Today, I have a very special recipe to share with you, so please indulge me.
Although my parents immigrated to the United States over 50 years ago, they still love their Chinese food more than any other cuisine – authentic Chinese food that is. We’re not talking about Chinese take-out. We’re talking about food that you won’t find in most Chinese restaurants, and in the case of these Beijing Biscuits or Shao Bing that I’m sharing today, you probably can’t find these anywhere in the United States, unless you have a mom who knows how to make them like mine or you make them yourself.
My dad is from Beijing, and although he left China when he was a teenager, he never forgot his favorite foods as a child. Over the years, my mom worked to recreate some of my dad’s favorite foods from his childhood memories of what his favorite foods looked and tasted like. Not an easy task, especially since my mom is from a completely different province in China and was unfamiliar with these foods.
The recipe I’m sharing today is a very special one – one that my mom has refined over many years and perfected (including making them healthier by using some whole wheat flour). It has the shape, size, taste and all the layers that my dad so fondly remembers. In fact, a friend of my mom’s who tasted the real thing in Beijing gave her the ultimate compliment when she said her homemade Shao Bing tasted just like what she had in China.
My mom and I spoke by phone a few weeks ago about these Beijing Biscuits (as my refers to them) or Shao Bing, and how she was trying to teach her caregiver to make them, but how inconsistently they were coming out. Apparently, the bings were coming out all different shapes and sizes, and the sesame seeds were not sticking to the tops of the bings (she did not listen to my mom’s detailed instructions about using egg white to make the sesame seeds stick). So, I took up the challenge of trying to make Shao Bing at home, hoping to ship off a batch to my folks for their approval.
My first attempt at making Shao Bing resulted in oversized buns that were more like hamburger rolls than bings. I eagerly shipped off my hard work to my parents (they took all afternoon to make), only to be told by my mom that they did not look or taste like the real Beijing Shao Bing (sorry, Ming Tsai, I usually love your recipes, but your recipe was way too complicated, took me all afternoon to make, and didn’t pass the taste test from my parents). Although they tasted great (at least I liked them), my buns were not the right texture (they were denser), nor were they the right shape or size (not flat enough and way too big).
So, my mom, who by the way is nearly blind (which makes this all the more remarkable), spent a day making her own batch of Shao Bing, wrote the recipe down for me, and shipped them off to me. Sure enough, my mom’s bings were much smaller and flatter than mine, and had nice layers of dough inside.
Beijing Shao Bing (北京燒餅) is considered a common snack food in Beijing, sold on the streets everywhere. All you have to do is google it and you’ll find images of what these little bings look like. Bing in Chinese refers to any kind of flat bread, so scallion pancakes are a type of bing as are these biscuit like buns called Shao Bing.
What makes Shao Bing special are all all the layers inside, separated by sesame paste and in this case, a sprinkling of ground roasted Szechwan peppercorns and salt.
The tops are coated with a layer of sesame seeds, although from what I gather, you can also buy these bing in Beijing without sesame seeds on top.
Shao Bing are commonly eaten for breakfast with soy milk or tea, as well as with hot pot. Although shao bing can be eaten as is, they are often stuffed with assorted fillings, some sweet, some savory. Sweet fillings might include red bean paste, black sesame paste, or jujube (date) paste. Savory fillings might include Rousong (肉鬆), Char Siu, or a simple stir-fry of ground or shredded meat and vegetables.
This recipe is a family treasure, and I’m recording it here so that my children will have it to pass down. My next challenge will be to try making gluten-free Shao Bing.
Now, I’ll take you step-wise through the process of making these Shao Bing. They are a bit time consuming (especially when you’re making them for the first time, and washing your hands in between each step to take a picture), but with practice, I’m hoping to get better and faster at it.
First, take half the dough and roll it into a 12″ x 14″ rectangle (you will repeat the same steps below for the other half of the dough).
Brush sesame paste (toasted, not tahini) all over the rolled dough.
Sprinkle sesame paste coated dough with ground toasted Szechuan peppercorns and a little salt.
Start rolling the dough up in a tight roll.
Seal the ends tightly – you may need to use a little water.
Cut rolled dough into 1 1/2″ pieces (you should have 11-12 even pieces).
Pinch the open ends together tightly.
