White Mantou (Chinese Steamed Buns)

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Mantou are unfilled Chinese steamed buns.  White mantou are made with granulated sugar; there are also brown sugar mantou.  In texture, they range from soft and fluffy to chewy and springy.  These fall in the middle of the spectrum.  You can eat them plain or dip them in honey.

 

White Mantou (Chinese Steamed Buns)
From Teacher Meng’s Chinese-Style Foods Made with Flour (Meng Laoshi de Zhongshi Mianshi)

Yield: 8 buns

  • 260 g cold water
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons (5 g) instant yeast (active dry yeast probably also works)
  • 500 g all-purpose flour
  • 25 g granulated sugar
  • 5 g flavorless oil (such as canola)

 

  1. In a small mixing bowl, stir together water and yeast. It’s okay if the yeast doesn’t dissolve entirely.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and oil. Stir together with a rubber spatula.
  3. Pour in yeast mixture and stir with rubber spatula until all the liquid disappears. It will resemble a shaggy mess.
  4. With hands, knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together into a ball.
  5. Move dough to a work surface (which you do not need to flour) and continue to knead until the surface is soft and smooth. The dough should not stick to your hands or the work surface.
  6. Let the dough rest at room temperature for 5 minutes.
  7. Roll the dough into a 28” x 6” rectangle. Roll out as many air bubbles as possible, or the mantou will look wrinkly.  If necessary, use a pin to pop the bubbles on the surface.
  8. Fold the rectangle in thirds, like a letter. It will be roughly 9” x 6” when you’re done.
  9. Roll it out again into a 18” x 10” rectangle, pressing all the folds together as you roll so they stick well. (The original long side will still be the long side when you’re done.)
  10. Brush off any excess flour from the dough surface, and then brush evenly with a thin layer of water, which will help the dough stick well when you roll it up.
  11. Use the rolling pin to thin out one of the long edges of the rectangle. This will make it easier to start rolling it up.
  12. Starting from the edge you just thinned out, roll up the rectangle into a cylinder as tightly as possible. You want to avoid having the spirals separate as the dough rises.
  13. Gently roll the cylinder back and forth a few times, moving your hands from the center out to the ends, in order to even out the diameter. It will be about 20” long.
  14. With a serrated bread knife (a sharp chef’s knife works too), cut the cylinder into 8 equal pieces.
  15. Place each on a small piece of wax paper, with the seam facing down.
  16. Arrange them in the steamers, cover with the lid, and let rise at room temperature for 20 minutes. They will increase slightly in size.
  17. Put cold water in the bottom pot and stack the steamers on top. If using metal steamers, wrap the lid with a kitchen towel so condensation doesn’t drip on the buns.
  18. Turn the heat to high and bring water to a boil.
  19. Once water is boiling, turn heat to medium-high and steam for 15 minutes.
  20. Remove pot-and-steamer arrangement from stove, crack lid open, and let sit for 3-5 minutes before removing lid entirely.
  21. To store: Cool mantou completely. Place in Ziploc bag and freeze.  To reheat, defrost mantou on the counter, then steam in a rice cooker or steamer for several minutes.  Alternatively, you can wrap the mantou in a damp paper towel and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds.
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Chocolate Chip Orange Brioche Pretzels

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Smitten Kitchen’s chocolate chip brioche pretzels are soft and tender and perfect for breakfast or a mid-afternoon snack.

 

Chocolate Chip Orange Brioche Pretzels
From Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 8 4-inch pretzels

For the dough:

  • 1/3 cup warm milk
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2 1/4 cups (280 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup well-chopped chocolate OR miniature chocolate chips
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange zest

For the topping:

  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • Coarse or pearl sugar, for finishing (optional)

 

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine milk, sugar, and yeast and let stand for 10 minutes.
  2. Add flour and salt.  Stir together with a wooden spoon.
  3. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs and mix until the dough comes together in a shaggy pile.
  4. Knead for 10 minutes on medium speed, pushing together the dough with the spoon as necessary.
  5. Add butter, a third at a time, mixing well between each addition.
  6. Knead dough on low speed until it’s silky and smooth, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add chocolate and orange zest and continue mixing until it’s spread evenly throughout the dough.
  8. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let it rise in a warm spot for about 2 hours, until almost doubled.  If you’d like, you can rest the dough in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before proceeding. Just make sure to bring it back to room temperature and let it rise before moving on.
  9. Line two baking sheets with parchment or a nonstick baking mat and heat oven to 350ºF.

  10. Gently deflate dough and divide it into 8 equal pieces (it’s easiest to use a kitchen scale for this step).

  11. Working with one piece at a time, roll each ball into an 18-inch long rope about ½-inch thick.  This dough is very buttery and you likely won’t need a floured surface.  However, if you notice your dough sticking to your work area, simply dust it with a little flour.

