Reprinted from A COMMON TABLE: 80 Recipes and Stories from My Shared Cultures © 2018 by Cynthia
Chen McTernan. Published by Rodale Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
For the Scallion Buns
- 1 cup finely sliced scallions
- 3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more as needed to moisten the scallions
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for sprinkling on top (optional)
- 1 batch Steamed Buns, prepared to end of the first rise, recipe below
- All-purpose flour, for kneading and rolling
To Make the Scallion Buns
In a small bowl, whisk together the scallions, vegetable oil, and salt. Cut out twelve to sixteen 6-inch squares of parchment paper to place underneath each bun.
When the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a floured surface and deflate. Divide the dough into 12 to 16 pieces. A dozen rolls will be quite large, about 6 inches across; more rolls will be, of course, smaller.
For each piece of dough, roll it out to an oval about 4-inches wide and 6-inches long (it doesn’t have to be exact). Slice ribbons lengthwise into the oval, leaving about 1⁄2 inch at the top of the oval intact. Brush about 1 tablespoon of the scallion mixture across the dough, then pick up each end of the ribboned oval and twist the dough into a rope, with the ribbons forming a spiral. Either coil or knot the rope into a circle, and place it onto a square of parchment paper. Repeat with the remain-ing dough. (See Notes for alternative shaping methods.) When all the dough has been shaped into rolls, cover lightly with a damp dish towel or paper towels and let rest until the first batch of rolls you shaped has risen for 30 to 40 minutes, until the dough bounces back very slowly when pressed with a fingertip, but an indent remains visible.
While the dough is rising, set up your steamer. If using a pot with a steamer basket, fill the pot with about 2 quarts of water and bring it to a boil over high heat. If using a bamboo steamer, fill a large wok or skillet with about 2 inches of water and bring to a boil over high heat. The water should be high enough that the rim of the bamboo steamer rests in the water, but not so high that the bottom of the basket touches the water.
Starting with the buns you shaped first, place 3 or 4 in each steamer tier, or however many will fit with a generous 2 to 3 inches between each bun. Reduce the heat to medium-low, or low enough to keep the water just at a gentle simmer, cover your steamer, and set it over the water. Let the buns steam until resilient when touched and cooked through, about 15 minutes. (You may want to place the remaining buns in the refrigerator to slow the rising while you steam the first batches.)
Repeat with the remaining buns. Enjoy warm, sprinkled with salt, if desired. Leftovers can be frozen and reheated in the steamer or the microwave.
NOTES: For a simpler technique, you can shape the dough as though you are making plain Steamed Buns (page 64) or My Favorite Cinnamon Rolls (page 241). Roll out the dough into a large 12 × 14-inch rectangle, then spread the scallion mixture evenly across the dough, leaving a 1⁄2-inch border around the edges. Starting at a short end, roll the rectangle snugly into a log, then slice the log into about a dozen pieces. Steam as is, or press a chopstick down lengthwise on top of each piece, causing the roll to “fold” in the center and the swirls on either side of the bun to face upward, then tuck the ends underneath.
For the Steamed Buns
- 1 cup milk, of choice
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast, or instant yeast
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling and dusting
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon non-fat dry milk powder, optional
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
To Make the Steamed Buns
The night before, or at least 2 hours before baking: In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk just to a boil, 2 to 3 minutes, or heat the milk to a boil in a small microwave-safe bowl in the microwave, about 1 minute. (This scalds the milk to kill any enzymes that might prevent the yeast from doing their thing.) Set aside to cool slightly until warm to the touch but not hot, about 100°F to 110°F. If you find a film on the surface of the milk after heating it, just pour the milk through a sieve. Stir in the oil, then sprinkle the yeast on top and let sit until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. If the milk-yeast mixture does not foam, you may want to start over to make sure your yeast is active. To use instant yeast, use the same amount as active dry yeast, but mix it in with the dry ingredients instead of adding it to the scalded milk.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, milk powder (if using), and salt. If not using a scale, take care to use the spoon-and-sweep method for measuring your flour, since too much flour can make the dough dense. When the yeast is foamy, add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula until a dough forms.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 6 to 8 minutes. Place the dough in a large bowl with plenty of room (no need to grease) and cover with plastic wrap or a damp dish towel. Let rise in the refrigerator overnight, at least 8 hours. (Alternatively, you can let it rise at room temperature for 2 hours or so, until well doubled. I prefer a longer rise, to give the flavor time to develop and to split up the labor. The dough should be fine for up to 24 hours.)