Filo Tart with Broccoli & Ricotta

Filo tarts were a mainstay in my house at uni. Along with curry nights, filo pie was a favourite to cook together and share. I’m definitely more of a savoury tart/pie person (weirdly) and filo is a great pastry for dinner time since it’s so easy to work with. My favourite thing to do with it is rip up shreds of the pastry, crumple them up, and lay those over a bed of veg. The crumpling of the pastry increases the surface area so you get LOADS of crispy, crunchy bits – the besssst. This tart is a prettier version but still has the maximum crunch possible – I reserve a couple of pastry sheets to make crumples which I dot around the exposed edges. The outcome is a lovely springy tart, super quick to make (so weeknight friendly) with the crunchiest, sesame seeded edges. Yum. More spring time goodness:– Casarecce with snap peas, asparagus & ricotta– Roasted carrots with herby yoghurt dressing– Carrot Gnudi with walnut sauce Have you made this recipe? I’d love to see how it went! Tag me on instagram @izyhossack and hashtag it #topwithcinnamon so I can have a look & reshare in my stories!

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A filo pastry tart with broccoli and feta, on a ricotta base by Izy Hossack

Filo tarts were a mainstay in my house at uni. Along with curry nights, filo pie was a favourite to cook together and share. I’m definitely more of a savoury tart/pie person (weirdly) and filo is a great pastry for dinner time since it’s so easy to work with.

My favourite thing to do with it is rip up shreds of the pastry, crumple them up, and lay those over a bed of veg. The crumpling of the pastry increases the surface area so you get LOADS of crispy, crunchy bits – the besssst.

A filo pastry tart with broccoli and feta, on a ricotta base by Izy Hossack

This tart is a prettier version but still has the maximum crunch possible – I reserve a couple of pastry sheets to make crumples which I dot around the exposed edges. The outcome is a lovely springy tart, super quick to make (so weeknight friendly) with the crunchiest, sesame seeded edges. Yum.

More spring time goodness:
Casarecce with snap peas, asparagus & ricotta
Roasted carrots with herby yoghurt dressing
Carrot Gnudi with walnut sauce

Filo Tart with Broccoli & Ricotta

Filo Tart with Broccoli & Ricotta

Yield: serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • a (220g / 8 oz) packet filo pastry (phyllo pastry)
  • 250g (9 oz) ricotta cheese
  • 2 heaped tbsp pesto (I used wild garlic pesto or basil pesto)
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 5 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
  • 1 medium egg
  • 350g (12.5 oz) tenderstem broccoli
  • 60g (2 oz) feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan / 350°F).
  2. Take a 9 x 13-inch rimmed baking sheet and brush it with a bit of the olive oil.
  3. Lay a sheet of filo onto the top half of the baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Place a second sheet of filo over the bottom half of the baking sheet, there should be some overlap in the middle. Brush with more olive oil.
  4. Coninue with the layering until you have 2 sheets of pastry left. Rip them into random pieces about 3 inches wide and set aside.
  5. Mix the ricotta with the pesto, lemon zest and thyme in a medium bowl. Stir in the egg until smooth. Spread this over the pastry, leaving 1 inch slight border of pastry uncovered around the edge.
  6. Lay the broccoli over the ricotta in an even layer. Top with the crumbled feta and fold in the edges of the pastry.
  7. Take the random shredded pieces of filo and crumple them up, place around the border of the tart.
  8. Brush the whole tart with any remaining olive oil and sprinkle the edges with the sesame seeds.
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes until browned around the edges and the broccoli is starting to colour.
  10. Remove from the oven and cut into 8 pieces. Serve hot.

Have you made this recipe?
I’d love to see how it went! Tag me on instagram @izyhossack and hashtag it #topwithcinnamon so I can have a look & reshare in my stories!