  12. Draw the ends of the rope together to make a circle.  Grab each side of the rope about 2 inches from the ends and twist the ends together – a full twist, so that the right side of the rope ends up back on the right side – to close the circle. Fold the twist down into the circle, pressing the loose ends of the rope on each side of the center (five and seven o’clock) of the rope.

  13. Repeat with the remaining dough.

  14. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, water and salt.  Transfer the pretzels to the prepared baking sheets and brush with glaze.

  15. Let them rest for about 15 minutes. They’ll rise slightly during this time.

  16. To finish, brush the pretzels once more with the glaze.

  17. Sprinkle with coarse sugar if desired and bake for about 12 minutes, until puffed and lightly bronzed.

  18. Cool slightly on a cooling rack before serving.

Buchteln (Jam-Filled Buns)

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Called Buchteln in Austria and Rohrnudeln in Bavaria, these are sweet, soft buns filled with a pocket of jam.  They’re pretty addictive, especially fresh from the oven, and well worth the time it takes to make yeasted dough.

Baking note:

  • I recommend measuring the ingredients by weight.

Original recipe

 

Buchteln (Jam-Filled Buns)
From LilVienna

Yield: 12 buns

  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 ml) warm milk
  • 1 ½ teaspoons (5 g) active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons (40 g) sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 5 ½ tablespoons (77g) melted butter
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 325 g (about 2 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
  • About 5 tablespoons apricot jam with fine texture (no chunks)
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter for the pan
  • Confectioners sugar for dusting

 

  1. In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk and set it aside for 10 minutes for the yeast to dissolve and activate.
  2. Stir in sugar, egg, melted (lightly cooled) butter, vanilla, and salt with a hand whisk.
  3. Stir in about 1 ½ cups (200 g) of the flour to get a thick batter and stir vigorously with the whisk until no lumps remain.  Use a sturdy (wooden) cooking spoon to gradually stir in the rest of the flour.
  4. When all ingredients come together, fold the edges into the center for a couple of minutes. Keep your dough in the mixing bowl for that. The dough will be sticky, but refrain from adding more flour. It helps if you oil your clean hands before you knead a sticky dough. Knead until smooth, about 5 minutes.
  5. Let the dough rise, covered at warm room temperature until doubled in volume (about 3/4 to 1 hour).
  6. Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 12 equal parts.  It is easiest to do this by weight.  Keep pieces you don’t need right away covered.
  7. Fold the edges of each piece into the middle a couple of times so you will get a nice ball with a smooth surface on the bottom side. Flatten each ball with your palm to a circle with a diameter of 3 to 3 ½ inch, keeping the center slightly thicker than the edges. Usually this part works without using any additional flour. If the dough keeps sticking to your countertop, add some.
  8. Put 1 teaspoon of apricot jam (not more) in the center of every circle. Wrap the dough around the filling, pinching and sealing it tightly. Round the buns again, creating a bit of surface tension. If you use too much filling, it’s difficult to seal them. Also avoid getting jam onto your edges, because this way it is almost impossible to seal them.  Put every Buchtel with the sealed side down onto a lightly floured surface until you have finished filling all of them.

    Troubleshooting: If you do get jam near your edges, remove it with a paper towel before you try to seal them. If the jam oozes out while pinching, clean your jammy hands and dough, and try to pinch it again. If this doesn’t work and you are close to throwing the whole Buchtel away, pinch off some dough of another unworked piece, flatten it and generously put this layer of dough atop the problematic area.  Try to seal it tightly and place it, seam side down, in the pan. You can just bake it in a paper lined muffin tin, seam side down.

  9. Melt about 2 ½ tablespoons butter (you might need a little more) in a small bowl. Brush a baking pan (such as an oval 11″ x 7″ ceramic pan or 9″ round glass dish) with melted butter, just until coated.
  10. Arrange Buchteln in the pan and brush each bun with remaining melted butter.  You can do this tightly packed (traditional way) or give them a little, but not too much space. They will still rise during the second proofing and baking. If you feel there are too many of them, you can place the remaining ones in a lined muffin tin.
  11. Let them proof a second time for about 20-30 minutes at warm room temperature until puffy. It is best to cover the whole pan with a lid or cling wrap in this step. If you have a rather shallow pan, don’t cover the Buchteln, since they will stick to the plastic wrap. If you couldn’t cover them and they seem kind of dry before baking, you can brush them another time with melted butter.
  12. Bake them at 375 °F in the preheated oven (center) for about 25 minutes (minimum 20 minutes). When they are golden-brown in color, take them out of the oven.
  13. Let the Buchteln cool for 5-10 minutes and serve them dusted with confectioner’s sugar. Enjoy!

 

Marbled Chocolate-Banana Bread

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I think marbled chocolate-banana bread is great for taking to dinner parties and such, because it’s tasty, pretty, and straightforward to make.

