Wednesday, January 16, 2013
The last time I went to Fubonn, I got some frozen things that said they were shao bing. They were ok, but they weren't much like the shao bing I remember. Naturally, I had to make a batch of my own.
Take a tablespoon of flour, a tablespoon of sesame paste, and 3 tablespoons of cooking oil and simmer them together in a little sauce pan until the flour doesn't taste raw any more. Set it aside.
Make a recipe of the ubiquitous dough. Let it relax for about 15 minutes, then divide it into 10 pieces. Roll each piece into a long skinny strip about 3 inches wide by 12 inches long. Spread a small amount of the oil mix over the whole piece of dough, then roll it up into a little log about 4 inches long and maybe 1 1/2 inches thick. Repeat with all the dough bits.
Cover them and let them rise for about half an hour, maybe a little longer. They won't be really poofed up, just relaxed enough that you can roll them out flat.
Now is a good time to pre-heat your oven to 475.
Start by laying your rolling pin along the long axis of the rolls. Smoosh them down firmly and flip them over once or twice before rolling them long ways once or twice or your shao bing will be way too long and skinny. Lay the shaobing on a cookie sheet and brush with egg wash, then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 10-15 minutes. They should be just slightly brown.
1. Dough texture is very important. This dough should be quite soft, and it takes a lot of kneading to get the flour to absorb all the water and then smooth out. If you do this by hand, don't be tempted to add a bunch of flour to cut down on sticky. Just keep kneading, it'll eventually pull together. I can't over-emphasize the convenience of a machine that will knead things for you- I would never make yeasted anything otherwise.
2. Frying the flour in oil is also key. Frying causes the starches & proteins in the flour to respond differently to water. Spreading a layer of cooked flour over the dough creates regions of particles that prevent the raw dough from gluing itself together, resulting in a layered end product. Yes, oil alone will do that, but the flour allows you to treat it much more roughly.
3. I used cooking oil. Dad used some kind of animal fat. If you did that, it would probably be a lot less gross than when dad did it. There were always things in the drippings he used.
4. As always with yeast breads, the temperature and humidity of the room will affect the amount of time it takes to do this. If its cold and dry in your house, you will need to be patient, and cover your dough with a piece of oiled saran wrap. If you bake in the summer when its warm and humid, things will go very quickly.
These are undeniably best fresh out of the oven when they are crispy on the outside and chewy inside. The Chin Family Approved Method for cutting open shao bing is to grab your chinese Nana's cast iron scissors, check to see if there are any hair clippings, bits of paper or other fluff stuck in the hinge, ignore it if there is, then cut open the shao bing by poking the bottom blade in one end and snipping it open along the edge. A very sharp knife used like a letter opener works too. I don't remember what we used to put inside them when dad made them, probably ham and hoisin sauce. I like tuna, or roasted eggplant, or scrambled eggs and cheese. Butter and honey is mighty fine too, but it can be a bit drippy. I don't think dad salted the dough as heavily as I do either. He used to sprinkle salt mixed with crushed szechuan pepper in them I think. I like this better- the dough is evenly savory instead of having random streaks of bitingly salty bits. Maybe I'm thinking of duck rolls though. That's another story, and I might have to see if I can get Pete to try to fry a duck.