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a year on

Recipe: chinese steamed lotus leaf buns

It’s hard to believe that a year ago today, we said a tearful good-bye to our little Kaweah pup. Even with Neva dominating most of our summer, there isn’t a day that passes without a thought or mention of our first girl. Most of all, we imagine how sweet Kaweah would have been with Neva for the first few hours and then how she would have run away from the puppy for the rest of the time. People have said it again and again. They were right. You never forget your pets, even when they’ve passed on.

kaweah, you’ll always be my girl

I’m not even going to pretend to remember everything that has happened since my last post. I’ve given up keeping track. Neva is getting bigger and leggier. She’s learning and improving each day. Just this morning, she met four little children on the trail and was incredibly sweet and polite with each of them as they took turns petting and kissing her head. In the last week, she has gotten more socialization with little dogs, big dogs (lots of big dogs), people, kids, trail runners, hikers, and mountain bikers. She even met and played nicely with another puppy. Don’t get me wrong, she is still a spazzy little lab puppy full of energy. I think I say, “LEAVE IT!” over a hundred times a day. But I sure do love her.

11 week old max meets 13 week old neva

neva sitting in the lupines

bounding through a field of flowers on a new hike

on a visit with my in-laws and their pack of dogs

it’s hard work being a puppy

We were in Crested Butte for the Fourth of July and figured it would be a good opportunity to expose Neva to fireworks. They never bothered Kaweah, so we hoped Neva would be the same since she was fine with thunderstorms. As we left the house with Neva to go meet our friends to watch the official Crested Butte fireworks, a house nearby set off a loud firework that scared the bejeezus out of her. She was shaking and wanted to hide in a small space (under the bench, in Jeremy’s arms), but remained quiet and mostly calm. She settled down when it was over, and we’ve been working with her to overcome her fear. There were more “unofficial” fireworks set off on random evenings when she was outside and she’s getting better about them when we feed her treats and act like nothing is wrong.

crested butte rainbow and wildflowers

summer aspen canopy

fireworks over crested butte mountain

even a red, white, and blue firework!

My parents are in Boulder for the summer, taking short trips around the west and using Colorado as their home base. Dad mentioned that he had recently made some pork belly he wanted me to try. Since we’re having dinner with them at their place (we’re bringing Neva, too), I figured I would bring some homemade lotus leaf buns that I have in my freezer. Back when I visited my parents in Virginia, I asked my mom if she had a recipe for these steamed buns. I like eating them with Peking duck, but I don’t like the frozen ones in the Asian grocery stores. She said no and then she added in Chinese, “It’s very difficult to make.” When I got home, I did some research and found David Chang’s recipe in his Momofuku cookbook. It’s not difficult, it’s just time-consuming. So I made a batch before we got the puppy to gauge if these buns are worth the trouble. They are worth it.

flour, sugar, salt, powdered milk, yeast, shortening, baking soda, baking powder, water

add the water to the yeast

add the remaining ingredients

knead with dough hook on low speed until the dough forms a ball

place dough in a greased bowl and let rise

These buns are called lotus leaf buns because their shape resembles a lotus leaf. There is no lotus anything in the bun itself. All of the ingredients should be relatively simple to find in most grocery stores. I didn’t have rendered pork fat, so I used shortening. To make the dough, just mix the yeast and the water, then add everything else and mix until the dough forms a ball. Mine took about 9 minutes to come together. David Chang warns against halving the recipe because you’ll have too little volume of ingredients to mix the dough. Just make a whole batch and freeze the extras. While the dough rises, start cutting squares of parchment paper. When the dough is ready, cut it into 50 equal pieces (I did 40), then roll each one into a ball and let the dough balls rise.

cutting parchment squares

the dough is risen

cut in half

cut each half into fifths (or fourths as i did here)

roll each piece into a log and cut into fifths

shape each piece into a ball

cover with plastic and let rise

When the dough balls have risen for 30 minutes, begin making the buns by rolling each ball out into an oblong disk about 4 inches long. Place a little shortening or pork fat on a plate and roll the top 3 inches of a chopstick in the fat until it is coated. Set the chopstick across the center of the oval, fold the dough in half, pull the chopstick out. Put the bun on a square of parchment. Cover the buns with plastic wrap and let them rest for another 30 minutes. See, most of the time spent on this recipe is letting the dough rise or rest.

ready for rolling

roll out a 4-inch long oval

place the chopstick across the center

fold the dough over and remove the chopstick

cover with plastic and let the buns rest

When the buns are rested, place them in a steamer and steam for 10 minutes. You can eat these fresh when they are hot or you can let them cool, place them in a freezer bag or other container, and freeze them for a few months (David Chang says months). Just reheat them with 2-3 minutes in the steamer.

lined up in the steamer basket

soft, puffy, and done

spongy soft, they should open easily

Jeremy and I were excited to try these lotus leaf buns after so many “meh” experiences with the different brands of frozen buns at the Asian markets. As we all know, it’s hard to beat homemade and fresh. These were fantastic and I’m guessing if I had used pork fat instead of shortening, the flavor would have been even better. Even so, the texture and flavor were the best we’ve sampled (we’ve sampled a lot). The soft, delicate, airy buns are *perfect* with hoisin sauce, green onions, and roast duck or roast pork belly. So if you thought you could only enjoy this in a restaurant – think again! You can totally rock this at home and it’s worth it.

we love these buns with duck

don’t forget the hoisin and green onions

these work as appetizers for parties or part of dinner


Chinese Steamed Lotus Leaf Buns
[print recipe]
from Momofuku by David Chang

1 tbsp + 1 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups water, room temperature
4 1/4 cups bread flour
6 tbsps sugar
3 tbsps nonfat dry milk powder
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking powder (rounded)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup vegetable shortening or rendered pork fat, room temperature

Combine the yeast and water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the remaining ingredients and mix on the lowest setting for 8-10 minutes until the dough begins to gather into a ball. Place the dough in a lightly oiled mixing bowl and cover with a dry kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm location for an hour or until doubled in size. Punch the dough down and set it on a clean work surface. Divide the dough in half with a knife or bench scraper, then divide each half into equal-sized fifths (I divided mine into fourths). Roll each piece into a log and cut each dough log into 5 equal pieces for a total of 50 pieces (or 40 if you did it my way). Each piece should be about 25g or the size of a ping-pong ball. Roll each piece of dough into a ball, set an inch apart on a baking sheet, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 30 minutes.

