Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Smile Pau/Bao

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it's breaking
When there are clouds, in the sky, you'll get by
If you smile, through your fear and sorrow
Smile, and there'll be tomorrow
You'll see the sun come shining through
If you'll....

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear, may be ever so near,
That's the time, you must keep on trying
Smile, what's the use of crying?
You'll find that life is still worthwhile,
If you'll just....

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear, may be ever so near,
That's the time, you must keep on trying
Smile, what's the use of crying?
You'll find that life is still worthwhile,
If you'll just....


I hope you all enjoyed this video and sang along with the lyrics as the lyrics of yesteryears are so meaningful.  Smile is a very powerful tool, even a pau/bao that smiles will make your day.  It is easier to make me SMILE but not so easy to make the pau/bao smile.  It took me 2 days and many paus/baos after, to be able to make them Smiling.  It is not the recipe, any recipe will work if we are able to recognize the function of each ingredients in the recipe.  I have edited this recipe and omitted the wheat starch and replaced it with pau flour as i have found that too much starch makes the dough tasted gummy and stick to the teeth.  The wheat starch write-up is for your knowledge only.

Pau Flour

It is a premium flour specially milled for making superb quality Hong Kong type pau/Bao.  Any brand is fine as long as the protein(gluten) is low.  I am using American Rose Cake Flour but any other brand will do. I have even used bleached all-purpose and added wheat starch to lower the protein/gluten.  Although these flours make good white paus/baos,  you must know your flour before starting out with a recipe.  A new batch of flour of the same brand will behave differently as the previous batch of flour you had.  The new batch might not absorb that much liquid, unlike the old batch which has been sitting in the pantry(Colorado has no humidity), is drier and might need more liquid.  It is a good practice to use the amount of liquid in the recipe and adjust accordingly - in this case, the more experience you have in the kitchen helps and to be able to realise the climatic atmosphere of where you are, is vital to good cooking. 

Wheat Starch/澄粉

Wheat starch is the by product/leftover starch from making wheat gluten, or 面筋. The wheat gluten bunches up when you wash the dough. The starch falls out of the dough and sinks to the bottom of the bowl.  The water is removed and then the starches are dried. I use this wheat starch to lower the protein level further.  Cornflour is a good substitute but i prefer cornflour for cakes and for pau which white is so important to maintain, wheat starch is perfect.

Ammonium Bicarbonate: 

Read about it Here

Double Action Baking Powder:

Read about this leavener HERE

Lard or Shortening:

I believe consuming a good balance of natural non-processed foods is important to a healthful diet. Eating moderate amount of saturated fats should be part of that balance We all used to squirm at the notion of eating it, but the key to successfully making flavorful pau/bao, is the use of fresh natural lard.  Well, the choice is yours, lard or Crisco shortening which has 50% less saturated fat than butter and 0g trans fat per serving.  Although shortening lacks flavor, it does not discolor the pau/bao.  Cooking oil can be used but it will give a tinge of beige.

Instant Yeast:

It is a high potency, fast acting yeast that can be added directly to your dry ingredients without it having to be activated in water first.

A starter dough is needed.

What is a Starter Doug(Bao zong).? 

A starter is made by mixing yeast, flour and water then leaving it covered in a warm place to ferment,  Once it ferments, becoming foamy, bubbly and smelling sour and yeasty, it is ready.  The first batch of breads that you make using new starter dough may not be as flavorful.  But, the longer the starter dough has been maintained, over time, the dough will become more stable and sour, adding flavor and texture to the paus/baos  In the Dim Sum restaurants where starters are used daily, a larger portion will be made and the remainder of which is constantly replenished by regular scheduled additions of flour and water, making it ever ready when needed.  Usually, 50 grams of starter dough is left behind and replenished by mixing in 600 grams flour and 300 ml water(more might be needed to make mixture into a wetter dough).  Leave to ferment another 12 hours OR UNTIL FOAMY and YEASTY.  If you are not planning to use the starter dough within the next 24 hours, refrigerate it.  It will keep for up to 2 months.  To use, remove from refrigerator ahead of time and leave at room temperature until the starter has lost it's chill.  Again, know your climatic atmosphere as it will affect the readiness of the starter dough, it might take longer for me and faster for friends in the tropic.  It also depends on the amount of yeast used too, I am very impatient, and if i used the least of yeast, it will take me 4 days before it gets foamy and yeasty.  So, I used 1 teaspoon and added 1 tablespoon of sugar, yeast is so much in love with sugar and my starter dough was ready in 4 hours.

