The Cutest Ever Hot Dog Flower Buns
I remember the stacks of pink boxes on their counters, and the mesmerizing machine that would automatically wrap candy-cane colored twine around them in a blink of an eye.
I remember the bustle of customers queuing to place orders, as I scurried underfoot to get a closer look at the glass cases of golden custard tarts; glossy double-crust apple pies; squishy steamed sponge cakes; and airy layer cakes covered in ethereal whipped cream, strawberries and mandarin orange segments.
So, when I heard that the Bay Area’s Kristina Cho was writing a cookbook inspired by the sweet and savory creations of Chinese bakeries, I couldn’t have been more excited to see get these wonderful and nostalgic treats finally get their due.
“Mooncakes & Milk Bread” (Harper Horizon), of which I received a review copy, did not disappoint.
Cho, a former architectural designer turned food blogger of Eat Cho Food, recipe developer, and cooking instructor has created a true love letter to these Chinatown bakeries.
She provides a primer on the history of Chinese bakeries, which first became popular in Hong Kong, info on Asian ingredients, and tips on where to source items such as mooncake molds.
The book is filled with Cho’s gorgeous finished food photos, as well as step-by-step illustrations to guide you expertly through rolling, folding, scoring, and twisting various doughs into their perfect shapes.
The recipes run the gamut from “The Mother of All Milk Bread,” “Asian Pear Turnovers with Miso Glaze” and “Pork Floss and Seaweed Pull-Apart Rolls” to “Coffee Crunch Swiss Roll,” “Shiny Fruit Cream Cake,” and “Chocolate-Hazelnut Macau-Style Cookies.”
That milk bread dough recipe forms the foundation for these too-cute “Hot Dog Flower Buns.”
Think of them as a far more imaginative take on pigs in a blanket.
Tangzhong, a type of roux that’s easily made by combining bread flour and milk in a saucepan, is what gives Asian bread its exquisitely pillowy texture. This roux remains pale hued. You know you’ve nailed the texture when it gets pasty-thick and starts to pull away slightly from the edges of your pan.
It gets added to your main yeast dough that gets fortified with more milk, plus sugar, and butter, before being left to rise a couple hours or overnight in the fridge.
If you opt for the latter as I did, you will want to take the dough out of the fridge and let it proof in a warm spot for about 2 hours to take the chill off, info that I added to the recipe below.
The dough is then portioned out into rectangles, each large enough to wrap around a hot dog. I found that if you lay the rolled dog seam-side down on your countertop and gently give it a roll with your fingers, it will seal the seam smoothly, so I added that tip to the recipe, as well.
Next, slice the hot dog roll into six equal pieces, and arrange them cut-side up in a flower formation on a baking sheet so that each piece is about 1/4-inch from one another.
Just before baking, brush the buns with beaten egg mixed with a splash of milk or cream, and sprinkle with sesame seeds and slivers of green onion.
While the buns are hot right out of the oven, liberally brush them with a sugar syrup to give them a lovely shine and haunting taste. It’s this last step that gives them that faint sweetness familiar to anyone who’s ever sunk their teeth into a baked char siu bao.
The glaze also is a nice counterpart to the savory, salty-smoky taste of the hot dogs, which get nested in a down-pillow of bread.
Enjoy them this Lunar New Year or any other occasion. Because no matter what your age, these hot dog flower buns are pure full-on fun.
Hot Dog Flower Buns
For milk bread dough:
100 grams (1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons) milk
20 grams (2 tablespoons) bread flour
125 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) warm (110 degrees) milk
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
50 grams (1/4 cup) granulated sugar, plus a pinch
335 grams (2 2/3 cups) bread flour, plus more for work surface
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 large egg
55 grams (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
1 teaspoon canola or other neutral-flavored oil, for bowl
For egg wash:
1 large egg
1 tablespoon heavy cream
For hot dog flower buns:
All-purpose flour for work surface
12 hot dogs
1 large egg
1 tablespoon heavy cream or milk
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons chopped green onions, green parts only
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
To make the tangzhong (a type of roux): In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the 100 grams (1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons) milk with the 20 grams (2 tablespoons) bread flour, and cook, whisking constantly, until thickened to a paste, 2 to 3 minutes. Immediately transfer the paste to a small bowl, scraping the sides of the saucepan with a flexible spatula; let cool until warm, 5 to 10 minutes. The texture should resemble mashed potatoes.
To make the milk bread: In a clean or new small sauce pan, scald the 125 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) milk over medium heat, bringing the milk to a gentle simmer (watch carefully as the milk tends to boil over). Pour milk into a small bowl and cool until warm to the touch (about 110 degrees). Stir in yeast and a pinch of sugar, and set aside until the surface of the mixture is foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the sugar, flour, salt, and egg. Add the tangzhong and milk, and mix on low until shaggy. Add the softened butter one piece at a time, mixing until fully incorporated before adding the next. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to knead the dough until it is tacky and slightly sticky, 8 to 9 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Wet your hands to prevent the dough from sticking, pinch and pull the ends of the dough to form a smooth ball.
Coat a large mixing bowl with the 1 teaspoon of oil. Add the dough to the bowl, gently turning it to cover with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot to proof until doubled in size, about 2 hours (or place in the refrigerator to proof for at least 8 hours or overnight).
When ready to bake: If you refrigerated the dough overnight, allow it to proof for about 2 hours in a warm spot. While the dough is proofing, line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper
After the first proof, punch down to deflate the dough and transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Pinch and pull the ends of the dough into a small ball. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions with a bench scraper (for accuracy, weigh with a digital scale if you have one). Form each portion of dough into a smooth ball by pulling the ends of the dough underneath and then rolling between the palms of your hand.
On the work surface, roll out a portion of dough into a 3-by-7-inch rectangle (it should be large enough to wrap around a hot dog). Place a hot dog in the center of the dough and pinch the edges of the dough together to seal completely around it. It helps to place the hot dog roll seam-side down and roll it gently across your work surface to thoroughly seal. Slice into six equal pieces. Arrange the pieces on the baking sheet, cut sides up, in a flower formation — one in the center with five pieces surrounding it. Each of the pieces should be close together, about 1/4-inch apart, but not touching one another. Repeat with remaining dough and hot dogs. Space each bun at least 3 inches apart. Cover with a damp, clean kitchen towel and let them rest in a warm spot until doubled in size, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Right before baking, whisk together the egg and cream. Brush the egg wash over the buns and sprinkle with the sesame seeds and green onions.
Bake until buns are golden brown, 18 to 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sugar is dissolved and the glaze has thickened, 1 to 2 minutes.
Transfer the baking sheets to a wire rack. Immediately brush the buns with glaze to cover completely. Let the buns cool for 5 minutes on sheets, then transfer to the rack to cool. Serve warm or cooled completely.
Note: Buns can be kept in an airtight container (a resealable bag works great) in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Refrigerated buns can be reheated in the microwave for 30 to 45 seconds or in a 300-degree oven for about 5 minutes, until soft and warmed through. Reheat frozen buns on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven until soft and warmed through, 10 to 15 minutes.
Adapted from “Mooncakes & Milk Bread” by Kristina Cho
More Lunar New Year Treats to Enjoy: Crispy Rice Cakes by Charles Phan
And: Oven-Steamed Fish