Steamed Cuban Beef Buns
If you have a steamer and parchment paper and are comfortable working with yeast, please do dive into this recipe with abandon. It's a tempting marriage of a Chinese tradition and Cuban flavors that will prove virtually irresistible for anyone who catches a whiff of the cumin- and cinnamon-scented air it conjures. Dried currants add a chewy sweetness to the robust blend of beef and spices, and cilantro and vinegar give it the kick in the pants that any Cuban grandmother would appreciate.
Recipe CourseMain Course
- For the Dough
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 2 teaspoons fast-acting yeast
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- For the Filling
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 white onion, diced
- 1/2 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
- 1/2 cup dried currants
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1/2 cup Chicken Stock
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
To make the dough, pour the water into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle in the yeast and sugar. Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes, then add the salt, 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil, and 2 cups of the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until the dough is homogenous, then add the remaining 1 cup of flour.
Stir in the flour as best you can, then turn out the dough onto a clean work surface and knead it until it is completely smooth and elastic, 12 to 15 minutes. Alternatively, place the dough in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment and knead on low speed for 7 to 8 minutes.
Pour the remaining 2 teaspoons oil into the bowl in which you mixed the dough. Place the dough ball in the bowl, turning it to coat all sides with oil. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and leave it in a warm place. Let the dough rise until it has doubled in size, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle the baking powder over the dough and knead it in until it is fully incorporated. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes while you prepare the filling.
To make the filling, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ground beef and cook until lightly browned, breaking up the chunks with a spatula or wooden spoon. Remove the pan from the heat and scoop out the beef, leaving any rendered fat behind.
Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of fat, return the skillet to medium heat, and add the onion and bell pepper. Cook until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes.
Return the beef to the skillet and stir in the currants, cumin, cinnamon, crushed red pepper, salt, vinegar, and stock. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro. Let the mixture cool before assembling the buns.
Working on a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 16 equal pieces and roll them into balls. Cut sixteen 3-inch squares from parchment paper. These will be placed underneath the buns so they don’t stick during the steaming process.
Roll out each dough ball into a circle 4 inches in diameter. Place the dough circle in the palm of your hand and spoon 2 tablespoons of the filling into the center.
Gather the edges of the circle up around the meat mixture, pinching the top closed. Place the bun on a parchment square, pinched side up.
Heat about 3 cups of water in a large steamer. Place the buns in the steamer about 1 inch apart so they don’t stick together, and steam for 25 minutes. Serve hot.
Copyright Jody Eddy, Dan Goldberg, and Andrea Kuhn, 2016