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Pici Cacio e Pepe

After having the Pici Cacio e Pepe at Padella (a pasta restaurant in Borough Market, London), I became kind of obsessed with it. It was like nothing else I’d had before with wobbly, worm-like noodles and a rich yet light sauce packed with a salty, tangy punch. Black pepper wasn’t something I’d ever had as a main seasoning in a dish but it worked so well here. My brother and I discovered that there was a video on Jamie Oliver’s youtube channel of Tim Siadatan, the head chef of Padella, making said cacio e pepe. He only gives actual quantities for the pasta dough part and has the sauce ingredients in rough quantities. We made it like this, following his directions, and it worked so wonderfully. Since then, I’d made the dish quite a few times but since I was never measuring ingredients, the results were varied! I decided to finally measure everything out as I went and tested it a couple of times with my proper written recipe so I could type it up for here. Traditional cacio e pepe uses Pecorino cheese (and no lemon! and also I think no butter?) in the sauce. I use Parmesan cheese […]

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Pici cacio e pepe from padella recipe at home

After having the Pici Cacio e Pepe at Padella (a pasta restaurant in Borough Market, London), I became kind of obsessed with it. It was like nothing else I’d had before with wobbly, worm-like noodles and a rich yet light sauce packed with a salty, tangy punch. Black pepper wasn’t something I’d ever had as a main seasoning in a dish but it worked so well here.

nests of pici dough on a tray with ingredients for cacio e pepe

My brother and I discovered that there was a video on Jamie Oliver’s youtube channel of Tim Siadatan, the head chef of Padella, making said cacio e pepe. He only gives actual quantities for the pasta dough part and has the sauce ingredients in rough quantities. We made it like this, following his directions, and it worked so wonderfully. Since then, I’d made the dish quite a few times but since I was never measuring ingredients, the results were varied! I decided to finally measure everything out as I went and tested it a couple of times with my proper written recipe so I could type it up for here.

Traditional cacio e pepe uses Pecorino cheese (and no lemon! and also I think no butter?) in the sauce. I use Parmesan cheese because (1) Pecorino isn’t readily available/ I always have Parmesan in the fridge (2) I prefer the flavour of Parmesan as I find Pecorino too salty/sheep-y (3) At Padella they use Parmesan in the sauce and that is what this recipe is based off of. PLEASE do not come at me telling me this isn’t traditional – I know it’s not!! But it’s still delicious! 😉

stretching pici dough into rectangle for cacio e pepe
cutting pici dough into strips for cacio e pepe
cutting pici dough into strips for cacio e pepe
rolling strips of pici dough into worms for cacio e pepe

This is my idea of the ultimate dinner date meal. It’s kinda fancy and needs a little more attention than your average dried pasta dish BUT you don’t need a pasta machine and it’s made with ingredients you probably already have in the fridge. It feels indulgent and restaurant-y yet rustic. I have found that it’s kind of tough to make for a crowd, with 2 servings being the ideal amount so, again, it’s perfect for date night (or Valentine’s day!).

pici cacio e pepe in two bowls with a glass of wine

I made a video of the process when I was in Mallorca last summer (which you can watch below!) and have also done a little .GIF of the pici rolling process so you can easily see how to make them. A quick note that the dough does need to be rested in the fridge so that the gluten can relax, allowing you to roll out the dough more easily. I rest it for 1 hour usually but you can rest it for up to 24 hours. Also, make sure you have all your saucy ingredients at the ready before you start boiling the pasta as it all happens v fast and you need to give it your undivided attention as you bring it all together at the end.

Hope you enjoy this one and that it becomes part of your recipe repertoire to cook again and again!

Pici Cacio e Pepe

Pici Cacio e Pepe

Yield: serves 2
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes

Ingredients

Pici dough:

  • 200g (1 2/3 cup) strong white (bread) flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp (15g) extra virgin olive oil
  • 90g warm water
  • plain white flour or semolina, for dusting

Cacio e pepe sauce:

  • 60g (1 cup) finely grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 40g (3 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 160ml (2/3 cup) pasta water

Instructions

For the pici dough:

  1. Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Add the oil and water and mix to form a shaggy dough. Tip the contents of the bowl out onto a clean work surface and knead for 6 to 10 minutes until smooth and soft but not sticky or dry.
  2. Place into a resealable sandwich bag and chill for at least 1 hour (or up to 24 hours).


