Chinese bread dough is quite sweet compared with Western breads (the further south you go in China, the sweeter the dough becomes). Most Chinese breads are steamed, which is why they look pale and uncooked to the Western eye. This can be made plain or used for chinese buns (bao). The buns can be filled with a variety of fillings, such as custard, mung bean paste, or BBQed meat. Be creative!
- Put the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the warm milk. Let stand 5 minutes, then stir to dissolve. It should foam and bubble. If it does not, discard and use a fresh package of yeast. Stir in the egg, oil and remaining milk.
- Put the flour and remaining sugar in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process 2 seconds. With the machine running, pour the warm milk mixture down the feed tube in a steady stream. Process until it forms a rough ball. If ball is sticky and wet, add a little more flour. Process a few seconds longer, or until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Remove dough to a lightly floured board.
- Knead dough, dusting with flour to keep it from sticking, until smooth and elastic, about 2 minutes.
- Place in a large oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Punch down dough and place on a lightly floured surface. It is now ready to form into rolls, buns or loaves.
- If preparing filled buns: Cut dough in half. Form each half into a 12-inch long log; cut into 10 pieces. Roll each piece into a 4-inch circle. Roll outer inch of each circle 1/8-inch thin; leave middle slightly thicker.
- If right-handed, place a dough circle in palm of your left hand. Put a big tablespoon of filling in the; middle; put left thumb over the filling. With your right hand, bring up edge and make a pleat in it.
- Rotate circle a little and make a second pleat. As you make each pleat, gently pull it up and around as if to enclose your thumb. Continue rotating, pleating and pinching, then gently twist into a spiral. Pinch to seal. Place bun pleated side down on a parchment square. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Put buns 1 1/2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Let rise until doubled in size, 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat egg yolks with water and sugar; brush over buns. Bake 20 minutes.