A Cornish girl's food adventures

Maple tofu bao buns

I love these sweet, soft, fluffy pillows of dough but it’s not always easy to find non-meat versions. The last time we were in NYC we did a food crawl (what we do when there are just too many great places to eat and not enough meals to do it in!) We basically graze our way around the city. Anyway, one of our many stops was at Baohaus for a couple of delicious Chinese steamed buns filled with tofu. The only other place I’ve been able to indulge in them was at Continental in Philadelphia, where they were filled with spicy, plump buffalo shrimp – amazing!
Once you get used to the idea of steaming these rather than baking them they’re actually very easy, just like making any other basic white bread. You want really firm tofu for this so it’s worth pressing it to get as much moisture as possible out of it. You also need to marinate it for at least 30 minutes to give it plenty of flavour.

makes 4 big buns or 6 snack sized ones
5g yeast
150ml (ish) warm water
225g strong white bread flour
25g sugar
200g extra firm tofu (cut into steaks and pressed for 15 minutes)
1 tbsp dark maple syrup
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp chili sauce (I use sriracha)
1 clove garlic
1 inch fresh ginger
fresh coriander and chili (optional) to serve

Add the yeast to the water and set it aside for a minute or two. Whisk together the flour and sugar in a large mixing bowl and then mix in the water to form a soft dough. If it’s a little dry add a touch more water, a little sticky add a tiny bit more flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it for about 10 minutes until it becomes soft, smooth and stretchy.
Clean the mixing bowl and lightly oil it before placing the dough back into it and covering with cling film. Pop the bowl in a warm place and leave the dough for about an hour to double in size.
Meanwhile you can start the marinade for the tofu. Grate the garlic and ginger and combine it with everything else in a baking dish. Cut the tofu into triangles and toss them in the marinade. Leave for 30 minutes to soak up all the flavours.
When the dough has risen, knock it back a little and then divide it into 4 or 6 pieces (depending on how big you want your buns). Shape the pieces into balls and then roll them out on a lightly floured surface into an oval shape. Cut squares of grease-proof paper and fold each in half diagonally to make a triangle. Place these onto the dough and then fold each oval in half over it to create your buns. Put them on a board or tray covered with grease-proof paper and then loosely cover them with oiled cling film and leave them somewhere warm to rise again for 30 minutes.
Pre-heat your oven to 180°c and bake the tofu for 25-30 minutes, turning occasionally, until the pieces are sticky and a little crisp around the edges.
Cut up the grease-proof under the buns so that each one sits on an individual piece. Set a steamer over a pan of boiling water (a steel one works fine, you don’t have to have a bamboo one) and steam the buns in batches for about 8 minutes, until the dough is cooked through and the buns are puffy.
Fill the buns with a couple of wedges of the tofu and add a generous garnish of fresh coriander and a little fresh red chili.

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