Shao bing is a popular street snack and breakfast item in northern China made from laminated dough (think thin, buttery layers of carbs) stuffed with a variety of sweet and savory fillings. This recipe, from Kristina Cho’s new cookbook, Mooncakes and Milk Bread, is a buttery brown sugar version that’s not unlike a cinnamon roll or a buttery, sweet, flaky flatbread.
“The style of shao bing depends on the city,” Cho explains. “Sometimes the dough is leavened, sometimes it’s thin and cracker-adjacent, and sometimes it’s filled with pork instead of sugar. What’s consistent is that street vendors make them fresh every morning in makeshift tandoor-like ovens. Shao bing are baked on the walls of the barrel-shaped ovens and then peeled off when perfectly crisp.” But, as she explains, “for those of us without tandoor ovens, a regular oven and baking sheets work fine.”
Taken from Mooncakes and Milk Bread by Kristina Cho. Copyright 2021 by Kristina Cho. Photographs copyright Kristina Cho. Used by permission of Harper Horizon, an imprint of HarperCollins Focus LLC.
Brown-Sugar Pear Puff Pastries
1¼ cups (275g) warm water (about 110°F)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
Pinch of granulated sugar
2½ cups (300g) all-purpose flour
1 cup (125g) whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon coarse salt
3 tablespoons (30g) canola oil, plus more for the bowl and board
Brown Sugar Filling
1 stick (113g) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup (90g) firmly packed brown sugar (light or dark)
1 tablespoon (20g) honey
2 tablespoons (20g) canola or other neutral flavored oil
¼ cup toasted white sesame seeds
1. Make the dough: In a small mixing bowl, combine the warm water with the yeast and granulated sugar, and set aside until the surface of the mixture is foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour and salt. Pour the yeast mixture into the bowl and mix on low for about 2 minutes. Add the oil, increase the speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and tacky, 8 to 9 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Pinch and pull the ends of the dough into a smooth ball.
3. Lightly coat a large bowl with 1 teaspoon oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl, turning to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to proof in a warm spot until doubled in size, 1½ to 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
4. Make the brown sugar filling: While the dough rests, in a medium bowl, combine the softened butter and brown sugar. Mix with a flexible spatula until well blended. Set aside at room temperature until ready to fill the bread.
5. Once the dough has proofed, punch down to deflate it and transfer it to a lightly floured work surface. Pinch and pull the ends of the dough into a smooth ball. Divide the dough into ten equal portions with a bench scraper (for accuracy, you can weigh with a digital scale if you have one). Form each portion of dough into a smooth ball.
6. Working on a wooden cutting board lightly brushed with oil, roll out one portion of dough into a 3-by-10-inch oval. Spread 1 tablespoon of the filling on the dough, leaving at least a ½-inch border around the edges. Fold the dough in half lengthwise. Gently pat down the dough to remove any air bubbles. Starting along a short end, roll the dough into a tight coil, tuck the end of the coil underneath, and set aside on the counter. Repeat with remaining portions of dough and filling to form ten shao bing. Cover the dough coils and allow them to rest for 15 minutes. (Don’t be tempted to skip this step because the dough will not roll out as easily without a proper rest.) Line two large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
7. Firmly flatten one coil with the palm of your hand. Roll out the coil into a 5-inch round. The dough might fight back a little, but be patient or let the dough rest for a few more minutes. Place the formed shao bing on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining portions of dough. Cover the sheets with clean, damp kitchen towels and allow the dough to briefly proof in a warm place, 25 to 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
8. Make the topping: Mix the honey and oil together in a small bowl. With a pastry brush, top the shao bing with the honey mixture. Sprinkle the tops with the sesame seeds.
9. Bake the shao bing until golden brown, 17 to 19 minutes. Transfer the sheet to a wire rack and cool the shao bing on the sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to the wire rack to continue cooling. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Note: Shao bing are best enjoyed fresh from the oven but can be stored in an airtight container (a resealable bag works great) for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Reheat on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven until crisp and warmed through, 5 to 10 minutes.