It’s in the single digits here in Boston, and I am freezing. During times like these, I crave comfort food. I’m not talking about mac and cheese or lasagne, I mean Chinese comfort food, such as xiang cong hua juan. It literally translates to fragrant spring onion flower buns, but they are also known as steamed spring onion buns. This is an easy recipe and very, very satisfying. There are two ways you can shape the buns – one uses a knife, the other a chopstick. Both create layers, although I have to say the knife method creates more. Make sure to leave space between the buns when you steam them, because they grow just like flowers.
- 235 ml milk, warmed
- 2 tsp white sugar
- 3 tsp vegetable oil
- ½ tsp active dry yeast
- 390 g plain (all-purpose) flour
- 5 spring onions, green part finely chopped
- olive oil, for brushing
- salt, to season
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
You will need a steamer for this recipe.
Resting time 1 hour
Preheat the oven to 90˚C, then turn it off.
Combine the warm milk, sugar, oil and yeast in a bowl. Set aside for 5–10 minutes or until the mixture is bubbling.
Add the flour and stir until combined. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes or until the dough is elastic and smooth, but not sticky. If it’s too dry, add a little more milk; the dough should be soft. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel, and place in the inactive oven. Set aside for 1 hour or until double in size.
Punch dough the down, then proceed via one of the following methods.
Knife method: divide the dough into 12 pieces. Roll one piece into a long oval. Using a sharp knife, cut 6–7 slits in the middle, without breaking any edges. Brush with the olive oil and sprinkle with the spring onions and salt. Pick up the dough lengthwise, and use your fingers to twist and shape into a bun. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.
Chopstick method: roll out the entire dough on a lightly floured surface. Brush the olive oil over the surface, then generously sprinkle over the spring onions and salt. Starting from one edge, roll the dough into a log. Using a knife, cut into 24 equal pieces. Stack one piece on top of another, facing the same way. Using a chopstick, press down in the middle, with the open edges on either side. Using your hands, scoop the lips down the sides and under the bun.
Preheat a steamer. Place the buns in the steamer and cook for 12 minutes or until fluffy and not sticky or dough-like at all. Turn off heat and set aside, with the lid on, for 5 minutes to rest.
Serve warm. Or, cool completely, then place in zip-lock bags and freeze until needed.
Recipe from le jus d’orange by Betty Liu, with photography by Betty Liu.