Cute food is its own excuse, right? But I admit that having a kid to pack lunches for makes a nice reason to spend a little more time making things adorable. My daughter, despite our best efforts to introduce her to new and interesting foods, stubbornly adheres to a diet consisting of chicken nuggets and other processed meats (i.e., hot dogs and ham), along with carbs of all kinds. When we went to dim sum last weekend and she carefully ate only the outside of a steamed barbecue pork bun (the filling was not deemed acceptable), I knew that I could make a variation she’d devour.
First I made a basic fluffy roll dough, using the following recipe:
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
1/2 beaten egg (remaining 1/2 will be used for egg wash)
120g water, warmed to 100 degrees F
25g butter, at room temperature
Combine all ingredients except the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix until a dough forms. Add butter and continue mixing until incorporated. Knead dough for 10 minutes, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size (about 1 hour).
When dough has doubled, punch it down and form into 10 small balls. Put the balls on a baking sheet and let rest for 15 minutes, covered with plastic wrap.
Flatten each ball and fill with filling of your choice (I used sliced ham and string cheese), then fold up the corners and put the filled dough balls back on the baking sheet, seam side down. Let rise for 45 minutes, again covered with plastic wrap.
That’s the basic recipe, but to make these extra cute, I sliced hot dogs into 20 coin-shaped discs (took about 1.5 hot dogs) and cut 10 of them in half. For the other 10, I used a piping tip to punch out nostrils. I brushed the risen buns with egg wash, then arranged the hot dogs on top of the dough balls and poked eyes in the dough with the end of a very pointy chopstick.
The buns baked at 350 degrees for about 18 minutes, until golden brown.
1. You can fill these with whatever you like, sweet or savory. The buns themselves are slightly sweet, so would go with just about anything. Just make sure to thoroughly cook your fillings beforehand– these don’t bake long enough to cook raw fillings.
2. It took longer than an hour for my dough to double in size, probably because my yeast was straight from the freezer (keeps longer there than at room temperature). Go by size, not time, or you may end up with dense buns instead of fluffy ones.
3. If you use something like cheese as a filling, don’t be surprised if it oozes up out of any holes you poke for eyes or other decorations. It made for some really creepy looking piggies in my oven…