When your best friend’s mom is Japanese, you don’t get milk and cookies as a snack when you visit, you get steamed buns filled with sweet red beans and a mug of green tea.
Mia’s mom is - hands down - the best home cook I know. As teenagers, Mia and I would get dressed up and drive into Washington D.C. to eat at all the best restaurants. But what I looked forward to, even more than our forays into the city, was dinner with her family.
Mrs. Brogan would always prepare the most amazing meals: platters of salmon sushi and vegetable tempura, hot pots of noodles and fish cakes, and piles of Japanese-style braised chicken.
She would always leave out plates of fresh fruit or slices of freshly baked raisin bread just in case we got hungry. And when it was time to go home, I would never leave empty handed; a bag of garden vegetables or a steamed bun would accompany me on my ride home.
This recipe is entirely inspired by, and dedicated to, Mrs. Brogan. Thanks for always welcoming me with open arms and delicious food.
Brown butter and pumpkin were made for each other. If you get nothing else from this post, please take away the knowledge that brown butter and pumpkin may be the best flavor combination of all time. These steamed buns have a springy, soft texture that give way to a bright pumpkin filling. I intentionally left out any type of pumpkin pie spice so the natural flavor of pumpkin and brown butter would shine. They are delicious and are a unique way to get your pumpkin fix.
Brown Butter Pumpkin Steamed Buns
(Yields 12 Steamed Buns)
There are four steps in preparing these steamed buns: 1. Roast Pumpkin ~ 2. Make Brown Butter Pumpkin Filling ~ 3. Make Dough and FIll ~ 4. Steam
Step 1: Roast the Pumpkin
1 sugar pumpkin (about 2-3 pounds)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil – to grease the cookie sheet
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the stem off the pumpkin then cut it in half. Put the pumpkin, cut side down, onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake the pumpkin for about 45-50 minutes, or until a knife slides into its flesh without resistance. Let cool. Remove the seeds and stringy insides with a spoon.
Scoop out the cooked flesh and put into a medium bowl. There should be about 3 – 4 cups of pumpkin. Mash the pumpkin with a fork until smooth (it’s ok if it isn’t perfectly smooth). Only about 1 ½ cups of pumpkin is used for the steamed buns. The rest of the pumpkin can be reserved for other recipes
Step 2: Make Brown Butter Filling
¼ cup butter
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 ¼ cups pumpkin – mashed (from step 1)
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar
Place butter into a saucepan and melt over medium heat. You do not want to step away from the butter because it can quickly go from browned to burned if you are not watching it. Simmer until the milk solids in the butter start to brown (the butter will start to smell nutty). At this point take the butter off the heat.
Whisk the cornstarch into the melted butter. It’s okay if there are some small clumps of cornstarch. Put brown butter-cornstarch mixture into a medium bowl. Add mashed pumpkin, salt, and sugar to the brown butter-cornstarch mixture. Mix thoroughly and put in the refrigerator until it is time to fill the buns.
Step 3: Make the Dough and Fill
Ingredients for starter:
1 package active drive yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ cup flour
1/4 cup warm water (warm to touch)
The rest of the dough ingredients:
½ cup warm water
2 cups flour – plus extra for kneading
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
¼ cup sugar
¼ pumpkin mashed pumpkin
2 drops red food coloring
4 drops yellow food coloring
Mix all starter ingredients in a medium bowl and let sit for 30 minutes.
Add the rest of the dough ingredients to the starter and mix until a dough is formed. Overturn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, adding additional flour when the dough starts to gets sticky. Put kneaded dough into a large greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 2 hours until tripled in size.
Punch down the risen dough and knead for a couple minutes. Cut into thirds. Cut each third into fourths to produce 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Roll out each ball into a circle that is 4 – 4 ½ inches in diameter and is a ¼ inch thick. You can also use your hands to stretch the dough to the proper size.
Fill the rolled/stretched out dough with a heaping tablespoon of the pumpkin brown butter mixture, leaving a ¼ inch border of dough around the filling. Close the bun by pinching the edges of dough together, stretching the dough slightly around the filling. All the edges should come together at the top of the dumpling. Repeat until all the 12 buns are formed. Place the filled dough on a 2” X 2” square of parchment paper seam side down.
Step 4: Steam Buns
Place the buns and parchment in a steam basket, leaving about a 1/2 inch of space between the buns (they expand while cooking).
Choose a saucepan or wok that your steam basket can fit over. Add a couple cups of water to the pan and bring to a boil. You don’t want so much water in your pan that your steam basket is touching the water, but you don’t want so little that your water completely evaporates before the buns are done cooking. Steam for 12 minutes. Enjoy!