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Autumnal Sweet Squash Bao

Baking at Home: Autumnal Sweet Squash Bao

It’s been too long since I’ve posted a recipe! Autumn is already in full swing and winter’s on it’s way and I have yet to write about something I’ve made. One thing I love most about autumn is all the great winter squash that arrives in the markets. I’ve had great fun just trying all the different varieties (this year, I’ve had delicata, red kuri, spaghetti, and buttercup in addition to my favorite, kabocha). What better way to enjoy autumnal squash than making some sweetened squash bao? These buns are made with half whole wheat flour, giving the bread a sweet, nutty flavor that pairs nicely with the sweet squash puree inside. Enjoy these for breakfast or for an afternoon tea snack!

Baking at Home: Autumnal Sweet Squash Bao

Autumnal Sweet Squash Bao

For the filling:

  • 1/2 red kuri squash (or your winter squash of choice), ~500g after seeded *see notes about post-steaming yield
  • 100g raw sugar
  • 1/4t salt

For the dough

  • 60g whole wheat flour
  • 65g all-purpose or bread flour
  • 3g instant yeast
  • 1/4t kosher salt
  • 2t agave nectar (or honey or maple syrup or your liquid sweetener of choice)
  • 2t vegetable oil
  • 60g water
Making the filling:

Steam kuri squash until flesh yields easily when poked with a fork. Let cool slightly, then scoop out the flesh and roughly mash (no need to make it very smooth, you’ll be working the flesh during the sweetening phase).

In a medium saucepan, combine the kuri squash flesh, raw sugar and salt, and over medium heat, stir until sugar is dissolved. Keep cooking the sweetened squash puree (this process helps to dry out the paste, you don’t want soupy squash as a filling for the buns) until it stops looking shiny and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Turn off the heat and let cool completely.

For the bao dough:

Whisk together the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, yeast, and salt. Add the agave nectar and vegetable oil and water, stir to combine until you get a rough dough.

Turn dough out onto counter and knead until you have a smooth, supple dough. I didn’t use my stand mixer as the amount of dough was small (and sometimes you just want to experience the pleasure of working with bread dough!). Knead until it passes the windowpane test, with a 5 minute rest halfway to allow the dough hydrate and the gluten to relax slightly.

Place in a medium, oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and proof until doubled in size. In my cold house, it took about 1.5 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Once the dough has doubled, turn it out onto the counter and give it a few kneading strokes, and let it rest for 5 minutes for the gluten to relax. Divide the dough into 5 pieces.

Divide the filling into 5 mounds in preparation for stuffing the bao.

Flatten each piece, and using a small rolling pin, roll out into a 5″ diameter circle, taking care to make the edges thinner than the center (so that when you gather the dough around the filling you don’t end up with a super thick bottom and a super thin top). Place 1 mound of sweetened squash filling in the center and draw up the edges of the dough around the filling; pinching the dough at the top to seal.

Place seam side down on baking sheet, and cover with a kitchen towel while you complete the rest of the bao. After filling all 5 bao, let proof for 20 minutes.

I mixed together a simple slurry of almond milk, cornstarch and a pinch of sugar for a matte-style wash. If you desire a shiny-type of wash, simply beat one egg with some water. Brush the tops of the proofed bao with your wash of choice and sprinkle with some sesame seeds for garnish.

Bake bao for 25 minutes (if they start to brown too fast, you can tent with a piece of foil to avoid overbrowning).

Baking at Home: Autumnal Sweet Squash Bao

Let cool completely on racks for at least 8 hours (this allows the dough to finish cooking completely, if you were to eat them right away, you might find the dough directly underneath the filling to be slightly raw. After 8 hours, the dough will have finished cooking and the flavor will be better. This is generally true of most breads.)

Enjoy! My favorite way to eat these is to reheat them for 20 seconds in the microwave, then pop into the toaster for a little bit to get them slightly toasty on the outside. The outside becomes slightly crispy and the inside bread stays light and fluffy. Delicious!

Baking at Home: Autumnal Sweet Squash Bao

Cooking Notes:

  • I know that squash comes in various shapes and sizes, and my kuri squash, after halving and deseeded, was about 500g. After steaming and making it into sweetened puree, the yield was about 250g. Basically, you’re aiming for about 50g of sweetened filling per bao. If your squash is abnormally large or small, you can scale up/down the dough component. Or you can just eat the extra filling as is, it’s delicious that way too!
  • Any type of squash, pumpkin, sweet potato/yam or even beans can be sweetened in this way; it’s really a universal technique that you can apply to many vegetables/legumes to make sweetened paste for bun/bao fillings, dumplings, etc.
  • This dough is pretty versatile, besides using it as a baked bao dough, this dough makes steamed bao quite nicely too. Give it a try!
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