is for sale, 75K, contact us for more info.

Baos: The Rise & Fall (and Rise?)


I have been making white spelt sourdough Bao.
They taste great!

However. I have a problem.
I steam them for 20 mins, but they come out with the dough collapsed. What am I doing wrong?
Should I add baking powder to the dough?
The bread made with the same dough and baked comes out OK, with good crumb texture.


268 users have voted.


celia's picture
celia 2008 August 14
Jack, I've never made pau, but I know that they normally use a very finely ground flour for it - I suspect stoneground spelt might be too coarse to work successfully.  The way it's been explained to me is that stonegrinding produces larger particles than roller milling, which is harder work for the rising agent to lift.  And in the case of pau, the tradition is to use very white (bleached), very finely ground flour (not sure of the protein content, though).

Here is a recipe from my favourite Malaysian cooking site:
Diana Jenkins 2012 June 1

You are going to think I am crazy - but sometimes when I want some dim sum in a hurry (like I have the taste for it today!), I use PILLSBURY BISCUIT (the ones in the blue rolls).

1. Separate the biscuits - roll out a bit
2. in the middle put your pork or whatever filling (an easy way is to use leftover pork from your sunday roast, add some hoisin saw, chopped up coriander and scallion or whatever else you like - mix)
3. bring the dough to the center and pinch together -- it wouldn't hurt to add a little water along the seams so it will seal well
4. steam until done (you can steam in the microwave or over a pot) - so they won't stick - make sure you spray or coat your steamer insert with a bit of oil - you can also cover or keep separate the buns with a bit wax paper

Diana Jenkins,

Tampa personal injury lawyer

jacklang 2008 August 14
Following the paper cited above I have been experimenting
For simplicity these are plain breads (Mantou) following the roughly formula in the paper.
I started with yeast, and various flours:

100% flour
55% water
1% salt
2% shortening (I used butter)
2% instant yeast

Rough mix; bulk ferment 3.5 hours; sheet and fold 5 times; shape; proof 1 hour; steam 10 mins; cool 5 mins.
Cut in half for the photo.

I used 100g flour for 2 buns. The flours were
9.5% protein organic supermarket (Tesco) own brand wheat
12.5% protein organic supermarket (Tesco) own brand wheat
Glebe Farm white Spelt.

The bulk ferment time is much longer than I would use for pan bread.

To my surprise these were all acceptable, with no steamer collapse.
As expected the dough for the 12.5% wheat flour is dryer and the volume rise lower.
The dough for the spelt wetter, so it slumped a bit.
Sourdough in the next post.
jacklang 2008 August 14
I repeated the experiment with sourdough.
Here I used 30% of the flour as a starter sponge, fermented overnight.
Still 3.5 hours ferment, 1 hour proof for the dough.

Still no collapse.

The 9.5% wheat protein is acceptable
the 12.5% protein wheat was too dry
The spelt was claggy and under fermented, poor volume

These all had lower volume than the yeast equivalent.
Perhaps they could have done with a longer ferment time. I usually reckon my sourdough takes double the time of yeast, so perhaps 7 hours would have been better.

Is it just fermentation time, or the effect of the acid on the starch?

Where next?
Longer ferment?
Add baking powder?
Add alkali, like bicarbonate of soda or lye water?
Experiment with yeast and vinegar?

Suggesttions please...
jacklang 2008 August 14
Same as before, but these are all spelt, with different rising agents added at the 1% level. No salt and 6 hour fermentation.

No steamer collapse.
The plain version (just sourdough) became very liquid, hence its spread shape.
The baking powder (double action) is less liquid, and the phosphate does not seem to have inhibited the yeast.
Best is bicarbonate of soda.  This fizzed during mixing, but I doubt if the rising effect was there after 6 hours of fermentation..
My guess is that the main effect is neutralising the acid, and so stopping the starch degrading. I must try making a (non-edible) version with lye (NaOH).

The colours don't show well, but the surface of the bicarb version was rather grey.
TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2008 August 14

Appreciate you doing this series of tests on baos. Even with regular yeasted baos, my sucess rate wasn't 100%, though close. Moreover, what prevents me from making more baos is the use of highly-bleached and fine bao flour, a flour which I have phased out from our diet. So, your tests using spelt flour is very welcomed indeed, as we see that a high protein level is not necessarily good for making baos.

The recipe I use is this. The rising agents are dry yeast, baking powder AND baking soda. This is for regular baos, not sourdough. However, it is interesting to note that the recipe includes a tablespoon of vinegar, which explains the presence of the soda, which also means the recipe should be easily converted to sourdough. Anyway, I think baos need all the help they can get because of the sugar content.
If I make some charsiew this week, I'll do a more or less straight conversion of that same recipe, i.e. using both baking soda and baking powder. I do have what is labelled double-action (DA) baking powder (for baos), which seems to be different from the other DA baking powder I find on the same shelf in a cake provision shop.

Onward to spelt baos!
TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2008 August 14
The picture speaks for itself.

The whitish baos, made with superfine low protein bao flour, were disastrous. Those which were steamed looked smooth and puffed up the moment you lift up the steamer lid. But. Then, you watch the skin getting taut and squeezing at the crumb, something like collapsing. Ugh. Texture was dense and claggy.

The steamed spelt baos performed better, but, still not perfect. Pix to follow.

All the baos had soda bicarbonate (1/4 tsp to 300g flour) added to it, and, fermented for 3 hours. I should have reserved some to ferment longer, as Jack's baos which didn't collapse seem to work better with longer fermentation. I was thinking Jack's fermentation were under a cooler environment, whereas mine was at 30 deg C, so his 6 hours is not quite equal to mine. Nevertheless, I shall try longer times for my next test.

What can we gather from all these? I'm all ears.

rbd 2008 August 15
Since Spelt normally requires less water, compared to normal wheat, I suggest you reduce your water contents by 10% (or even more)


BAO, what is that! Looks like a dumpling, and maybe prepared like an american donut!
TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2008 August 15
or Pau as is anglicised in M'sia, is a chinese (sweetish) bun made from highly-bleached low protein flour; it may be steamed or baked (called siu bao). I'm sure you can find them in any chinatown, with fillings of lotus seed paste, red bean paste, barbecued meat (char siu), preserved vegetables, eggs, black sesame paste or custard.

Yes, hydration could well play a part in making it successfully. Also, I'm thinking about dry heat vs wet heat. Hmm......

rbd 2008 August 15
hey TP

Thanks for that

I've got asian relatives, but they do theirs in a deep fryer!

ed 2009 April 28

you're missing sugar in your recipe. you can also use olive oil instead of vegetable shortening to avoid trans fat. olive oil make your bread soft. take out a bit of your water and subtitute it (by weight) with milk.

any coarse substance (such as bran from whole wheat) will severe gluten strands, thus your dough will not rise as much. part of the remedy is to boost the protein by adding vital wheat gluten.

it's important (especially Pao) that you don't over proof. when gluten is stretched to the max, the initial expansion during steaming will break the gluten resulting in a collapsed Pao. it's better to under proof a little bit.
also test your yeast to make sure a large percentage of it is still alive.

albuck99 2011 September 8

TeckPo, your red bean bao looks fantastic.

I think the secret is in the low-gluten, all-purpose flour and short proofing.

What time should I come round for lunch?


Post Reply

Already a member? Login