Knead it Pauerfully?

Many recipes for pau show a wonderfully easy filling recipe and flavours that you can drift on even as you imagine. The reality of coming to terms with the yeast wrapper brings you down to earth for many. It's probably something that many cooks aren't so familiar with and there's generally a jolting directive that some part of the timing or conditions or additions are critical. Enough to cast a doubt and for many there goes the confidence thinking that there will be a ton of dough unsuitable for use and a substantial amount of filling that throws you into a spin wondering how the heck this can be used in appropriate amounts. It's a lot to do with experience I know.

Lilly Ng has confronted the issue on a few fronts with "a highly likely to succeed dough" which can be thrown into the bread making machine for the kneading cycle. That's a plus. There's also her suggestion that this is the softest pau skin that you are likely to find. Another plus.


For the Tangzhong starter:
  • 2 ½ tbsp/25 g pau flour
  • 125 ml (½ cup) water
For the pau
  • All the Tangzhong starter
  • 240 ml (1 cup) water(do not use all, leave 2 tbsp for adjustment - you might have to use more than this amount)
  • 5 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp shortening
  • 1 ¼ tsp double action baking powder
  • 480 - 500 gms (3½ cups) pau flour
  • 1 ½ tsp instant yeast.
  • Your Choice
For the Tangzhong Starter:
  1. Measure 125 ml tap water in a glass measuring pyrex jug and whisk in 2 1/2 tbsp pau flour until there is no lumps.
  2. Microwave on high for 30 seconds ( 20 seconds - if you are having a higher wattage microwave).  Stir well and  continue to microwave on high for another 30 seconds - stirring after every 10 seconds to get the roux to a temperature of about 65ºC (150 F)
For pau:
  1. Put all the ingredients into the breadmachine bowl starting with the list above accordingly, starting with the starter and ending with the yeast on top of the flour. 
  2. Choose the dough function on the bread machine and press start.
  3. In the initial stage of kneading, check if the dough is binding, add the remaining 2 tbsps of water or add more if necessary.  Do not add too much as if the dough is too soft, the pau will not have a nice shape.
  4. Prepare the filling while the breadmachine is having all the fun.
  5. When the fun is over in about 1 1/2 hour, the breadmachine will beep and you can start shaping the paus.
  6. Cut into equal portions and roll all the portions into a very thin circle before wrapping in filling.
  7. Wrap the first circle and so forth.
  8. Let it *rise for 20 minutes.
  9. Heat up the steamer and when water is rolling hot, steam small buns for 7 - 8 minutes and big ones for 12 - 15 minutes.
Generally there is an optimal temperature range for the yeast to prove the dough. In colder climates this may be a bit of a problem but one trick I have learned from "Cooking With Dog" is to get or recycle a plain styrofoam container with removable lid and internal dimensions large enough to hold your contents on a platter of some sort.
  1. Adjust a couple of litres of water to the optimal temperature and pour this into the styrofoam container.
  2. Set up your platter on raised pillars above the water line and place the platter on these.
  3. Close the lid and allow to incubate.

  • Further to this but not relevant to this recipe is if you have a prolonged incubation for proving then you can place a submersible aquarium heater on the bottom of the container set at the optimal yeast metabolic temperature.
  • This is the super model of the DIY proving incubator.

This recipe listed is part of a series on Pau and probably the most comprehensive and stimulating workshop on the larger topic. There is plenty of innovation and a highly recommended series to very enjoyably learn from.


It's part of a weekly series.