In a bowl add your lukewarm water and sugar or honey and mix well. Add your yeast to the sugared water mixture and allow the yeast to bubble and activate for about 10 minutes. (Note there is more water to rice ratio as gluten-free flour needs to have more moisture so it does not crack)
Add your rice flour, baking powder, salt and xanthum gum to the yeast mixture and mix well. Once your dough starts to stick to itself, you can use your hands in the bowl to start to pull the dough mixture together. (Note: Gluten free flour mixture is slightly stickier than the traditional wheat flour dough)
On a “rice floured” work surface, place your dough and knead for about 5 minutes until smooth.
Place your dough in a bowl (with a little “rice flour” dusted on the bottom to prevent sticking) and covered with a damp tea towel in a warm place for about 2.0 to 2.5 hours or until double in size. (Sometimes we turn on our oven on low and crack it open a little bit to keep our kitchens warm on those cooler days) Note: It takes longer for this gluten free rice dough to rise.
In the meantime, make your beef filling. In a bowl add your beef, Shaoxing wine, green onions, sesame oil, oyster sauce, tamari (soy) sauce, garlic, ginger, salt and white pepper, 5 spiced powder and ground Sichuan peppercorns. Stir well and allow to marinate covered in the refrigerator while you are letting your dough rise.
Flour your working surface (either all purpose flour if using the wheat recipe or rice flour if using the gluten-free recipe)
Cut your dough in half. Roll each half into a log about 12 inches long and 2 cm in diameter. Cut each log in half and then cut each ½ log into 4 even slices. You will make a total of 16 slices.
Roll each of the 16 slices into a ball. Cover the balls with a damp cloth while you are working on your other pieces to keep them from drying out.
Flour your work surface and with the palm of your hand, flatten the ball. Then flour your rolling pin and roll out each ball into about a 3 in x 3 inch circle. Keep the center thicker than the sides.
Hold the dough circle in your less dominant palm of your hand. Take about 1.5 tablespoons of your marinated beef and onion mixture and place into the center of your dough circle.
With your more dominant hand take the edge of the dough and pinch it between your thumb and fore finger. Then use your middle finger to grab a small section of the edge of the dough and pinch together. Then move your fingers along the top of the edge of the dough to keep grabbing and pinching until all the dough is sealed. (See the video above) If you have extra dough on the top you can trim with scissors and then press down lightly with your fingers. Set your completed Spicy Pan Fried Beef Bao on a lightly floured surface.
This process does not have to be perfect as you are going to be frying on each side. Your goal is to make sure that it is completely sealed and that the center is thicker than the edges and that you do not have any holes or air pockets so that the beef filling stays inside the bao during the cooking process.
Complete this process with the rest of your dough balls. You should have 16 beef baos. Let rest 10 minutes before pan frying.
In a large non-stick frying pan, add your cooking oil and bring up the oil temperature to a low medium heat. (VERY IMPORTANT- low medium or otherwise it will be brown but not cooked internally) You want it to be crispy on the sides and tender on the inside and cooked to perfection on the inside.
Place your Spicy Pan Fried Beef Bao in the frying pan and cook about 3-4 minutes on each side over this low medium heat. We cook for the first 2 minutes uncovered to get a crispy bottom then the next 2 minutes it needs to be COVERED with a lid! Very important that it is covered as the covering provides a bit of internal steaming WITHOUT the addition of water. Dry Steam. We know it sounds odd but you just need to trust us on this , it works. Then, we flip over and then cook uncovered to brown the bottom half.
Do not over fill your pan, less beef bao in your pans so they are not crowded.
When your Spicy Pan Fried Beef Bao are close to being done, you will hear them start to hiss and this is because a little bit of the beef juices are beginning to be released into the pan. Get ready to remove the beef bao from the pan.
You will know they are cooked to perfection when they are perfectly golden brown on both sides, the dough is tender on the inside and the beef is golden brown and savory on the inside. If your beef is still pink when you cut in half to test the first one then place in pan for a few more minutes to finish cooking.
Enjoy hot of the griddle with a little tamari (soy), sesame oil, ginger and chili dipping sauce or just plain. Simply delicious!