When you're ready to cook, shape the pici:

  1. Once the dough has rested, remove from the bag and place onto a completely clean, dry work surface. It's super important that there is no flour on the work surface or else it will be really hard to roll out the pici!
  2. Pat the dough out into a rectangle about 12 x 20 cm (5 x 8 inches). Use a bench scraper or a butter knife to cut strips of dough which are roughly 6mm (~1/4-inch) wide x 12cm long.
  3. Use your hands, pressing lightly on a strip of dough to roll out into a long worm shape. I like to start with both my hands at the centre of the strip and work outwards whilst rolling back and forth and applying light pressure. Roll until the worm is about 3 to 4mm (~1/8-inch) thick.
  4. Dust a rimmed baking tray with semolina or a light coating of plain white flour. Pick up the dough worm and place onto the sheet.
  5. Ensure there is no flour/semolina residue on your hands and continue to roll out the remaining strips of dough, placing the worms on the baking sheet.
  6. Once your tray has been filled with worms of dough, dust these with some more semolina/plain flour and then gently gather them, lift them up and wrap them around the fingertips of one hand, forming a little bundle. Place this bundle onto the tray.
  7. Continue making worms (and forming nests, as needed) until you've shaped all the dough.
  8. Set aside for up to 20 minutes. If you let these sit for longer you risk them drying out and starting to clump together.

Bring it all together:

  1. Grate your Pecorino or Parmesan cheese and set that aside. Bash the peppercorns in a pestle and mortar (or use a pepper grinder to grind them up) and set those aside too. Have all your other ingredients measured and to hand (except the pasta water as that isn't ready yet).
  2. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to the boil on the stove.
  3. Grab a large frying pan and add the lemon juice, butter and black pepper. Place over a medium heat on the stove.
  4. Gently drop the pici nests into the boiling pot of water - keep the heat here on max until the water comes back to a simmer and set a timer for 5 minutes. Stir gently occasionally to make sure they don't stick together.
  5. Once the pici have been cooking for about 3 minutes, scoop out 160ml (2/3 cup) of that starchy pasta water from the pot they're cooking in. Pour this into the frying pan of butter and turn the heat on the pan down to medium low.
  6. Once the 5 minutes of cooking time is up, use tongs to lift the pici into the frying pan of the pasta water-butter mixture. Sprinkle the grated cheese in an even layer over all of the pasta in the pan. Now this is the key moment - you can't stir this yet!! You have to leave this to cook over a medium-low heat for a couple of minutes. You want the cheese to start melting before you stir it together otherwise it will clump. So, leave it to cook and you'll notice that the cheese starts to melt at the edges first and gradually melts more and more towards the centre of the pan. Once the cheese in the centre is just starting to turn translucent/melty, you can toss the mixture together (I like to use tongs for this).
  7. Let bubble for 1 to 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally, to let the sauce thicken up a bit.
  8. Once the sauce looks thickened but still kind of runny, remove from the heat and divide between two bowls. Serve ASAP! Enjoy!


Have you made this recipe?
I’d love to see how it went! Tag me on instagram @izyhossack and hashtag it #topwithcinnamon so I can have a look & reshare in my stories!

