Steamed Chinese Custard-Filled Buns
1 ½ c
sweetened condensed milk
plus 3 tablespoons salted butter, melted
1 recipe for Plain Chinese Steamed Buns (Mantou)
(3x3-inch) wax paper squares
The custard filling for these buns is conventionally made to be starchy and to have a much sturdier texture than the kind of soft pastry cream you pipe into éclairs. Prepare it 6 hours in advance or even the night before for ease of assembly.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until homogeneous. Add the cornstarch and flour; whisk until no lumps remain. Whisk in the milks, butter, and vanilla extract just until combined. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into an 8x8-inch pan, preferably ceramic or glass. Place the pan into the steamer basket.
- When the water comes to a rolling bowl, steam the custard mixture until an inch of the edge has set, 7 to 8 minutes. Keeping the pan in the steamer, whisk the custard, pulling the part that has set around the edge into the liquid part in the center to mix the two. Replace the lid and continue to steam for another 5 minutes, then whisk the mixture again in the same manner. Repeat the process as needed until the custard has thoroughly set, with no liquid left. The entire process should take no more than 25 minutes. Scrape the hot custard into a bowl and cover it with plastic directly on the surface; refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.
- Divide the custard into quarters. Then divide each quarter into quarters to get 16 pieces total. Form them into balls (they don’t need to be perfectly round).
- After the first rise, divide the mantou dough into 16 pieces and shape them into round balls. Keeping the remaining dough balls covered, roll a dough ball into a 4-inch disc, and place a custard ball in the center. Gather the sides of the dough to form what looks like an inverted balloon with the knot on top, making sure the filling is entirely covered. Pinch the seam securely shut and place the filled bun seam side down on a square of wax paper. Repeat with the remaining dough balls and filling.
- Cover and leave the dough to rise for 30 minutes (the buns can be arranged about 2 inches apart and left to rise right in the steamer baskets).
- Prepare the steamer, making sure the water is boiling hard. If the buns haven’t already been arranged in the steamer basket, very carefully transfer the risen buns to the steamer, lifting them up by grabbing the corners of the wax paper as opposed to the buns themselves in order to avoid deflating and misshaping them. Steam for 10 minutes. Remove the buns from the basket immediately and leave to cool under a kitchen towel.
Shayne Chammavanijakul is the founder of Dill Magazine. She lives in Chicago.