Experimentation is fun and educational. It is also exhilarating when great results are achieved. But when I tallied up my grocery bills last week and realized almost a quarter of my weekly food budget had gone into experimenting with different recipes for a sweet custard filling for the Chinese buns, I became a bit melancholic.
But hey, I had fun. And isn’t this what food blogs are for — other people test out recipes for you, so you won’t have to? Besides, what do you know, my 7th try turned out pretty well! It’s all good.
- Regular pastry cream (egg yolks, sugar, milk, cornstarch) does not work. It goes in as pastry cream and comes out as sweet cream sauce.
- Adding more flour or cornstarch into the pastry cream helps a bit. The problem is that you have to add quite a bit of flour to the pastry cream in order to keep the custard filling from going flat and runny after the buns have been steamed. But too much flour causes the filling to taste funny.
- Speaking in “ratio” language, a “drier” which needs no further cooking (to solve the problem of raw, starchy taste) is needed to help the filling fluff up a little and hold its shape inside the buns. I have found almond meal to work beautifully.
- I guess I could have done more experiments with a few more pastry cream and flour ratios, but I have come to like the flavor of almond. I have experimented with the more traditional cooked lotus seeds, but I like almond much better even though it’s somewhat unusual. It tastes almost like the almond cream which you find in frangipane-type desserts or inside Galette des Rois.So if you like the nutty, creamy, mildly-sweet almond cream filling, then you may want to give this a try. I’ve made two batches of this recipe: one with baking powder added and one without. Notice that the filling inside the bun in the top photograph (no baking powder) is more on the creamy/custardy side whereas the filling inside the bun in the middle photograph is a little more fluffy and cakey. Both taste good. Go with what you like.
- One recipe for plain Chinese steamed buns
- 1 cup almond meal
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups powdered sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking powder (Optional: see comment above.)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup milk
- 2 large egg yolks
- Mix all dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Mix together egg yolks, milk, and vanilla and add the wet mixture into the dry mixture gradually while stirring with a wooden spoon. You may not need all of the wet mixture; you want to use just enough to allow your dry mixture to form a semi-stiff paste the consistency of which falls somewhere between play dough and the stuff your grout your tiles with.
- Cover and refrigerate the filling for an hour.
- Form the filling into 12 balls of equal size.
- After the dough has risen the first time, divide it into 12 equal pieces. Fill and steam the buns according to these instructions.