Chinese Steamed Buns (Mantou)

I miss eating Singapore Chili Crab whenever I think of this

This is my third attempt at using yeast (fourth attempt is my previous post). When I made these, I can say that my kneading skills improved. I really kneaded the dough well, although I think I still did something wrong. Why, you say? The dough was still a bit sticky, and I really had a hard time rolling it because it keeps on sticking on my worktop.

Not only that... after steaming, they came out a bit yellowish! They're supposed to be white! Ghost white! Nevertheless, it still tastes like mantou, so it's okay. :) I will surely try this again, using the new yeast I bought.

Chinese Steamed Buns (Mantou)
from Almost Bourdain

  • 5 g instant dried yeast
  • 250 ml water
  • 500 g all purpose flour
  • 25 g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  1. Dissolve dried yeast in water in a small bowl.
  2. Mix all ingredients in the bowl of electric mixer. With the dough hook attached with low speed, knead the dough until it's smooth, around 10 minutes. 
  3. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes and lay it on a slightly floured surface.
  4. Roll out the dough to a 70 cm x 15 cm rectangle. 
  5. Fold the dough into thirds - fold the dough into the center to make a square.
  6. Roll it out again to a 45 cm x 25 cm rectangle. 
  7. Brush the surface with water with a pastry brush. 
  8. Roll out the dough tightly from the longer edge to form a log. 
  9. Use a bread knife to slice the log into 8 pieces. 
  10. Cut 8 square pieces of baking paper, slightly larger than the bun.
  11. Lay the buns on the square baking papers. 
  12. Spread the buns on the steamer and pour some cold water in the bottom of the steamer. Cover the steamer, and let them rise for 20 minutes. (If you don't have a multi-layer steamer and you can't fit all the buns in your single layer steamer, cover the rest of buns in a slightly damp tea towel for them to rise.)  
  13. After the final rise, turn on the steamer and steam the buns for 20 minutes (15 minutes with preheated steamer) until it's puffed and cooked.
  14. Serve immediately or deep-fry them. You can freeze the leftover once they are completely cold. You can keep them in the freezer for 3 months. You can reheat them by steaming them for 2-3 minutes after removing them from the freezer.

  By the way, I only use half of the recipe above, but still cut it into 8 pieces, making smaller steamed buns.


Cinnamon Pull-Apart Loaf ... Yeast is My Best Friend!

 Okay, my blog entries are piling up! I have almost a dozen entries in queue... better start posting them or else...

So for now, let's start with this... cinnamon pull-apart loaf

I found this recipe a loooong time ago. Never tried making it because... I'm scared of yeast... sshhhh! Yes, using yeast scares me. I've baked a few that required yeast and they did not look up to par. The taste is as expected, but the texture... dense.

My first attempt at using yeast was when I made pan de sal, a Filipino version of a bread roll a year (or more) ago. It was dense! My sister, who loves making bread (she took up culinary arts), told me there's a possibility I didn't knead the dough well enough or I didn't proof the dough long enough. And I admit, I neither kneaded not proofed the dough well enough (I waited for more than an hour to proof the dough, but it didn't rise high enough).

The second was my second attempt with pan de sal. It was better, but still a bit dense. I kneaded it very well, and the dough rose in just a few minutes (I used a different recipe, given to me by my sister). But it still ended up a bit dense.

The third was mantou bread (will post recipe soon), way better than the first two yeast experiences. But... still dense. Although my sister told me it's normal for mantou to get dense once it gets cold. So I guess it was okay.

So, this pull-apart loaf was my fourth attempt. They were lovely! Soft.. fluffy... perfect!

So what did I change? The yeast, the kneading, the proofing... so I guess everything! hihihi :D And my sister told me to say and believe "yeast is my best friend" before I started baking. I guess the positive thinking worked!

As I said, I had this recipe for ages. It's from Leite's Culinaria. But the recipe was for a lemon-scented pull-apart coffee cake. I then searched specifically for a pull-apart loaf with cinnamon filling, and found one from The Knead for Speed. I still used the sweet yeast dough recipe from the first recipe I have, then just used the cinnamon filling from the second recipe. For the cream cheese topping, I used the first recipe, I just replaced the lemon juice with vanilla and a bit of cinnamon. So this is a mixture of the two recipes.

