If for nothing else, I love this frigid, snowy winter for being the official season of hotteok (호떡; fried pancake with usually sweet fillings) and jjin bbang (찐빵; steamed buns). Jjin bbang literally means steamed (찐; jjin) bread (빵; bbang). It’s also interchangeably called ‘ho bbang’ (호빵), the name when it was first introduced commercially in 1971. It implies the motion of blowing on the hot bun on a cold winter day, as well as the one that brings laughter (ho ho ho). Steamed buns can also double up as a hand warmer, which inevitably makes you smile no matter how cold it is outside.
Aside from the original version of white bun with sweet red bean paste filling, varieties seem endless. Mugwort (쑥; ssuk) bun, vegetable filling and japchae (잡채) filling are some of the classics I remember from my childhood. I’ve also seen purple sweet potato (colored with its powder) buns, carrot buns, sweet potato filling, danhobak (단호박; kabocha) pumpkin filling…I will stop here, I feel like Forrest Gump’s friend who goes off on shrimp dishes.
Steamed buns are easy to make and easy to store. Knead flour and yeast dough, let it rest, then fold in savory or sweet filling. Steam for 15 minutes and you get your own hand warmer as well as bouncy winter treat. I save leftovers in a plastic bag in the freezer and microwave it for 30 seconds when I get the craving for it.
My favorite filling these days is a combination of danhobak (단호박; kabocha), Nutella and toasted walnut bits. Danhobak flesh is naturally sweet and is thick enough to hold its place in the bun. Nutella adds timeless hazelnutty-chocolatety flavor and walnut bits give you the crunch in this all-around soft snack. Together, they make a great filling for my already favorite winter treat.
To make 6~8 steamed buns) Sift together 1 1/2 C of all-purpose flour (you may need another 1 TBSP of flour later), 1/2 ts of baking powder and 1/2 ts of salt.
Mix 1 packet of yeast (7g) in 2/3 C of lukewarm water and stir to break down lumps.
Mix together the dry ingredients, yeast and water along with 2 TBSP of sugar.
Knead dough for about 10 minutes or until smooth. Add 1 TBSP of vegetable oil and knead to incorporate. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest in a warm place.
To make danhobak – Nutella filling) Mix together 2/3 C of danhobak flesh, 3 TBSP Nutella and 3 TBSP of toasted, chopped walnuts.
I always keep a bag of danhobak flesh in the freezer which makes it easy whenever the occasion (of making steamed buns) calls for it. You can microwave a whole danhobak for 7-10 minutes until it is completely soft. Cut off the top with a knife, scoop out the seeds and discard. Scoop out the orange-colored flesh and mash to a smooth consistency. A potato masher makes the job easier but you can use a fork.
Once the dough doubles in size, which takes about 30 minutes to an hour, knead it just to flatten the dough. The dough should be moist but not wet. If it sticks to your hands, sprinkle 1 TBSP of flour and knead to incorporate. Divide the dough into 6 or 8 equal portions. With both hands, roll each portion into a smooth ball shape. Using your palms, shape the ball into a flat circle. Don’t stretch the dough too much. Leave the edges thinner than the middle. Place about 1 TBSP of the filling (more or less, depending on how big the buns are) in the middle and pull the edges carefully to seal the bun. These steps will help the filling stay intact in the middle of the buns after steaming.
Place the buns on paper cupcake liner (or parchment paper) with the closed seal facing the bottom. Place the buns in a steamer, leaving enough space between the buns for them to expand. Let the buns rest for another 10 minutes.
Heat water for steamer. Once water starts boiling, place the steamer on top with the lid on and cook for 15 minutes.
To store, let the buns cool down completely. Place the buns in a plastic bag and freeze.
potato 감자 (gam ja)
sweet potato 고구마 (go gu ma)