Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Potahto, potayto, I say steamed sweet potato buns

As a kid, I grew up eating these home-made steamed flour buns.  My Tua Eee is a dab hand at making these and they'd be coloured pink and shaped like a traditional chinese pillow.  I believe the buns were originally made as altar offerings.  We would have these fluffy little pillows steamed up for breakfast and extras would be packed up to be devoured during school recess time. 

These buns are versatile and can be made plain, flavoured or stuffed with sweet and savoury fillings.
To make these more nutritionally acceptable, I've made them with sweet potatoes.  The buns will come out a light yellow colour.  Did you know how nutritious sweet potatoes are?  They are high in fiber, beta-carotene, and loads of other goodness (source :  And amongst root vegetables, sweet potatoes have the lowest glycemic index, meaning it digests slower and doesn't spike blood sugar levels.

The yeast and double action baking powder makes the buns pillowy soft - it's a very airy cottony-like bun.  I've used a breadmaker to  do the kneading, but you can hand knead as well - it's just a little messier.  The sweet potatoes make the dough a little stickier.  To make the shapes, I reverted to the simple swiss-roll shape. While I don't always use estimates, in this instance you may have to adjust the water quantity slightly.  I find that 200ml is usually adequate, but sometimes you may need a little bit more to bind.  Just add it bit by bit - don't slosh.

Makes about 20 buns
Ingredients :
200ml water
2 tbsp oil or melted butter
500gm pau flour
250gm sweet potatoes, cleaned
80gm sugar
1 tbsp double action baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
11gm instant yeast
Greaseproof paper - cut into 3"x 4" squares

1.  Steam the sweet potatoes until soft, peel them and then mash with a fork or potato masher.
2.  Put the rest of the ingredients together with the sweet potato into the breadmaker and knead about 20 minutes. 
3.  The dough is ready for proofing when it is smooth and elastic and no longer sticky.
4.  Cover and leave to proof in a warm place till double in size, approximately 60 minutes.
5.  Punch down the dough, and divide into 50gm portions.
6.  Lightly flour the workspace, roll each portion out with a rolling pin and fold into 3rds.  Roll it out again and roll it up like a swiss roll.  Place on greaseproof paper.  To see illustration of this, refer to previous post on Tanzhong Method - Bread.
7.  Proof another 45 - 60 minutes or until double the size.
8.  Ensure the water is boiling before you place buns into steamer.  Steam over high heat for 13 - 15 minutes.
9.  Serve hot, preferably with some hot kopi.
10. The buns can be re-heated by steaming again.  If you wish, they can be kept frozen and then steamed up again.

sweet potatoes after steaming
shaped buns waiting to proof
Notes :
1.  Pau flour can be substituted with any low-protein flour or all-purpose flour.  Do not use bread flour for this.  Pau flour makes the buns whiter which is irrelevant when using sweet potatoes.
2.  I used orange sweet potatoes, but you can use any coloured ones. To check for doneness, pierce with a fork and if the fork goes through, it is cooked.
3.  Double action baking powder reacts twice to help with the rising.  Once upon contact with water, and the second time upon contact with heat from the steam.
4.  If using a non-bamboo steamer, you may find pock marks on the buns from the water condensation.  So gently remove the pot cover when opening to minimise the water droplets falling onto the buns.

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