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 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 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!

Update on 20 Aug 2015: I have found my best black sesame bun recipe at here!

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 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 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
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  1. What amazing you make your own black sesame paste.Only yesterday I was seen some recipes with black sesame!
    Sometimes I like to mix black and natural sesame.
    Love these buns Zoe!!

  2. If black sesame seeds would get rid of my gray, I think I'd eat them every day!I love steamed buns but I've never made them myself. Your homemade sesame paste looks delicious in these fluffy buns! :)

  3. sigh.. another one of those "i'd always wanted to make this".. homemade black sesame paste.. this is awesome.. gonna save this recipe and make it someday (hopefully soon)

    btw, i love how you label that picture "now steaming"... just like how CD shops do the "now playing" ;)

  4. How I wish I could try one of your sesame buns. I like steamed buns.

  5. Lovely buns, Zoe!
    I have so many paste recipes to make on my list, but I am too lazy to attempt any of them!
    Your buns looks really fluffy and delicious with your homemade paste!

  6. Hello Zoe, hahahah I think most Asian kids grow up being told that things that they eat will be good for them. I was also told that eating black sesame seeds will make my hair black. My mum still eats black sesame seeds now, and she either has really good genes or it works cos she has really dark hair (for her age).

  7. Hi Zoe,
    Black sesame filing, it is homemade some more!
    These healthy black sesame steam buns are simply irresistible!

  8. Give me 5! I love love love 'ji ma wu' (black sesame paste) and I have a packet of instant black sesame cereal in my drawer.. Just need to add hot water, yummzzz.. Your black sesame filling buns look so so good, buns look fluffy too.. *ngap*!

  9. Oh my, OH MY! As someone who LOVE black sesame products, paste, ice cream, fillings...this looks brilliant! I've never heard of that suspicion before but I can see where the belief came from because of the lovely black color of the seeds! I just love the sweet, thickness of paste for sweet buns! I'd love to have a couple of your buns!

  10. So healthy & yummy the black sesame filling you made

  11. Aww~i love black sesame! and of course the pau!

  12. Hi Zoe,
    Oh yes! I've of that too ... consuming more black sesame seeds will make the hair darker and silky shine. But I don't like black sesame lol. But your homemade sesame paste looked yummy-licious though .... may I have 1 small bun pls ?! ^-^!

  13. Black sesame seeds really make a tasty paste. Yours looks terrific! And these buns look outstanding. Thanks.

  14. Very healthy and mouthwatering recipe for a different style of buns.... :)

  15. I have never eaten black sesame as a paste, only maybe in ice cream? Delicious buns, they look rounded and cute :D

    Choc Chip Uru

  16. Hats off to you Zoe for making your own sesame paste!

  17. Your buns look awesome, Zoe! Reason more to try making them, apart from making my hair dark;-)

  18. My gosh, I am drooling here. They look yummilicious Zoe! One of my favourite buns of all time. Would definitely try to attempt making these and have them with a nice fragrant Chinese tea. Have a lovely week ahead. Cheers, Jo

  19. My mother sure will love to eat this. Making pau so tedious. I am lazy to make. How nice if you are my mother's daughter....hahaha

  20. Are you running a bakery, Zoe? I think you're amazingly good at what you do :)

  21. Hi i live in adelaide. Could you please tell me where can i find this hong kong flour - is it branded as Hong Kong flour? Or does it goes under different brand names? I just tried making char siew pau with lighthouse brand self raising flour from Woolworths which mentions that can be use to make steam pau/buns ( they even printed a recipe on the box). I followed the recipe but it came out heavy and dense. The skin was not snowwhite but beige even though i added vinegar to the steaming water as recommended in some recipes. Appreciate your feedback. Thank you

    1. Hi, I must admit that Hong Kong flour is quite difficult to find in Australia. I bought mine from one particular Asian grocery store at Boxhill (Victoria) but the flour are not in stock all the time. When the Hong Kong flour is out of stock, I will usually buy the lighthouse brand of SR bleached flour and it works very well for most of the recipes that I have tried. I must say that it is strange that your buns are heavy, dense and not white, it might be the butter or margarine that you used or you have not knead or proved the dough well enough.

      Hope that you can find HK flour or a better way of using lighthouse flour soon. Cheers!


  22. Hi Zoe ,

    Can i used Black Sesame Seed paste as cream cheese shang hai mooncake filling ? is this combination sounded weird to you ?

  23. Hi Patricia,

    Sorry for my late reply as I was on holidays. Your idea of making Shanghai mooncake with black sesame paste sounds brilliant! Weird? Nay... maybe creative :)

    Give it a go and please let me know if it works :)


  24. I had these for the first time in my life in singapore, just for the heck of it. Its one of the most delicious breads/ bun i have come across! Thank you for sharing the recipe

  25. Hi Zoe,

    Can i use this paste in the traditional mooncake? Please advise.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi, I have used this paste as a filling for making mochi and dorayaki but I think it is a little too soft to make mooncakes. Cheers!