Happy New Year, Vegetable Bao

After having a restaurant for years it always feels like I am cheating when I don't work on New Years eve. Last night we embraced our work-free celebration and made vegetable bao which we ate in pj's to ring in 2011.  The recipe below is loose re filling and sauces, adjust those to your own personal taste.  The recipe calls for lots of time in between the various steps but your patience will be rewarded.

Happy New Year to all!!

Vegetable Bao

1.In a large bowl mix together using a wooden spoon 2 tablespoons of fresh yeast, 2 teaspoons of sugar, 1/3 cup of all purpose unbleached flour and 1/3 cup lukewarm water. Let the mixture stand for 30 minutes.

2.Add 1 1/2 cup all purpose unbleached flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil.  Mix and slowly add enough lukewarm water just to get dough to make a ball, about 1/4 cup.  Knead until the dough is very smooth.  Place dough in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 3 hours.

3.While dough is rising make filling.  We made ours with finely chopped garlic, ginger, eggplant, mushrooms, onions, carrots, spinach, cilantro, tofu, edamame and rice noodles.  Set aside until dough has risen.  This is also a good time to make dipping sauces.  We made one with hot peppers, honey, salt and sesame oil and another with soy sauce, white vinegar and grated fresh ginger.

4.Once the dough has risen, sprinkle an additional teaspoon of baking powder over the surface of the dough and lightly knead it in. Roll the dough into a log, if the dough is too sticky, add flour on your work surface as needed. Cut the dough log into 12 even pieces.  With your hand roll each piece of dough into a thin disk, place filling in the middle of the disk and fold in the edges to secure the filling inside.  Place each finished bun on a small square piece of patty paper.  Cover the buns with a towel and let them rise an additional 30 minutes.

5.Steam buns in a steamer over medium heat for about 12 minutes or until they look plump and cooked.  Serve with dipping sauces.