How to make the Starter Dough:

Mix 8 ozs pau flour with 1 tsp instant yeast, 1 tbsp fine granulated sugar and 1/2 cup water for a start.  Adjust water, a little at a time, until a slightly wet dough is achieved.  Cover with a plastic wrap and prick a few holes on the wrap.  Leave this dough to ferment until FOAMY AND YEASTY. (my starter dough was ready in 4 hrs).

To Make the Pau/Bao Dough:


4 ozs Starter Dough
2 ozs fine granulated sugar
1 tsp double action baking powder
1/2 tsp Ammonium bicarbonate
A tiny drop of potassium carbonate & sodium bi-carbonate solution a.k.a. Kan Sui
3 tsp water
1 tbsp lard/shortening
9 tbsp/80 gms pau flour


Weigh 4 ozs of starter dough and add in 2 ozs fine granulated sugar.  Mix these 2 together well until the sugar is dissolved. 

Mix 1/2 tsp double action baking powder, 1/2 tsp ammonium bicarbonate, a drop of kan sui with 2 tsp water.  Mix to dissolve and add in to starter dough mixture.  Mix well to combine.

Add in 9 tbsp pau flour  and knead to a soft dough.  (a little more water might be needed as it depends on how wet the starter dough is). Add in 1 tbsp lard/shortening and knead well. Flatten dough and spread it out, dissolve 1/2 tsp double action baking powder with 1 tsp water, rub this all over the spread out dough, Fold the dough in and knead well, so that all the baking powder is well spread.  Dough is ready to be divided into 8 - 10 portions, depending on how big a pau/bao you want.

Flatten one portion and put 1 tsp of Char Siew Filling.  Pick up the edges and wrap up the filling, make sure that there is more dough on top, it will ensure smiling blossom.  You do not have to pleat just ensure that the edges are sealed well.  Place filled pau/bao on top of a piece of parchment paper, put it onto a steamer and cover with a damp cloth.  Continue to fill up the other portions.

Bring the water and 1 tbsp vinegar in a steamer to high boil.

Spray the filled paus/baos with water lightly, do not drown them and put to steam for 12 minutes.  Ensure that the water is on boiling high and DO SEAL the edges of the cover with wet towels, to seal in the heat.  The hotter the steam, the better the SMILE.

When the paus/baos are ready, remove from the steamer and allow it to cool.  Do not serve them as the smell of the ammonium bicarbonate has not dissipate.  Before serving, steam the paus/baos for another 12 minutes.


Fern Ng (Angie Khoo) said...

Oh Lily! Thanks for posting this, can't wait to try. I love U!

Chin said...

Hi Lily, Can I omit the ammonium bicarbonate? it is one ingredient I do not normally use, so I don't want to buy it, if possible.
Thanks for sharing your wonderful recipes!

lilyng said...


i have tried using 1/2 the amount of ammonium bicarbonate but the paus do not smile. If you do not want to use ammonium bicarbonate, make the supersoft pau or tien hsin pau, they are very good too. the link is

Fern Ng (Angie Khoo) said...

Lily, sorry if my question sound silly! For the flour used , is the tablespoon flour a heap spoon or level spoon? Or Please if you can let me know the flour quantity in gramme. Just can't wait to try but afraid to start because of the several failures I had before.
Really appreciate if you can help me. Best regards.

lilyng said...

fern ng

all recipes in this blog, when it is in tbsp or tsp, it will level.

1 tbsp of flour or wheat starch = 15 gms.