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Butternut Squash & Caramelised Shallot Tart

Every year I try to come up with some plant-based alternatives to Turkey. Most of the time I’m drawn to winter squash for their versatility and beauty. This year for my veggie Christmas main (which was also for Thanksgiving), I made a savoury butternut squash tart in a walnut-oat crust. I topped it off with balsamic-caramelised shallots and some baby kale. It was an utter delight!! The filling is slightly creamy and sweet and you get the savoury flavour from the crust and shallots. It pairs VERY well with a bit of gravy (I make mine with veg stock, brown onions, lots of marmite and MSG) which I think is a *must* when it comes to a Holiday main. I use chickpea flour with water to set the filling but, if you’re not vegan/making it for vegans, an egg can be used instead. If you’re not feeling up for making a tart crust (understandable when theres 10000 other things to make for Christmas lunch), you can always buy chilled shortcrust pastry from the supermarket and use that instead as it’s usually vegan-friendly. Serving size/serving more people This recipe makes one smallish tart, enough for 4 people as a main with […]

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Overhead image of sliced squash tart with shallots and kale

Every year I try to come up with some plant-based alternatives to Turkey. Most of the time I’m drawn to winter squash for their versatility and beauty. This year for my veggie Christmas main (which was also for Thanksgiving), I made a savoury butternut squash tart in a walnut-oat crust. I topped it off with balsamic-caramelised shallots and some baby kale. It was an utter delight!!

A squash tart with bowls of caramelised shallots and baby kale

The filling is slightly creamy and sweet and you get the savoury flavour from the crust and shallots. It pairs VERY well with a bit of gravy (I make mine with veg stock, brown onions, lots of marmite and MSG) which I think is a *must* when it comes to a Holiday main. I use chickpea flour with water to set the filling but, if you’re not vegan/making it for vegans, an egg can be used instead.

If you’re not feeling up for making a tart crust (understandable when theres 10000 other things to make for Christmas lunch), you can always buy chilled shortcrust pastry from the supermarket and use that instead as it’s usually vegan-friendly.

Serving size/serving more people

This recipe makes one smallish tart, enough for 4 people as a main with sides. You could even cut it into 8 pieces to have as a starter! If you’re cooking for more people, the recipe doubles very well and can be made as one large tart in a 28cm (11-inch) loose-based tart tin.

A sliced savoury squash tart with caramelised shallots with a slice removed on a side plate

To make ahead of time

To make this ahead of time you can prep the tart crust, filling and shallots the day before serving and leave them all separate. You can keep the crust out at room temperature but chill the filling & shallots. About 30 minutes before you’re about to serve, stir the filling up (as it may have thickened), spread it into the crust, and bake the tart as instructed in the recipe. Finally, warm up the shallots in their pan on the stove or in the oven (covered with a lid, for around 5 minutes) and top the tart with the warm shallots & a handful of leaves.

Butternut Squash & Caramelised Shallot Tart

Butternut Squash & Caramelised Shallot Tart

Yield: serves 4
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients

Tart filling:

  • 500g (1 lb) butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed
  • 4 tbsp (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large or 5 small garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tsp chilli crisp (optional)*
  • 3 tbsp chickpea flour (see notes)
  • 3 tbsp water
  • zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked
  • Salt, to taste

Tart crust:

  • 60g (1/2 cup) walnuts
  • 45g (1/2 cup) rolled oats
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp fine salt
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 120g (1 cup) plain white (all-purpose) flour
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 to 4 tbsp non-dairy milk or water

Shallots:

  • 200g (7 ounces) shallots, halved, peeled
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • handful of salad leaves, to serve (optional)

Instructions

Cook the squash:

  1. Cut the butternut squash into roughly 2 inch (5cm) chunks. Heat the olive oil in a large pot (I use a dutch oven here) on the stove over a medium heat. Once hot, add the squash and a pinch of salt and stir to coat. Cover with a lid and lower the heat to medium-low. Leave to cook, stirring occasionally, until the chunks and soft and starting to break down (about 15 minutes). Remove from the heat and set aside.


