressing and allow salad to rest for 30 mins.
Toss in the nuts, crunchy noodles and chicken just before serving.

Delicious, isn't it? Told you... I was not drunk when I first had this!!!

Here's this super quick and easy recipe that is mostly adapted from Chang's

Serves 2-3 as a side dish
1/4 small savoy or Chinese cabbage, finely shredded or 1 bag (300g) coleslaw mix
2-3 spring onion, the green part only, finely chopped to about 1-2 mm
25g roasted or lightly fried nuts, preferably cashews, slivered almonds, pinenuts
30g instant crispy noodles (about 1/3 of the 100g pack), they are like the ones we eat with Yu Sheng / Yee Sang
100g shredded BBQ pork or chicken

1 tbsp white vinegar
10g or 1 tbsp castor sugar
1/4 tbsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp olive oil

Mix all the ingredients of the dressing in a bowl. Stir well until sugar is dissolved. Combine the cabbage or coleslaw mix and spring onions in a salad bowl. Add dressing and mix well and allow it to rest for about 30 mins in the fridge before serving. Just before serving, add the nuts, noodles and pork or chicken. Toss thoroughly and serve.


This post is linked to the event, Little Thumbs up organised by Doreen from my little favourite DIY and me, Bake for Happy Kids, hosted by Anne from My Bare Cupboard at this post.

Our Little Thumbs Up event starts on the first Tuesday until the last day of the month. Please join us! To join, simply cook or bake any recipe with the theme of the month which is Noodles and Pasta for Jan 2015 and link with us at this post anytime until 31st Jan 2015.

What after Jan 2015? Grace from Life can be simple will be the next hostess of Feb 2015 and her theme is CHOCOLATE! Her Little Thumbs Up event starts on the first Tuesday of Feb 2015 (3rd Feb 2015) until the last day of the month.

Don't forget your thumbs up or display this badge! And make sure that: (1) Your post must be a current post preferably within this month. (2) Please mention Little Thumbs Up in your post and link back to Bake for Happy Kidsmy little favourite DIY or/and Anne from My Bare Cupboard. For more details, please see this.