The amount of flour required for the main dough differs depending on how wet the starter dough is. Hold back 1 tbsp/15 gm flour and use it only if the dough is too wet.

Vivian Pang said...

This is a great 'smile' pau recipe with all the details. Thanks for your generous sharing. Do you think I can replace with low protein flour instead of pau flour?

Chin said...

Thanks, Lily. I'll give it a try. By the way, is 'wheaten cornflour' the same as wheat starch?

lilyng said...


absolutely, low protein flour is pau flour, it is just how some manufacturers name their flour. It would be called cake flour here as they are recommended for finner crumb cakes.

lilyng said...


according to wheaten cornflour contains gluten. In chinese wheat starch is called tan mein fun and it is a by product where gluten has been removed. I am sorry i can't help, but if wheat starch is not available, use 100 pau/cake flour

Chin said...

Thanks again, Lily. Appreciate your help. :)

Tuty said...

I truly appreciate your detailed explanation for every ingredient and steps. You are my culinary teacher :-)

N said...

Oh, this recipe looks really interesting! I think I'll try it out soon. ♥

Just one question though, what kind of cup did you use for the water when you made the starter dough? American or European?

Sorry for asking, my country doesn't use this system so it's a little confusing for me...

lilyng said...


i am using a 250 ml/8 ozs cup. The 1/2 cup/125 ml is only a guide, you might want to adjust by adding more.

N said...

Wow! Thanks for the quick reply!
I really appreciate your help! ♥

N said...

Lily, it's me again, hehe!

My mom and I made this recipe today and we totally loved it!
Even though our paus didn't smile as much as yours did, we became really impressed with the result.

Thank you for putting up this recipe! ♥

Fern Ng (Angie Khoo) said...

Dear Lily,
Thank you for explaining the measurement of the flours.
But sadly to say, I failed again, the paus just refused to laugh at me (>。<), (sigh...)
I don't know where i have done wrong. Followed exactly your recipe to every single word.
Can I request that next time when you make this paus, please take a photo or video of the dough so that we can have a clear look at the consistency of the dough, maybe my dough is too hard.
Once again, thanks for sharing.
Warmest regards from Penang, Malaysia.

lifang said...

Dear lily,
I tried to make the pau today. Yes, wr made it! thanks for the recipe as this is the one that my mil do all these while. she tried with so many recipes but they simply dun smile at us.
But we find the paus skin abit sticky to teeth when eating.... do you know the reason?

lilyng said...


i am glad that you and your mil liked this recipe. I come to like it too cos it is so fast to make a batch of paus especially the starter is kept alive and ready to go.

i don't really know why the skin is a bit sticky but i do know that if a little higher gluten flour is used to make sweet bread, the result tends to stick to your teeth a little, that is why most sweet bread recipe replace bread flour with some cake flour.

kokling said...

Dear Lily, Am so glad to find an active blog. I got so excited with all the pau recipes & the various pointers & reply twds comments posted. I actually took courage & try out yr smiling pao recipe. I think it is wonderful for me. Though my 1st attempt I think my pao was pretty ok.. However, I just want to understand why my pao colour is little yellowish compared to yours that is so white & happy looking pao. Cud it be due to the flour type that I used? Instead of pao flour, I actually use superfine flour.. Hope to get a reply from u.

lilyng said...


your guess could be right, i am using american rose brand pau flour and the brand of superfine flour is not bleached so white. It can also be that you have used a bigger drop of 'kan sui'. The kan sui which is alkali is used to contra the acidity in the starter.

Joyce (SG) said...

Hi Lily, I allowed the dough to sit for 6 hrs in room temperature, knead it and sit again for another 3 hrs. When i try to flatten the dough, it is too springy, i.e. it keeps shrinking back. Do u know what's wrong with it?

lilyng said...


are you following this recipe? i cannot help unless you provide me with the recipe which you have to knead the dough and let it sit for 6 hrs and then another 3 hrs.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lily,

Thanks for the recipe! I have been searching high and low for ammonium bicarbonate, do you know where I can find it? Or an online option? Is it the same as baker's ammonia?