While the dough pieces are rising, cut 50 (or 40) 4×4-inch squares of parchment paper. Coat a chopstick with extra shortening or fat. When the dough is done rising, flatten a ball with the palm of your hand and roll it out to a 4-inch long oval. Place the chopstick across the middle of the oval, fold the dough over the chopstick so you have an oblong semi-circle, pull the chopstick out. Place the folded dough on a parchment square and set on a baking sheet. Repeat for the remaining dough. Cover the buns with plastic and let them rest for 30 minutes. Steam the buns in a steamer for about 10 minutes. Use immediately or let cool and freeze (reheat with 2-3 minutes in a steamer). Makes 50 (or 40) buns.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

mandarin pancakes (mushu shells) chinese char siu bao barbecue pork buns chinese sweet red bean (adzuki) steamed buns scallion pancakes

18 nibbles at “a year on”

  1. Heather (Delicious Not Gorgeous) says:

    your buns look so good! i like donating the duck to my dad and just putting the crispy skin (with hoisin and scallion, of course) into the bun.

  2. Rach says:

    I recently discovered your blog and I love it! I too am a Cornell grad. I have an engineering degree and I also use food blogging as a fun and creative outlet.

    The steamed buns look so good but I was really distracted by Neva’s cuteness; she steals the show every time!

  3. Eva @ Eva Bakes says:

    We love eating these with braised pork belly (gua bao). I just borrowed a book from my mom with the gua bao recipe so may need to make these buns to to go with them!

  4. Trisha G. says:

    Jen, love all your photos (as always), but my favorite has to be the one of Neva running through the meadow. So cute with her ears flopping in the breeze and her proud papa watching from the background! Thanks for another great recipe too, Can’t wait to try these!

  5. Pam says:

    Just a thought, I have access to a Mexican store that sells rendered pork fat. I make tamales with it, and it freezes well. Now about that puppy, that is a face everyone can love!

  6. Irmi from Munich says:

    Flying Neva over a field – what tiny little ears! Excellent shot, Jen!
    That steamed buns are funny things…
    Have a nice day!

  7. Deb says:

    Jen thanks for the wonderful photos of Neva,I am unfortunate not to have met your first puppy..thanks for the steamed buns recipe I will definitely give them a try.

  8. Margaret says:

    I always look forward to your posts but this one is very special as we lost our dear dogs about a year ago. Your pictures and words are so heartfelt. Thank you for such a wonderful blog!

  9. Louise says:

    Cannot believe it’s been a year!
    How blessed you are to have the new puppy

  10. Ashton says:

    I can’t wait to try this recipe!

    Also, its been 15 years since we lost our first baby. We still talk about her often. You love the following ones just as much as the first but you’ll fine they never really replace one another. Each one just occupies a different place in your soul.

  11. Honeybee says:

    The buns look amazing. Everything you make seems just perfect…

  12. Nancy says:

    Always enjoy reading your posts, great to see pics of your sweet Kaweah and Neva pups, love their adorable faces. And lotus leaf buns…YUM.

  13. Marin says:

    It’s been a year? It seems like only yesterday.

  14. Donnette says:

    Curious about the different flours you could use for this recipe. I want to stay away from refined white flour. Any ideas;suggestions.

  15. Kat says:

    Yummy buns and gorgeous photos, Jen! Love and XOs.

  16. Nancy says:

    These look great. Can you use butter instead of veg shortening?

  17. Kel says:

    Wonderful pictures and neat recipe!! I wonder if in your photography you have captured owls before? There was an owl photographed near you — very cute. I cannot seem to paste the link for you — but if you google adventure journal + cute baby owl it should show up for you.

    take care and thanks again for all of wonderful pictures and recipes!

  18. jenyu says:

    Heather – the skin is the best part!

    Rach – thanks :)

    Eva – YES!! I will have to make these this winter just to have with pork belly!

    Trisha – ha ha ha – you interpret it as proud papa, but Jeremy was completely exhausted (lack of sleep) :)

    Pam – I should probably go and get some proper pork fat, eh? Thanks for the tip!

    Irmi – thank you!

    Deb – sure thing!

    Margaret – thank you for your sweet words. So sorry about your pups. They really are family. xoxo

    Louise – xxoo

    Ashton – so very true xo

    Honeybee – thanks!

    Nancy – xo

    Marin – it does, doesn’t it? xo

    Donnette – I guess you could experiment with other flours, but I don’t have much experience with that.

    Kat – :) xoxo

    Nancy – I’d probably stick with vegetable shortening or pork fat because butter would impart a buttery flavor to the buns which isn’t what they should taste like. I know – crazy to hear me say it, but don’t use butter for these.

    Kel – thank you. I have not had the opportunity to photograph owls. They tend to be reclusive critters around here and I’d need some big glass to really capture them properly.

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