Make the crust:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C fan (350°F).
  2. Place the walnuts and oats in a food processor and blitz until you get a scruffy mealy texture. Add the baking powder, salt, fennel seeds and flour to the food processor and pulse to combine. Add the olive oil and 2 tbsp of the non-dairy milk and pulse together until you get a cohesive dough. You may need to add more milk to get it to come together.
  3. Crumble the dough into the base of a 23-cm (9-inch) springform cake tin (or a loose-based tart tin) and use your fingertips to press it down into an even layer over the base and up the sides of the tin (in a springform tin it should come up about 3cm high). Reserve a little bit of the dough for patching up cracks later on. Prick the crust all over with a fork.
  4. Place the cake tin/tart tin on a baking sheet and then into the oven. Bake for 10-15 minutes until it looks dry. Remove from the oven and use the reserved pastry to patch up any cracks that may have formed. Set the crust aside.

Make the filling:

  1. Blend the cooked squash until smooth - you can either do this straight in the pot using an immersion blender (hand blender/stick blender) or by transferring it to a food processor/blender and blitzing, then transferring to a mixing bowl.
  2. Add the remaining filling ingredients and stir together. Taste and season with salt as needed.
  3. Pour the filling into the pre-baked crust. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the top looks set and dry.

Cook the shallots:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy, oven-proof frying pan/skillet over a medium heat. Sprinkle over the sugar in an even layer and then lay the shallots cut side-down over the sugar.
  2. Lower the heat to medium-low and leave to cook until you get a nice brown crust underneath (about 5 minutes). Flip each half over and allow to cook until the other side is browned (about 5 minutes again).
  3. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and then pour in the balsamic vinegar. Cover with a lid or a piece of foil and transfer to the oven - roast for 15-20 minutes until the shallots are soft all the way through. Remove from the oven and uncover.

Finish the tart:

  1. Top the cooked tart with some leafy greens (I used baby kale) and the caramelised shallots. Serve warm.

Notes

  • *I use the Lao Gan Ma 'crispy chilli in oil' which is BANGING!! Get yourself some from your local East Asian food shop, or online.
  • If you're not vegan, you can use 1 egg instead of the 3 tbsp chickpea flour + 3 tbsp water in the filling.
  • Tart crust adapted from Amy Chaplin
  • This recipe makes one smallish tart, enough for 4 people as a main with sides. You could even cut it into 8 pieces to have as a starter though. If you're cooking for more people, the recipe doubles very well and can be made as one large tart in a 28cm (11-inch) loose-based tart tin.

Have you made this recipe?
I’d love to see how it went! Tag me on instagram @izyhossack and hashtag it #topwithcinnamon so I can have a look & reshare in my stories!

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Simple Garlicky Vegan Sourdough Stuffing

Stuffing is always a popular Thanksgiving side dish, isn’t it? Basically just crispy pieces of bread intertwined with chunks of delicious veg. Almost like a warm panzanella! This vegan version is just as good – I cook down leeks and garlic until soft and sweet to fold into the crusty sourdough chunks. Then the whole thing is covered with herby broth and dotted with salty soy-coated mushrooms for those who you know might miss the meat! Other than that it’s a simple affair as that helps it pair really well with all the other side dishes you have at a roast (and definitely goes well with gravy!). The most extravagant part really is the decent amount of garlic I add whiiiich basically makes it into a big ol tray of garlic bread. Other vegan Thanksgiving recipes Vegan Pecan Pie Vegan Cauliflower Cheese Gratin Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts & Smoky Olives Hassleback Squash with Garlic-Sage Butter

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A close up of a dish of vegan sourdough stuffing with leeks and soy-sauce mushrooms

Stuffing is always a popular Thanksgiving side dish, isn’t it? Basically just crispy pieces of bread intertwined with chunks of delicious veg. Almost like a warm panzanella!

A dish of sourdough vegan stuffing on a table

This vegan version is just as good – I cook down leeks and garlic until soft and sweet to fold into the crusty sourdough chunks. Then the whole thing is covered with herby broth and dotted with salty soy-coated mushrooms for those who you know might miss the meat! Other than that it’s a simple affair as that helps it pair really well with all the other side dishes you have at a roast (and definitely goes well with gravy!). The most extravagant part really is the decent amount of garlic I add whiiiich basically makes it into a big ol tray of garlic bread.