Cinnamon Pull-Apart Loaf


For the sweet yeast dough 
from Leite's Culinaria
  • About 2 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup (2 1/2 fluid ounces) whole milk
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
For the cinnamon filling 
from The Knead for Speed
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
For the cream cheese icing 
adapted from Leite's Culinaria
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup (1 1/4 ounces) powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Make the sweet yeast dough
  1. Stir together 2 cups (9 ounces) of the flour, the sugar, the yeast, and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer; set aside. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and butter over low heat just until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat, add the water, and set aside until warm (120 to 130°F [49 to 54°C]), about 1 minute. Add the vanilla extract.
  2. Pour the milk mixture over the flour-yeast mixture and, using a rubber spatula, mix until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Attach the bowl to the mixer, and fit the mixer with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition just until incorporated. Stop the mixer, add 1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces) of the remaining flour, and resume mixing on low speed until the dough is smooth, 30 to 45 seconds. Add 2 more tablespoons flour and mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth, soft, and slightly sticky, about 45 seconds.
  3. Sprinkle a work surface with 1 tablespoon flour and center the dough on the flour. Knead gently until smooth and no longer sticky, about 1 minute, adding an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons flour only if necessary to lessen the stickiness. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover the bowl securely with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise in a warm place (about 70°F [21°C]) until doubled in size, 45 to 60 minutes. Press the dough gently with a fingertip. If the indentation remains, the dough is ready for the next step. While the dough is rising, make the filling.
Make the coffee cake
  1. In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
  2. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Lightly butter a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan. Or, lightly coat the pan with nonstick spray.
  3. Gently deflate the dough. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 20-by-12-inch rectangle. Using a pastry brush spread the melted butter generously over the dough. Cut the dough crosswise into 5 strips, each about 12 by 4 inches. (A pizza cutter is helpful here.) Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of the cinnamon mixture over one of the buttered rectangles. Top with a second rectangle and sprinkle it with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the cinnamon mixture. Repeat with the remaining dough rectangles and cinnamon mixture, ending with a stack of 5 rectangles. Work carefully when adding the crumbly cinnamon filling, or it will fall off when you have to lift the stacked pastry later.
  4. Slice the stack crosswise through the 5 layers to create 6 equal strips, each about 4 by 2 inches. Fit these layered strips into the prepared loaf pan, cut edges up and side by side. (While there is plenty of space on either side of the 6 strips width-wise in the pan, fitting the strips lengthwise is tight. But that’s fine because the spaces between the dough and the sides of the pan fill in during baking.) Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place (70 °F [21°C]) until puffy and almost doubled in size, 30 to 50 minutes. Press the dough gently with a fingertip. If the indentation remains, the dough is ready for baking.
  5. Bake the coffee cake until the top is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes.
Make the cream cheese icing
  1. In a medium bowl, using a rubber spatula, vigorously mix the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the milk, vanilla and cinnamon until the mixture is creamy and smooth.
  2. To remove the coffee cake from the pan, tilt and rotate the pan while gently tapping it on a counter to release the cake sides. Invert a wire rack on top of the coffee cake, invert the cake onto the rack, and carefully lift off the pan. Invert another rack on top, invert the cake so it is right side up, and remove the original rack.
  3. Slip a sheet of waxed paper under the rack to catch any drips from the icing. Using a pastry brush, coat the top of the warm cake with the icing to glaze it. (Cover and refrigerate the leftover icing for another use. It will keep for up to 2 days.)
  4. Serve the coffee cake warm or at room temperature. To serve, you can pull apart the layers, or you can cut the cake into 1-inch-thick slices on a slight diagonal with a long, serrated knife. If you decide to cut the cake, don’t attempt to cut it until it is almost completely cool.

  • I only have an 8x4inch loaf  pan. I cut the dough recipe in half so I can make it fit the pan. For the cinnamon filling and cream cheese icing, I still used the full recipe.
  • Since I only used half the dough recipe, I also adjusted the size of the dough when rolled and cut. I first measured the insides of the pan. With all the measuring and calculating done, and put into consideration that the dough will still rise once placed in the pan, I changed the width of each rectangle to 3inches and height to 2inches. I rolled the dough to 12in x 15in. The dough were cut to 12x3inch strips, then cut into 3x2inch rectangles. 
  • I was not generous enough when I buttered the dough and even when I sprinkled the cinnamon filling, that's why the cinnamon taste was not that strong, and the loaf was not separating well when pulled apart. So next time, be more generous!
  • Next time, I'll also try to roll the dough more nicely. When I rolled mine, it was not a perfect rectangle, pointed on some corners/sides.So the cut strips and/or rectangles were also not pretty. Some were triangle and some were too small.


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