Place dough in palm of your hand with with cut edges facing out (you want the dough layers to lay horizontally) and mold dough into round circle, rolling each piece between the palms of your hand.
Press circle flat to about 2 1/2″ in diameter and 1/4″ thick.
Brush tops of each circle lightly with egg wash and press gently in sesame seeds to coat one side.
Set aside and let rise for 30 minutes. Place shao bings sesame seed down on a baking sheet.
Bake at 375 degrees with sesame seed side down for 10 minutes; then turn shao bings over and bake another 5 minutes.
Although you can pan bake Shao Bing (that’s my mom’s preferred method), I found baking them resulted in more evenly browned Shao Bing, perhaps because my pan had hot spots and cold spots.
I served my Shao Bing stuffed with Stir-Fry Pressed Bean Curd, Garlic Chives and Bean Sprouts. I’ve also served them stuffed with scrambled eggs and scallions for breakfast. My mom stuffs hers with sliced meats sometimes.
Thanks for the Shao Bing Cooking Lesson Mom! I never realized how much labor went into making these, but now I have a much better understanding and appreciation. I’m so glad I actually made these and chronicled each step so I can refer to this post in the future and pass it down to future generations.
I’m participating in Food Network’s Comfort Food Feast this week where Biscuits are being featured. Please check out what my talented food bloggers came up with this week:
What’s Gaby Cooking: Cheddar-Bacon Buttermilk Biscuits
Jeanette’s Healthy Living: My Mom’s Beijing Biscuits “Shao Bing”
The Cultural Dish: Pineapple Biscuits
And Love It Too: Coconut Flour Country Biscuits
Red or Green?: Green Chile and Olive Oil Biscuits
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Drop Biscuits With Cheddar and Garlic
Made By Michelle: Swiss Chard and Feta Fritters
Devour: The Best Mix-Ins for Your Biscuits
Virtually Homemade: Strawberry-Tangerine Shortcakes With Bisquick Drop Biscuits
Daily*Dishin: Quick Cream Biscuits and Slow Bacon Jam
The Heritage Cook: Gluten-Free Buttermilk Biscuits
Thursday Night Dinner: Winter Shortcake Stuffed With Jam and Whipped Cream
FN Dish: 15 Takes on Biscuits
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon organic sugar
- ½ tablespoon yeast
- ½ tablespoon baking powder
- 1½ cups all purpose flour
- 1½ cups white whole wheat flour
- ¼ cup sesame paste (roasted, not tahini)
- 1-2 tablespoons sesame oil (may not be needed depending on consistency of sesame paste)
- 2 teaspoons roasted Szechuan peppercorns, ground in a spice grinder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 egg white or 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 teaspoon water
- ½ cup raw sesame seeds
- Place all ingredients except for the flours in a large mixing bowl. Stir well to dissolve sugar. Add the two kinds of flours, alternately, in ½ cup portions. Mix and knead well until a soft firm dough forms. Cover and let rise for about 2 hours.
- Mix sesame paste with enough sesame oil to make it loose and thin enough to brush on the dough.
- Gently beat egg white and mix with water to thin. Alternatively, mix honey and water together. Place sesame seeds in a shallow bowl or on a plate.
- Cut dough in half. Roll one half into a rectangle, about 12"x14". Brush with half of Shao Bing Spread. Sprinkle with roasted Szechuan pepper and salt. Starting with the long end, roll the dough up tightly, jelly-roll style. Seal edges together by pinching dough together along length of dough (use water if necessary). Cut dough into 1½" pieces. Pinch the open ends together tightly. Place dough in palm of your hand with with cut edges facing out (you want the dough layers to lay horizontally). Mold dough into round circle and roll between the palms of your hand. Press circle flat to about 2½" in diameter and ¼" thick.
- Brush tops of each circle lightly with egg wash and press gently in sesame seeds to coat one side.
- Set aside and let rise for 30 minutes.
- Heat heavy skillet over medium heat. Place biscuits with sesame seed side down. Cover and pan bake for 6 minutes. Turn biscuits over and reduce heat to medium low. Continue to pan bake for 3 minutes. Shao Bing should be slightly browned on both sides. Alternatively, you can bake the Shao Bing in a preheated oven set at 375 degrees with the sesame seed side down for 10 minutes; then turn biscuits over and bake another 5 minutes.