Richard Huynh came to our production team from a life cooking professionally in kitchens like Mission Chinese, and he’s become known around these parts for his culinary experiments with chocolate. He’s a bit of a kitchen wizard, and we’re really excited every time he brings a new adventure to the table, like this one. And ICYMI, check out his primer on smoking meat with cacao husk, and making charcoal too!
When I was interviewing to be an apprentice chocolate maker here last year, I’m pretty sure I spent more time talking about dim sum, baos, and dumplings than I did talking about the job I was applying for.
That’s because prior to making chocolate here, I spent most of my free time making soup dumplings, or xiaolongbao (小笼包). Soup dumplings are pretty much exactly what they sound like: starchy balloons filled with hot soup. It sounds like a bit of an impossible trick, but the principle behind them is actually pretty simple; when you make the stock for these dumplings by boiling bones with aromatics, all the yummy collagen seeps out of the bones you’re simmering (or pig’s ears and chicken feet in my case) and turns into a firm jelly that you can mash up and integrate into your dumpling filling. Once you steam the dumplings, all that jelly melts back down into stock. Magic!
At some point, I got the idea to try this out with things other than stock, including, of course, chocolate. Soup dumplings are nearly always savory, and I really wanted to try making a sweeter equivalent. Eventually, this idea mutated into something else because when I tried to make soup dumplings filled with ganache, they were very leaky. And so, I resorted to another more durable dough: bao.
Bao dough is that fluffy, soft, shiny dough that you’ll sometimes find taco’d or totally wrapped around pork belly. It’s a kind of Chinese dumpling, sort of, and it seemed like a much more durable skin for a ganache-filled masterpiece than thin, traditional dumpling dough. And, it worked! There are a few ways you could do this, but you’ll find my favorite method below.
You can also riff on this method using any filling that’s somewhat solid when cool, and liquid when hot. The principle is always the same: make the filling, cool it down to solidify it, wrap the dough around it, and when ready to serve, heat it back up. (You can make loads of them and keep them in the freezer, too.)
Typically, these buns are steamed, but I don’t have a steamer so borrowed a trick from making gyoza (or potstickers) and pan-fried the buns in oil for a nice crispy, caramelized edge. Then, I spooned a little water into the hot pan with the dumplings and capped it real quick to seal in all that steam. This steams and cooks the buns and the filling, and after all the water boils off, the leftover oil crisps up the bottom of the bun.
Panfried Chocolate Ganache Baos (巧克力生煎包)
240 grams // 2 cups all purpose flour
50 grams // ¼ cup warm water
80 gram // ⅓ cup milk
2g // 1 tsp yeast
5 grams // ½ teaspoon salt
50 grams ¼ cup sugar
150 grams // 1 cup chopped chocolate,
150 grams // ⅔ cup heavy cream (or coconut cream if you’re lactose intolerant like myself)
First, make the dough:
- Combine yeast and warm milk, let sit for about ten minutes until it is bloomed. When it becomes bubbly and frothy, it’s ready to use
- Then combine the flour with the milk, and knead until the dough is smooth, springs back when you poke it, and no longer sticks to your hands. Afterwards leave the dough to “proof” in a warm area, covered, for 60 to 90 minutes.The dough should have doubled in volume in this time. Meanwhile, make the ganache.
To make the ganache:
- Heat the cream slowly until just steaming, but not simmering. Add chopped chocolate and stir until fully melted and incorporated.
- Place ganache in fridge, and let cool until solid enough to scoop, at least one hour. Use an ice cream scooper to scoop out balls onto a sheetpan lined with parchment paper. Cover the sheet pan and store in fridge for at least 20-30 minutes or until ready to use.
- Divide the dough into twelve portions, roughly 35 grams each.
- Flatten out each dough into disk with your hand, and use a small rolling pin to flatten the sides. Turn the disk as you roll to make it even.
- Place ganache ball in the center of the dough disk and wrap it or pleat it shut by making small folds and creasing them together with your fingers.
- Once all baos are wrapped, grab a skillet and put it over medium high heat. Once hot, add oil.
- Once the oil is hot, add buns to skillet. They should sizzle when they hit the pan.
- Add a few tablespoons of water to the bottom of the skillet and cover. Once water has all boiled off, turn heat to low and let buns fry in the bottom.Turn off the heat and let buns sit in pan covered for at least five minutes, if you take the buns off too early, they will collapse due to the drastic change in air pressure
- After five minutes take the buns off the skillet and let cool.