In China, these soft, steamed buns are typically served up savoury. But, with a simple dough and classic pie fillings, you can create the ultimate handheld dessert – like a British banoffee pie bao with bananas, cream, cinnamon and toffee.
For the Bao Buns, mix the coconut milk, sugar, coconut oil and vanilla in a medium bowl. Gradually stir in the flour until combined. (Work in the flour by hand as the dough gets stiffer.) Form into a ball. Cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 1cm thickness. Cut out 16 discs (3 inches in diameter) with a cutter. (Reroll the scraps and cut out discs just one more time. Overworking the dough may cause bao buns not to rise properly).
Brush the dough discs lightly with additional coconut oil. Fold over each disc without pressing down. Cover with a damp kitchen towel. Let rest 10 minutes.
To cook the Bao Buns, pour 1 inch of water into a large pot. Bring to the boil. Line a steamer basket with parchment paper. Place some of the bao buns in the steamer basket. (Do not overcrowd the steamer as the buns will expand during cooking.) Insert the steamer basket into the pot. Cover, and steam on a medium heat for 10 minutes or until the buns have expanded. Transfer the buns to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining bao buns.
For the Banoffee Pie Filling & Caramel Sauce, mix 2 tablespoons of the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Coat the banana slices in the cinnamon sugar mixture.
Heat half of the butter in large frying pan on medium-high heat. Add the bananas and cook until lightly browned, turning once, then remove the bananas. Add the remaining butter, sugar and vanilla to the same pan, stirring to melt the sugar. Cook for 5 minutes or until the caramel is golden brown. Gradually add the coconut milk while stirring then remove the caramel sauce from the heat.
Beat the cream cheese and 1/4 of the caramel sauce in a large bowl with the electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Gradually beat in the double cream. Beat on a medium-high speed for 2 minutes or until fluffy. Gently stir the crumbled biscuit into the banoffee pie filling.
To assemble, gently split the bao buns. Dollop a spoonful of Banoffee Pie Filling into each bao bun. Top each with banana slices and drizzle with Caramel Sauce. Serve immediately.
Lotus biscuits are a brand of Belgian Speculoos biscuits. These crisp biscuits have flavours of caramel and spices. You will find them in gourmet markets, or the international aisle of some supermarkets or online stores. If unavailable, substitute crushed gingersnaps.
Do not reroll the bao dough more than once. Overworking the dough may cause the bao buns not to rise properly.
If you have a traditional bamboo steamer, use it to steam the bao buns. If you own neither a bamboo steamer nor a steamer basket, you can use a metal colander. You can also make a steamer out of a disposable aluminum cake tin. Poke holes in the bottom of the cake tin. Place upside down in large pot with 1/2- to 3/4-inch boiling water. Place parchment paper on the pan. Place some of the bao buns on the parchment paper. Cover and steam as directed.