Have you heard about this sweet sesame filled steamed Chinese buns? These popular buns with sweet/savoury fillings are sold on every street corner in China and people rushing to work every morning find it convenient to grab a few on the way to work. Hua Juan literally means flower roll and these buns certainly look like flowers.
Some people use a sesame paste much like peanut butter for the filling but I powdered some toasted sesame seeds with sugar and used it. Of course, you can substitute peanut butter, Nutella, etc – let your imagination run riot! They are a perfect side for dinner. These nutty buns taste wonderful and they are a great comfort food.
These buns are shaped with the help of a chopstick, though there are different variations on shaping the buns. Pulling the ends together and then using the chopstick to twist the bun and pressing down on the chopstick creates the lovely flower shape.
We use black sesame in Indian sweets and savouries and this filling reminded me so much of a simple South Indian sweet that is made with just toasted sesame and jaggery. It’s pounded together to release the oil in the sesame and then shaped into balls – one of my favourite sweets. Sesame seeds have a lovely nutty flavour and aroma.
These buns are really easy to make. Once the dough is made and rested enough, they are quite fluffy when steamed. The next time I make them, I am planning to use more filling. I hope you enjoy making them as much as I did.
PREP: 20 minutes COOK TIME: 15 minutes TOTAL TIME: 2 hours 15 minutes
250 gms flour
1 tsp baking powder
150 gms milk
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp instant yeast
For the filling
2 tbsp butter (room temperature)
21/2 tbsp sesame seeds
3 tbsp sugar
Toast the sesame seeds in a skillet on low heat for a few minutes until they are nutty and slightly smoky. Transfer them immediately to a large open pan to cool to room temperature. Blend the sesame and sugar together in a blender to a fine powder.
Mix the flour and baking powder together with a spatula.
Heat the milk to lukewarm and add the sugar and yeast. When they are dissolved, add the yeast mixture to the flour and quickly stir with a spatula till the dough comes together. Turn out the dough onto a marble surface and knead well until the it is elastic, about 10 minutes. You could also use a stand mixer. Shape the mixture into a ball and cover it with a lid. Let it rest for about 15 minutes.
Flatten the dough with a rolling pin and start rolling it out into a rectangle. Roll out the four corners using a little flour if the dough is sticky and the rectangle should be roughly 15 by 9 inches with the thickness being about a 1/4 inch. Make sure that the sides of the rectangle are straight. Spread the softened butter over the surface of the dough using a pastry brush and sprinkle the sesame paste generously all over the buttered surface. Smooth it out with your hand and spread it out to the corners.
Divide the dough into three even parts lengthwise. Roll the first third of the dough until it reaches the place where the next folding should start. Press the fold down and pack in the filling. Roll again to complete the folding. Press down firmly and divide this into two even parts breadth wise. Cut each part into 6 strips about an inch wide. Pile two strips on top of each other and press down the centre with a chopstick lengthwise. It will immediately start separating along the folded parts. Take the dough and pull gently forming it into a slightly elongated strip. Twist it slightly and tuck the two ends together underneath. Push a chopstick into the top part of the bun where it curves and twist the bottom portion while at the same time pressing down firmly on the chopstick. This should be done on a marble surface. Shape all the strips in this fashion.
Have ready a steamer with some warm water in it. Place a greased rack on it to prevent the buns sticking to it. Place the buns on the rack and leave some space between each, because the buns will expand. Prove the buns for 11/2 hours. Steam the buns for 15 minutes when the water starts boiling. Turn off the heat and let the buns sit in the steamer for 5 minutes before opening the lid. The buns will retain its shape even if you squeeze them slightly. Cool and enjoy. They store well in the fridge. When you want one, just microwave or steam gently for a few minutes. It makes a lovely breakfast too.