Original recipe

 

Marbled Chocolate-Banana Bread
Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 9″ x 5″ loaf

  • 3 large very ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar OR 3/4 cup white sugar + dollop molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup + 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder (preferably dark, but any kind is fine)
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips

 

  1. Center rack in oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan, or coat it with a nonstick baking spray.
  2. Melt butter in the bottom of a large bowl in the microwave.
  3. Mash the bananas right into it until mostly smooth.
  4. Whisk in brown sugar, egg, vanilla, baking soda, and salt until thoroughly combined.
  5. Add 1 cup of the flour, stirring just until it disappears.
  6. Pour half of batter into a second bowl. (You can eyeball it, it’s fine.)  Into one bowl, stir the remaining 1/4 cup of flour and ground cinnamon. Into the other bowl, stir in the cocoa powder and chocolate chips.
  7. Drop spoonfuls of the two batters randomly into the loaf pan.
  8. Plunge a table knife deep into the batter and zigzag from one end of the pan to the other, making only 6-8 zigzags.  Even though it’s fun, you don’t want to mix the two batters too much.
  9. Bake 55-65 minutes, until a tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out batter-free. (A melted chocolate chip smear is expected, however.)
  10. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and invert it out onto a cooling rack.
  11. Serve warm or at room temperature.  The banana bread will keep for up to 4 days, wrapped in foil, at room temperature.

     

Carrot Spice Muffins

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These carrot muffins are delicious both fresh and after they’ve sat longer.  Just out of the oven, they have a lovely thin crisp crust; wait a little and the spice flavors will deepen.  Because they are not very sweet, they make a great breakfast or snack.

 

Carrot Spice Muffins
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Yield: 12 muffins

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3-1/2 cup sugar, depending on how sweet you want them
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar OR 1/3 cup white sugar+dollop molasses
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup finely shredded carrots
  • 1/3 cup moist raisins
  • 1/3 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted, cooled, and chopped if you have the patience (I didn’t and the muffins tasted great anyway)
  • 1/3 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F.  Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, and salt.  Stir in the brown sugar OR white sugar; making certain there are no lumps (this is more an issue if you’re using brown sugar).
  3. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the oil, eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and molasses (if using) together until well combined.
  4. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend.  A few lumps are preferable to overmixing the batter.
  5. Stir in carrots, raisins, nuts, and coconut.
  6. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean.
  8. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.
  9. The muffins are best the first day, but you can store them, covered, at room temperature for a few days.  Split and toast them, or zap them for 10-15 seconds in the microwave to heat them.

Corn Muffins

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These corn muffins have a fun texture, what with the coarse cornmeal and the corn kernels throughout.  They’re not too sweet, so they make the perfect breakfast or snack.

 

Corn Muffins
From Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Yield: 12 muffins

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 cup buttermilk OR 1/3 cup plain yogurt+2/3 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3 tablespoons corn oil OR other vegetable oil, such as canola
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 – 1 1/3 cups corn kernels, fresh, frozen, or canned (in which case they should be drained and patted dry)

 

 

  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 400°F.  Butter or spray the 12 muffin molds in a regular-size muffin tin, or line with paper muffin cups.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg (if using).
  3. In a large glass measuring cup with a spout or in another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, melted butter, oil, egg, and yolk until well blended.
  4. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough – the batter will be lumpy and that’s just the way it should be.
  5. Stir in corn kernels.
  6. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
  7. Bake 15-18 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean.
  8. Cool muffins in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove muffins from pan.  They are great warm or at room temperature.
  9. The muffins are best eaten the day they are made. If you want to keep them, it’s best to wrap them airtight and pop them into the freezer, where they’ll keep for about 2 months.  Re-warm in a 350°F oven, or split and toast them.

Cranberry Scones

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This is another recipe that my friend John discovered and that we made together back in undergrad.  These scones are crumbly and sweet and have almost a cake-like texture.  They’re wonderful fresh out of the oven, either on their own or spread with clotted cream and jam.  If you have leftovers, toast them briefly before eating.

Original recipe

 

Cranberry Scones
Adapted from All Recipes

Yield: 12 large scones

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dried cranberries OR raisins

 

  1. In a small bowl, stir together sour cream and baking soda, and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease a large baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, beat together butter and sugar on medium speed.
  4. Beat in egg and vanilla.
  5. Beat in baking powder, cream of tartar, and salt.
  6. On low speed, beat in flour just until it all disappears, taking care not to over-mix.
  7. Still on low speed, beat in sour cream mixture just until it all disappears, again taking care not to over-mix.
  8. Stir in cranberries.
  9. Knead dough briefly in the bowl.
  10. Form dough into scones.  You have 2 options:
    • Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and roll or pat it into a circle 3/4 inch thick.  Cut into 12 wedges and space 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.
    • Divide dough into 12 equal pieces and shape each into a rough triangle 3/4 inch thick directly on the baking sheet, spacing scones 2 inches apart.
  11. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until golden on the tops and golden-brown on the bottoms.