Other vegan Thanksgiving recipes

Simple Vegan Garlicky Sourdough Stuffing

Simple Vegan Garlicky Sourdough Stuffing

Yield: serves 4
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided (plus extra for greasing + drizzling)
  • 1 large leek, cleaned, sliced into 1 cm (1/2 inch) coins
  • 5 large (or 7-10 medium/small) cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 200g (7 ounces) shiitake or chestnut mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce or tamari
  • 250ml (1 cup) hot vegetable stock/broth
  • 1 sprig rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
  • 3 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
  • 7 cups (300g) sourdough bread, cut into 3cm (1 inch) cubes

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C (400F) and grease a medium roasting dish (around 1.5 litre capacity) with a bit of extra olive oil.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the coins of sliced leek and season with a pinch of salt. Stir to coat with oil and turn the heat to low. Leave to cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring every now and then, until soft. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 more minute. Tip the cooked leeks and garlic into a large bowl.
  3. Place the frying pan back on the heat and add the mushrooms to the pan with a pinch of salt. Allow to cook, stirring often, until most of the water has been drawn out and evaporated from the mushrooms. Once you see them start to brown, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, the white pepper and soy sauce and let cook until reduced and dry. Set aside to cool.
  4. To the bowl of leeks add the vegetable broth, rosemary, thyme and bread cubes. Stir to allow the bread to soak up the liquid. Tip into the prepared roasting dish. Dot with spoonfuls of the soy sauce mushrooms. Drizzle with a bit of extra olive oil.
  5. Bake for 25-35 minutes until the top is crisp and starting to brown. Serve hot.

Notes

To make ahead:

Prepare up until just before you bake it. Cover the dish (I just use a baking sheet to cover it) and place in the fridge for up to 2 days. Uncover and bake straight from the fridge, no need to bring to room temperature.

Have you made this recipe?
I’d love to see how it went! Tag me on instagram @izyhossack and hashtag it #topwithcinnamon so I can have a look & reshare in my stories!

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How to make Bao Buns

Over the past few years there has been an explosion of bao restaurants in London. These soft and fluffy steamed buns are incredibly delicious and usually not too pricey. BUT you can make them at home which can be a fun weekend ‘project’ to do (and you can freeze extras for weeknight dinners!). The idea of steaming bread can seem daunting so I’ve gone in deep here with as much detail as I can muster! I’ve made them quite a few times at home now so, although I’m definitely not an expert, I may have some tips to help you! What is a bao bun? Really, calling these bao buns is incorrect (bao means bun, so it’s like saying ‘bun bun’). They’re usually called gua bao but are also sometimes known as Taiwanese hamburgers. However their popularity in the West has spread with the name bao buns, so here we are! The usual filling is glazed pork belly but you can basically fill them with whatever you want. I think a good formula for vegetarian fillings is: grilled/deep fried vegetables (or tofu/seitan) + something crunchy (lettuce, carrot ribbons, shredded cabbage) + sauce + pickles (kimchi, red onion/radish, kraut). Where can […]

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Steamed gua bao buns in a bamboo steamer

Over the past few years there has been an explosion of bao restaurants in London. These soft and fluffy steamed buns are incredibly delicious and usually not too pricey. BUT you can make them at home which can be a fun weekend ‘project’ to do (and you can freeze extras for weeknight dinners!). The idea of steaming bread can seem daunting so I’ve gone in deep here with as much detail as I can muster! I’ve made them quite a few times at home now so, although I’m definitely not an expert, I may have some tips to help you!

What is a bao bun?

Really, calling these bao buns is incorrect (bao means bun, so it’s like saying ‘bun bun’). They’re usually called gua bao but are also sometimes known as Taiwanese hamburgers. However their popularity in the West has spread with the name bao buns, so here we are! The usual filling is glazed pork belly but you can basically fill them with whatever you want.

