Flower Rolls

Huajuan

Preparation info

    Appears in

    Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook

    By Ellen Schrecker

    Published 1976

    • About

    Meal: Almost in Advance, Steamed

    Mrs. Chiang remembers, “My aunt lived in a nearby market town, and we loved to visit her. On market days the town swarmed with people. Peasants came in from the countryside to sell their extra eggs or vegetables, and men like my father came looking for special cuts of meat or fresh fish. Peddlers came to sell candy or big steamed buns that we ate plain or filled with meat and vegetables. Steamed buns were the staple food in the north of China, but in Szechwan they were eaten for snacks. My mother made them for banquets, to go with Fragrant, Crispy Duck or a Fresh Ham. She twisted her steamed buns into fancy shapes, so they were much more elegant than the ones the street vendors sold. This recipe is for the rolls she made to go with a fresh ham; they are twisted to look like flowers. In elegant restaurants you can get steamed buns in the form of ducks and all manner of flowers, fans, and spirals.”

    Because they are yeast breads, Flower Rolls take several hours to prepare. They can be made in advance and reheated in a steamer just before serving. Left-over huajuan are magnificent deep-fried.

    Method

    Preparation

    1 teaspoon dry yeast

    1 tablespoon granulated sugar

    1 cup lukewarm water

    Mix the yeast, sugar, and water together in a small bowl. Set it aside for 3 or 4 minutes, until the yeast begins to bubble.
    3 cups (all-purpose) flour Sift the flour into a large bowl. Slowly pour in the yeast and water mixture and stir it with a wooden spoon until it is thoroughly blended. (You may have to use your hands toward the end.)
    Flour for kneading

    Sprinkle some flour over a large wooden surface, set the dough on it, and knead for 5 minutes.

    Put the dough back in the bowl, cover it with a barely damp cloth, and set it aside to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1½ to 2 hours.

    After that time, when the dough has just about doubled in bulk, put it back on the floured surface and knead it for another minute.

    Put the dough back in the bowl to rise again, this time for only about 30 minutes, until it has again doubled in bulk.

    4 scallions

    Meanwhile, clean the scallions, and cut off their roots, then chop them, both the white part and about half the green, into tiny pieces, about the size of a match head. Set the chopped scallions aside.

    As soon as the dough has risen enough, separate it into two equal parts. Roll out one of the pieces into a large rectangle, roughly 10 by 12 inches.

    ½ teaspoon salt

    1 tablespoon lard

    (half the scallions)

    Sprinkle the salt evenly over the dough and press it in with your hands. Spread the lard over the dough, as if you were buttering a piece of bread. Finally, sprinkle half of the chopped scallions over the dough, then roll the dough up, jelly-roll fashion, into a long cylinder.

    ½ teaspoon salt

    1 tablespoon lard

    (remaining scallions)

    Using more salt and lard and the remaining scallions, repeat the steps above with the other piece of dough.

    Cut each cylinder of dough crosswise into segments, roughly one inch wide. Then take a chopstick and press it down across the middle of each piece so the inside layers flare out, sort of like a fan e Make sure that you press the dough hard enough so that the middle of each piece sticks together and the layers don’t fall out.)

    You should get about 2 dozen of these fan or flower-shaped rolls.

    Put the rolls on a flat plate and set them aside to rise for a final hour before you steam them.

    Cooking

    Set up your steamer. If you are using a Chinese one, line the bottom with a dish towel or piece of cheesecloth; you will then set the rolls directly on it. If you don’t have a Chinese steamer, construct a substitute, and place the rolls on a lightly oiled plate instead of using a piece of cloth.

    Fill the bottom of your steamer with water and bring it to a boil over a high flame. Place the huajuan in the steamer, cover it, and let the rolls steam for 15 minutes.