Classic BAO bun recipe - by BAO Restaurant, London

"The holy grail recipe – a humble product with a humble history. I’m inspired by the craftspeople who push to perfection a single product over the course of their careers, becoming specialists of one form.

BAO is the dish that represents that specialism to us, in which our role is to keep developing and improving what BAO means to us. This recipe is only one form that is ever morphing and adapting to new circumstances and new developments. Our BAOs are made using the tangzhong technique.

Tangzhong is an Asian culinary technique that helps dough absorb more liquid and retain moisture, resulting in a softer fluffier bread. All you need to do is cook a portion of flour and water into a thick consistency, similar to a roux.

The BAOs can be frozen in batches for later use"

Recipe: BAO by Erchen Chang, Shing Tat Chung and Wai Ting Chung is published by Phaidon, £29.95 (

Ingredients for the Tangzhong

Ingredients for the BAO dough

  • 100g tangzhong (see above)
  • 420g plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 90g caster (superfine) sugar
  • 40g milk powder
  • 2.5g fast-action dried (active dry) yeast
  • 5g baking powder pinch of salt
  • 80ml milk, at room temperature
  • 80ml water, at room temperature
  • 10ml vegetable oil, plus extra for brushing

 How to make the Tanghhong

  1. Put the flour into a small saucepan, pour in the cold water a little at a time, and mix in the flour until smooth. Slowly warm over a low heat until it becomes gluey and you can draw a line on the surface. Remove from the heat, cover tightly with cling film (plastic wrap) so that the film touches the surface of the tangzhong and leave to cool. The tangzhong can be stored in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 3 days.
© Speciality Cooking Supplies Limited 2024

 How to make the BAO dough

  1. Put 100g of the tangzhong and all the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Start mixing on a low setting and then slowly add the milk and water. Finally, add the oil and continue mixing until the dough is smooth.
  2. Cover with a damp cloth or cling film and leave to prove somewhere warm for 2–3 hours depending on the temperature, until doubled in size. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes – it will gradually become more elastic and the surface of the dough will become smooth. 
© Speciality Cooking Supplies Limited 2024

 How to shape BAO

  1. Divide the dough into pieces of the specified weight for your chosen BAO (see below). Give each a strong knead, then roll into smooth balls. Cover with baking (parchment) paper to prevent them drying out while you roll the rest.
  2. For Gua BAO (40g) Flatten one of the dough balls with the palm of your hand, then using a rolling pin, roll it into an oval shape 8 cm (3¼ inches) long. Brush the top with oil, then, with a short edge facing you, place a chopstick horizontally across the middle and fold the oval in half over the chopstick. Remove the chopstick and repeat with the remaining dough balls.
  3. For Hot Dog BAO (45g) Using your palm and the work counter, roll the dough balls back and forth to create hot-dog-bun-shaped BAOs.
  4. For Round BAO (40g) No need to shape as they are already in smooth balls
  5. Place each BAO on a square of baking paper a little bigger than the size of the BAO, then transfer to a large tray. Cover with a sheet of baking paper and leave to prove somewhere warm for 15–20 minutes until the BAOs have doubled in height. They they should look relaxed, puffed up and the surface should no longer be damp. Imagine touching a smooth baby’s skin. (Alternatively, you can do this final prove directly inside the bamboo steamers.)
© Speciality Cooking Supplies Limited 2024

 How to steam BAO

  1. When the BAOs are ready, carefully transfer them, on their squares of paper, to a prepared bamboo steamer (see below). Cover and steam over a medium-high heat for 15 minutes until they look soft and podgy, not firm, and their surface glistens with a satin sheen. If you feel any resistant patches in the centre that don’t bounce back, keep steaming.
  2. Remove from the steamer and either eat straight away or leave to rest at room temperature until the steam has fully evaporated and the BAOs are completely cool. If your steamer doesn’t fit all the BAOs, shape them for the second prove only after you have put the first batch in to steam. Over proved dough results in over expansion and will look flat and bubbly.
  3. The BAOs can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days or they can be frozen for up to 1 month. If you are reheating cooked BAOs, add them to the prepared steamer (see below), cover and steam over a high heat for about 10 minutes until they bounce back nicely when pressed with a finger. If you feel any resistant patches in the centre that don’t bounce back, keep steaming. If steaming from frozen, it’s the same process but add another 2–3 minutes in the steamer.
© Speciality Cooking Supplies Limited 2024


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