I think a good formula for vegetarian fillings is: grilled/deep fried vegetables (or tofu/seitan) + something crunchy (lettuce, carrot ribbons, shredded cabbage) + sauce + pickles (kimchi, red onion/radish, kraut).

Where can I buy bao buns?

I have to say, as much as I love making things from scratch, sometimes I just want a super easy dinner and frozen bao buns are a godsend for that. I buy packs of frozen Bao from the big chest freezers in my local Chinese food shop. They have a variety of names I’ve come across: ‘gua bao’, ‘double slice bun’, ‘Hirata bun’ or ‘Taiwan burger bun’. If you want to make them yourself though, read on!

Bao buns filled with crispy gochujang tofu and lettuce with a bamboo steamer" data-pin-description="Crispy tofu with a sweet & spicy gochujang sauce in soft, fluffy bao buns. Great for a plant-based dinner!

Can I make vegan bao buns?

Yes! This recipe below is vegan (with non-vegan adaptations you can make if you’d like). I just use all water and vegetable oil so it really is an easy recipe to make. Plus they come out just as fluffy and soft as the ones containing milk.

I have a couple of vegan filling options too:
Grilled Asparagus Bao
Gochujang Tofu Bao

A bamboo steamer with bao buns in a pan on the stove

How do you steam bao buns?

I have a 2-layer bamboo steamer I got from a Korean supermarket when I lived in Leeds! You can get them online or usually at larger Korean/Chinese/Japanese food shops. If you don’t have a bamboo steamer you can use a metal one, you just can’t fit as many buns into them as you can with a bamboo one (as they are stackable). If you don’t have a steamer you can hack one by placing a large metal colander into a large pot with a bit of water at the bottom of the pot, then cover with a large pot lid/plate/foil.

For bamboo steamers: place the steamer into a wide saucepan or pot that it can fit snugly in. Pour water into the pan, I usually do a ~1-inch depth and top up the water as needed while steaming so it doesn’t run dry. The most important thing is that the water level doesn’t rise above the base of the steamer as you don’t want the water to come into direct contact with whatever is in the steamer. Bring the water to a boil over a medium heat, fill the steamer with your buns (they expand quite a bit when steaming so leave some room around them) then cover with the lid. Place into the pan of water and turn the heat down so the water is simmering. Let the buns steam for 5-6 minutes – do not remove the lid during this time as the trapped steam inside is cooking the buns!

I use a pair of kitchen tongs to remove each layer of the bamboo steamer from the pan so I don’t get burnt by the steam.

Can you freeze bao buns and can you reheat frozen ones?

When I make bao I usually make a large batch so I can freeze most of them for easy dinners later on. To do this, steam all of the bao as instructed. Then line them up on a baking tray – I like to leave the little parchment square on the bottom of each bun so I can use it when I reheat them later. Freeze the buns for 1-2 hours on the tray then tip them into a resealable bag. Label and date them for future reference! You can reheat the bao straight from frozen, just pop a few into your steamer and steam for 5-8 minutes until hot in the middle.

Placing shaped bao buns onto a baking tray
placing shaped bao buns into a bamboo steamer

How do you keep steamed buns warm?

Keep them in the bamboo steamer with lid closed. They should stay warm like this for ~10 minutes. When having them for dinner, I usually actually cook all the bao ahead of time and then re-heat a couple at a time by steaming for 1-2 minutes before eating. That way you always have hot ones to eat.

Why are my bao buns not white?

The addition of baking powder/bicarbonate of soda can cause a yellowing of the dough after steaming. You may notice that if you don’t knead the baking powder into the dough thoroughly, there will be little yellow spots on the buns (this is just an aesthetic issue, they’ll still taste fine). The yellowy tinge can also come from the flour – if your flour is unbleached, as most is in the UK, the buns will not be super white. You can buy bleached white flour from some Chinese supermarkets if you’re really after that snowy white look.

Can I make wholewheat bao?

