Red Bean Buns

Doushabao (豆沙包) are steamed yeast buns filled with Adzuki red bean paste, and a favorite of mine growing up.


First, make the paste:
  1. If using dried Adzuki red beans, soak overnight.
  2. Boil until soft. I like to use a pressure cooker to save on time.
  3. Blend in food processor until smooth.
  4. Add generous amount of oil in pan, then cook pureed beans, stirring gently to prevent burning. The idea is to cook out the water and have the oil replace the water, until you get to a consistency similar to peanut butter. Add sugar to taste.
  5. Put in fridge. It’s easier to roll into balls when it is cold.
Second, activate the yeast:
  1. Activate yeast (about 1 tsp yeast for every 4 cups of flour) of by mixing active dry yeast with warm water (and a sprinkle of sugar may help feed the yeast), and wait 10 minute or so or until you see a lot of foam on top of the water. Then pour in with the dough.
Third, make the dough:
  1. Mix 4 parts all-purpose flour: 2 parts water (with the activated yeast): ½ part sugar (or less if you prefer). While buns are generally fat-free, they do get quite dry the next day when cold, unless you steam them again. Thus, you may add 1/8 part oil as an option into the dough, but add this after kneading everything together (kneading helps gluten formation, which causes bread to be chewy) because oil hinders gluten formation and if you add oil too early, the dough gets messy.
  2. Knead for a few minutes, shape into a ball. If it’s too wet and sticky, add more flour. If it’s too dry and flaky, add more water. Keep kneading until you get a really smooth and elastic dough. If you poke your finger in the dough, the dough should indent then bounce right back.
Fourth, let it rise:
  1. Let the dough with the yeast rise for 1 hr (or more, depending on the temperature of the environment), or until double the size. This step is called “first proofing” or “bulk fermentation.” Don’t let it over-rise or else later when you steam, you will have wrinkly buns.
Fifth, shape:
  1. Punch down the risen dough and knead it again to get rid of the big bubbles created by the yeast.
  2. Divide the dough until small parts to make each bun.
  3. For each dough, fold in thirds, roll out again, then fold in thirds again, then do over and over until you get plenty of “layers” of dough on each other. This will create a smooth surface when you steam the buns.
  4. Roll each dough into a flat sheet, then wrap it around ball of red bean paste then pinch shut.
Sixth, let it rise again:
  1. Place each bun on parchment paper and place in a bamboo steamer under warm water to let rise for another 20 min or until texture is springy. Do not let it rise beyond 20 min as it will over-rise, which can lead to the bun surface over-stretching during steaming, then collapsing after steaming, causing a wrinkled surface appearance.
Seventh, steam:
  1. Pour out the warm water, and replace with cold water in pan and steam slowly for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Keep lid on for 5 minutes before opening. If you open too soon, you risk the bun surface collapsing, causing wrinkles on the surface.
  3. Optionally, to make it look extra special, you may stamp a design using red food coloring after it’s out of the steamer.
  4. Enjoy while it’s warm. If you fridge it, be sure to steam for a few minutes again before eating. Or, wrap it with a wet paper towel, then microwaving it for 10-15 seconds.

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