This vegan spiral mantou, 馒头 (bun) or mantau (Cantonese) is made with simple pantry ingredients. I love to serve them plain or as a dessert with jam or savory with stuffed stir-fried veggies and protein. This recipe is inspired by – Tinrry Baking
Mantou or mantau is a type of bun that is usually made from plain flour, water, and yeast with a touch of sugar in most cases. The bun is usually a little denser compared to others. It’s one of the basic yet delicate bun recipes to learn. In Malaysia, we have pandan flavored mantou that is tiny and my mama would get them for breakfast.
For the basic mantou recipe, please check this or my good friend, Wei’s blog. Today, I’m using a different method to create this spiral version that requires only one proofing, right before steaming. Please check out the how-to steps and tips below.
Vegan Spiral Mantou (Bun) Step-by-Step
Step 1: Prepare the dough
First, place water in a large mixing bowl, then sprinkle instant yeast on top. Add sugar, then flour and oil.
Fit a mixer with a paddle attachment. Using medium-low speed, combine all the ingredients together until there are no dry spots of flour left in the bowl.
Stop the mixer and change to a hook attachment. [If you have a double spiral hook attachment, use that instead of changing from paddle to hook]. Knead over medium speed until a smooth dough forms, about 5 – 8 minutes. The dough should be smooth, soft to touch, and doesn’t stick to your hand [check video or picture]
Divide into 2 equal portions. Cover and work with one dough at a time.
Step 2: Roll out the dough
To remove the air bubbles, first knead the dough again (see the below pictures).
Then, fold it into a rectangle, and use the rolling pin to flatten it into a larger rectangle. Repeat this step 2 more times to get a smooth dough.
Tip: Dust some flour between each roll so the dough can be lifted up easily. Roll into a large rectangle and cover to prevent the dough from drying out. Always place the smooth surface (white dough) at the bottom so when you roll it up, it will be on the outside.
Next, work on the second dough. Poke a hole in the middle, add cocoa powder and dip your fingers with water.
Knead the dough with your hand until all the cocoa powder is incorporated. Note: The dough may seem lighter in color but it will turn darker later. Roll out the dough into a large rectangle, similar size to the first dough.
Place the chocolate dough on top of the white. Then, roll it up tightly, like a swiss roll. Pinch the openings (the long part) to seal.
Cut into 6 portions for larger or 8 for smaller buns (I used a serrated knife to get an even cut). Place each on parchment paper. Transfer to a bamboo steamer, 1 to 2-inches apart.
Now, add enough water to the pot and warm it to about 98.6°F (37°C). I tested it with my palm – it should feel just right without any heat. Place the bamboo steamer on top and proof the bun for about 30-35 minutes.
Two ways to check the bun readiness
- Size – Once the bun size is proof to 1.5X than the original size, it’s ready. This method is harder to gauge but aim to look for a fuller bun when checking.
- Touch (my favorite method) – Gently poke the bun’s surface with your finger. If the surface slowly bounces back, then it’s ready. The bun should feel light and soft.
Step 3: Steam the bun
Slide a fork or chopstick in between the lid and bamboo steamer to create a slight gap. Set the steamer to medium heat. Steam for 18 minutes. Turn off the heat, and let the buns sit in the steamer for another 5 minutes before removing. Serve warm with butter or jam.
Vegan Spiral Mantou Cooking Tips
- Folding method – When rolling the dough, I aim to fold it into a rectangle. This is the easiest way to remove air bubbles while minimizing the flattening buns after steaming. To start, roll the dough into a long oval shape. Fold the sides to the middle, followed by the top and bottom to form a long rectangle. Then, use the rolling pin to press and flatten it into a rectangle. Repeat the steps 2 more times. This is a great way to roll it into a rectangle later.
- Dust flour on the work surface – You may find that the dough keeps shrinking back or sticking to the surface. Dust the surface with flour when rolling to prevent this from happening.
- Aim to have a smooth surface (the white dough) at the bottom, so when you roll it up, it’s on the outside. Always remove as many air bubbles as you can to prevent buns from collapsing when steamed.
