Steamed Kabocha "Pumpkin" Buns

The kabocha is a Japanese squash, available at most Asian markets and many farmers' markets in autumn. Its vibrant orange flesh is naturally sweet, and Sabrina Chin's family has served these light, airy, Chinese-style buns for dessert in lieu of American pumpkin pie. "A traditional Asian palate prefers something a little less sweet," she says. Sifting the flour helps give the buns their appealing lightness. (A conventional vegetable steamer in a lidded saucepan works well, but a traditional bamboo steamer may also be used.) <p>
Steamed Kabocha "Pumpkin" Buns

Ingredients

¾ cup warm water
¼ cup sugar
1½ teaspoons active dry yeast
1½ cups cake flour
1½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
3/8 teaspoon salt
¾ tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 pound kabocha, rind on, seeds scraped out
Toasted sesame oil, for brushing

Nutrition Facts

Per serving: 142 calories, 1 g fat (<1 g saturated), 30 g carbohydrates, 3.4 g protein, 1 g fiber, 73 mg sodium (3% Daily Value).

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Directions

  1. Make the dough starter: In a small mixing bowl, combine water, sugar, and yeast, stirring to dissolve. Allow to rest until bubbles form on surface of water, about 5 to 10 minutes.

  2. Make the dough: In a large mixing bowl, sift cake flour, all-purpose flour, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture and pour in starter; stir gently with a fork to moisten flour. Remove fork and knead mixture by hand until a soft dough is formed. Add butter and continue to knead until dough is smooth and elastic. Form a large ball, cover with a clean, slightly damp cloth, and allow to rise until roughly doubled in size, about 60 to 90 minutes.
  3. While dough rises, prepare the filling: Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush kabocha flesh with sesame oil and bake in a small pan until fork-tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool, then scoop flesh out of rind and place in medium bowl with remaining salt. Mash gently with a potato masher or fork until smooth and creamy. Cover with wax paper secured with a rubber band and set aside.
  4. Make the buns: After dough has risen, divide into 12 balls and place on a flat, lightly floured surface. With a rolling pin, gently roll out each ball to create a 6-inch disk with edges slightly thinner than its center. Place roughly 2 tablespoons of filling in the center of each disk, fold edges around filling to form a bun, then let buns rise again, uncovered, about 1 hour. Heat water under steamer. Cut squares of wax paper to fit under each bun and place buns on paper in steamer. Steam over high heat for 10 to 12 minutes. Serve warm directly from the steamer.