Yes! Just replace 1/3 of the flour in the recipe below with wholemeal (wholewheat) bread flour. They’ll be a little bit denser/ chewier but still delicious. I wouldn’t recommend doing 50% or 100% wholemeal flour as it’ll make the buns too dense and they won’t be fluffy.

How to make Steamed Bao Buns (Gua Bao)

How to make Steamed Bao Buns (Gua Bao)

Yield: 20
Active Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Rising Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours

Ingredients

  • 420g (3 1/2 cups) plain white flour (all-purpose flour), plus more for kneading
  • 2 1/4 tsp (1/4 oz or 7g) easy bake yeast (instant yeast)
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 250g (1 cup) warm water
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for the bowl + brushing
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Instructions

Make the dough & first rise:

  1. Place the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Stir together to combine.
  2. Add the warm water and vegetable oil to the bowl and stir together to form a rough dough. Tip the contents of the bowl out onto a work surface and knead together, dusting lightly with extra flour as needed to prevent it sticking to the surface (just try to add as little extra flour as possible). Knead for about 10 minutes - the dough will be slightly sticky and quite soft but should be stretchy and smooth. You can also use a stand mixer with the dough hook fitted to knead it if you'd like.
  3. Pour a little extra vegetable oil into the bowl you were using. Place the dough in and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave somewhere warm for 1 hour to rise until doubled in volume (I place it in my oven, turned off, with a baking tray full of boiling water on the rack below - it makes the perfect warm, steamy environment for the dough to rise in).
  4. Once the dough has risen, tip it out onto your work surface and pat out into a large rectangle. Sprinkle the baking powder all over the surface of the dough, roll it up, and then knead for 5 more minutes so the baking powder is incorporated.

Shape the buns & second rise:

  1. Divide the dough into 20 equal pieces. Shape each of these into little balls, dusting with more flour as needed to stop them sticking to the work surface.
  2. Cut 20 squares of baking paper, each roughly 3.5 inches (9 cm) wide.
  3. Take each ball of dough and roll it out into an oval about 3.5 by 4.5 inches (9 x 12 cm). Brush the surface of each oval with a light coating of vegetable oil. Fold each oval in half to get a half-moon shape. Place onto the individual squares of baking paper.
  4. Set aside to rise for 20 minutes on your counter so they get a bit puffy.

Steam the buns:

  1. Gently place a few of the risen buns into your bamboo steamer - I can fit 3 buns in each layer of mine so a total of 6 buns. Make sure when you do this you don't squish the buns, so lower them in by grasping the corners of the baking paper square. You also want to leave room for expansion as the buns will rise even more when they are steamed - try to make sure they're not touching each other/ the edges of the steamer or they'll stick.
  2. Put the remaining risen buns on a baking tray in the fridge to stop them overproofing as the first batch steams.
  3. Fill a wide saucepan with ~1 inch (3 cm) of water. Bring to the boil over a medium heat then lower the bamboo steamer in, covering it with its lid. Turn the heat down so the water is simmering and let the buns steam for 6 minutes.
  4. Let cool slightly then remove from the steamer so you can steam the next batch, you may need to top up the water to prevent it running dry (you can take the dough straight from the fridge, no need to let it come to room temperature).
  5. Eat the buns warm! If they cool off, you can reheat them once more by steaming again for ~2 minutes.

FREEZING BUNS:

  1. Steam all of the buns as directed above. Allow to cool to room temperature then place on a baking sheet (with the baking paper squares still attached). Freeze on the tray for 1-2 hours until solid. Tip the frozen buns into a resealable bag which is labelled and dated. Keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  2. To reheat, place frozen buns into a steamer. Steam for 5-8 minutes until piping hot inside.

Notes

  • you can use melted butter or lard in place of the vegetable oil if desired
  • you can replace half of the water with warm milk in the dough for a slightly softer result
  • if you don't have easy bake/instant yeast: first mix the yeast with the warm water in a jug and set aside to bubble up for 5 minutes before pouring into the bowl of flour/salt/sugar/oil.

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