Which type of steamer to use for smooth buns?
The best is a bamboo steamer with a bamboo lid because the water condensation can be absorbed through the basket instead of dripping on the buns. This steamer will yield the best smooth buns. A stainless steamer can be used but a cloth-covered lid is needed. I used a bamboo basket and place a fork or chopstick to create a gap between the lid and steamer.
Vegan Spiral Mantou FAQ
- Can I knead by hand? Yes, you can, but it takes a lot more effort and time to get a smooth top.
- Why do I need to roll and fold the dough into a rectangle so many times? This is to remove any air bubbles and create layers in the buns. You’ll hear a popping sound each time you roll and the sound will slowly diminish as you are in your 3rd rolling and folding the dough.
- My bun collapsed or is not smooth – This happens when you overproof the buns or use too much liquid. The best way to make buns is to weigh the ingredients. The all-purpose flour I used has 11.7% protein content. Some flour does absorb liquid differently. So, if you think the dough needs more water, please knead a few more times before adding more liquid.
- Why is my chocolate dough looks light? The color hue varies based on the type of cocoa powder you use. I used unsweetened cocoa powder from Trader Joe’s. Please note that the color will turn darker during proofing and after steaming, so it’s normal to be light in the first place.
This Vegan Spiral Mantou
- has a hint of sweetness – adjust the sugar if you prefer sweeter mantou. I prefer to keep mine simple because I often serve it with butter or jam or stuff it with savory veggies.
- only requires 1 proofing
- once steamed and cooled down, you can store them in an airtight container in a freezer. Just reheat in a steamer or microwave when ready.
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback and see your beautiful re-creation. Leave me a comment, rate it, and tag @woon.heng and #woonheng to your photos on Instagram or Facebook. Happy cooking, friends!
Vegan Spiral Mantou (Bun)
- 300 g all-purpose flour
- 155 g of warm water
- ¾ teaspoon instant yeast
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon cooking oil
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- To make the dough, place water in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top followed by sugar, then flour, and finally oil.
- Fit the mixer with a paddle attachment. Knead to incorporate the ingredients or until there are no dry spots of flour left in the bowl. Stop the mixer and scrape off the mixture from the paddle attachment.
- Switch to a dough hook, knead again using medium-low speed until you get a cohesive dough with a smooth outer layer, about 5-8 minutes.
- Divide dough into 2 equal portions and cover one with a lid or damp towel to prevent it from drying out.
- Knead the other one to remove air bubbles. Roll into an oval, then fold in the sides followed by the top and bottom into a rectangle. Using a rolling pin, press to flatten the dough. Repeat the same step 2 more times. Then, roll it out into a large rectangle (about 18X12), dusting more flour on the work surface as you go. The flour can make the rolling easier and prevent the dough from sticking to the surface. Alternatively, you may roll it out into a rectangle on parchment paper. Note that this may create wrinkles on the dough.
- Next, uncover the 2nd dough and make a hole in the middle. Add a spoonful of cocoa powder, and dip your fingers with water. Sprinkle it on the cocoa powder and knead until incorporated. I used 2 tablespoons for extra cocoa flavor.
- Now, repeat the same steps and roll into a rectangle as big as the white dough.
- Stack the chocolate dough on top of the white.
- Lift up the bottom (long side) and roll it up into a swiss roll. Pinch to seal, leaving two ends untouched and cut into 6 portions (for larger buns) or 8 portions (small buns).
- Place each bun on parchment paper and transfer to the steamer rack
- Fill the steamer pot or pan with water and heat it to about 37C. Place the buns on top and cover with a lid and proof for 30-35 minutes. Check the bun readiness – using your finger, gently poke the bun. If it bounces back, then it’s ready. The buns should feel light and soft.
- Stick a fork or chopstick in between the lid and steamer to create a gap. Turn on the heat to medium and steam for 18 minutes. Turn off the heat, and let the buns cool down inside the steamer for another 5 minutes before uncovering. Serve warm with a jam or vegan butter.
- I used unsweetened cocoa powder from Trader Joe’s. If you use the sweetened version, you may opt to skip the sugar when making the dough.