Fluffy Bao Dough
Enough for 12 large bao buns
One 1.2 ounce packet instant dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
3 cups all purpose unbleached flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon canola oil or mild vegetable oil
1. Sprinkle the instant dry yeast over the warm water in a measuring cup; set aside for 3 to 4 minutes as yeast begins to foam. In a mixing bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and form a well in the center. Pour in the yeast mixture, add the oil and with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon stir together to form a soft dough; then use your hands to gather the dough into a ball and knead until it’s no longer sticky, about 2-3 minutes. If necessary add a teaspoon of flour at a time until the dough does not stick to the sides of the bowl. The dough should be moist and just barely tacky but leave the sides of the bowl clean.
2. Turn the dough onto a large clean work surface and continue to knead for about 4 minutes or until very smooth; the dough should not require any flour to keep it from sticking to the surface, but if necessary sprinkle the work surface with flour until this not-sticky dough is achieved. Pour the remaining teaspoon of oil into the mixing bowl, add the dough and roll the ball in the oil to coat. Use plastic wrap to tightly cover the bowl, top with a dish towel to keep out any drafts and let rest in a warm place for about an hour.
3. Punch down the dough, turn out onto the work surface and slice dough in half. Roll one half into the desired length, cut into pieces and roll into balls as directed for the recipe. Repeat with other half, cover the dough balls with plastic wrap, the dish towel and let rest for 10 minutes before shaping into bao.
4. Bao dough, tightly wrapped and chilled, this can be stored up to 24 hours in advance. Let warm on the counter for 30 minutes prior to shaping.