Thank you!

lilyng said...


yes, baker's ammonia is it

try and get it from the asian stores they are so much cheaper

Anonymous said...

hello lilyng

im ken,may i know how do you make kan sui?can you give me the mixture amount.thanks.

lilyng said...


i don't know how to make 'kan sui' but i have heard that it can be made from ashes from the durian skin. you can read about it here

Anonymous said...

ok thanks for the info..btw..i never try ur recipe..but i have try people recipe but end up like the pau look yellowish..for the pau flour can i use green horse low protein flour or hong kong flour?-ken-

lilyng said...


if your pau turns out very yellowish then you have used a little too much alkali a.k.a. kan sui. If slightly off white then, it could be the flour used is not bleached.

i am sorry i don't know what is green horse low protein flour but i guess if it is low protein, then it is good for pau.

i use hong kong flour.

Daphne said...

Thank you for this recipe Lily! I first tried your improved smile pau recipe but needed to add so much more flour that it didn't work out. I then tried this one, and although I did have to add an extra couple or so tablespoons of wheat flour and wheat starch, the paus turned out great! Definitely the tip on having lots of boiling water and steam helped.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


You mentioned that to maintain the starter dough just add water and pau flour. So is yeast never needed again after the initial starter dough? Is it better to refrigerate the left over starter or replenish it and let it rise before refrigerating. I prefer the latter so that i can start wrapping the paus right away the next time I want to make paus

lily ng said...


i prefer not to replenish the starter cos i don't know when i would like to make another batch of paus. yes, just add water and flour and let it rise until double and you are ready to go.

lily ng said...


i prefer not to replenish the starter cos i don't know when i would like to make another batch of paus. yes, just add water and flour and let it rise until double and you are ready to go.

Belle Fille said...

Hi Lily,

I have some questions:
1. is it really necessary to use ammonium carbonate in pau doughs?
Aside from double acting baking powder I see you still use AC or baker's ammonia as you call it

2.I have king Arthur's whole wheat flour (
can this be used for the wheat starch in your recipe? and what other substitutes can I use?

3. I've read that you also use American rose brand cake flour and also says hongkong flour in the label.
Can I use any kind or brand of cake flour?
Will it give the same super white color to the pao?
I just want to achieve the same color as yours and from dimsum places.

4. For the instant yeast, can we use rapid rise yeast? coz ive never used instant yeast before only rapid and active dry yeast.

I love these paus and ive always wanted to be able to make the authentic kind like yours. Ive only tried making them twice with different recipes but they didn't turn out okay.

5.With the many pau recipes you have, which one is your go-to and favorite among them?

Xie Xie and I hope to hea back from you.

lily ng said...

belle fille

ammonium carbonate gives the smile pau a flavor but you can omit it.

i have not made this recipe with whole wheat flour but you can try using it and give me a feedback.

absolutely, use whatever brand of cake flour available, in fact, i am not able to get the rose brand anymore and am now using high ratio cake flour.

you can use any kind of yeast, the only difference is that the rest of the yeast besides instant have to be activated before use.

it really depends on how much time i have, if i want pau fast, i will either go for the supersoft pau or the pau dough in the sang cheen pau said...

Hello Lily, many thanks for your sheer dedication. I cook alot too and enjoy tinkering with recipes but I really admire your energy to take all this a step higher by maintaining your blog.

I've tried your Smile Pau with big success EXCEPT apart from looking absolutely gorgeous, the smell from the ammonia bicarbonate was very off putting, I did as suggested, steam till ready, cool and resteam. In fact with the third steam, the smell was still very evident :-(

Do yours turn out this way too please? Once again, thank you very much for your generosity sharing all efforts, Best regards,

lily ng said...

babe be good

the paus do have the smell of ammonia when it is first steamed - 8 mins steaming. then when it is cooled, i will steam it again and for 8 - 10 mins and the smell will go away. perhaps you are slightly heavy handed, try a little less the next time.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...