I don't know whether you made it to Pitt Cue Co.'s barbecue truck underneath the Hungerford Bridge last summer, but if not you're in luck, as they've just opened a tiny place on Newburgh Street. We popped in during soft launch to be immediately greeted by pickle backs, that combination of a shot of bourbon followed swiftly by a shot of pickle juice. Most people wrinkle their noses at this, but once you drink it that sweet sour kick you get is addictive. Even if it does have a hint of Big Mac about it.
Downstairs is tiny, and the four of us squished in for dinner and ordered virtually everything from the menu. Trays came out laden with smoked meats, pickles and other sides. Pulled pork was soft and juicy, pork ribs glorious. Beef brisket was smoky and tender, and beef ribs fatty and charred. Burnt ends mash was insanely addictive, and ample helpings of beet slaw cut through the richness. Crispy pickled shiitake mushrooms were an absolute revelation and I still drool at the memory. It turned us feral, and we grabbed at each others' trays, trying to get a good taste of it all. All washed down with a New York Sour, I can imagine myself spending a lot of time here when they open properly on Monday 16th January.
We popped into the kitchen to give a wave to Tom and Neil who were manning the stoves and they kindly sent us off with a packet of burnt ends. These are the ends of the briskets that take on the most smoke flavour when they're cooking and often thought of as a delicacy. In thinking about what to do with my bounty, my brain kept screaming "MASH! Re-create that mash!" but I decided instead on buns. More specifically, the buns you get at dim sum restaurants ('bao' in Cantonese), usually stuffed with char siu (barbecue pork). The buns are steamed and they are soft and sweet, rich smoky meat within. The burnt ends were an obvious replacement.
The dough was a lengthy process, and I turned to the ever-trusty Sunflower for guidance. Her recipe involved making a flour roux first, then adding this to dry ingredients. I am not much of a baker to know why, but it worked so I'll go with it.
After a couple of hours proving, the dough was then flattened and stuffed with the burnt ends mix to then be pleated shut.
Left to prove in the steamer for a little longer, I was worried that they wouldn't work. They seemed like they hadn't risen much.
Happily, they doubled in size when they were steamed. The buns came out a more cream colour than what you might be used to at dim sum restaurants, but this is because commercially made bao is made with super bleached flour. Incidentally I found some when I was at my local Chinese supermarket picking up something else while this dough was proving. Typical.
I was really happy with the result; soft, pillowy buns broke open to reveal intensely smoky and juicy meat. I ate 4 of these with ease.
Burnt Ends Bao
Makes 9 - 10
(Adapted from Sunflower)
20gr plain flour
Whisk in the flour to the water while it is heating gently. Keep whisking until it has thickened and take off the heat. Leave to cool.
1 tsp instant yeast
Flour roux as above
300gr plain flour (or bao flour)
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt
Mix the yeast with the water and set aside. Sieve the flour and the baking powder together.
Mix the flour roux with the dissolved yeast liquid, sugar, salt and oil.
Using the mixing paddle or a sturdy wooden spoon, add half the liquid to the flour mixture and mix well. Add the rest of the liquid using a tablespoon so that you get a soft but not too sticky dough. I used all the liquid but you may need less. Mix well but don't knead it and leave it for 15 minutes. Then give it a quick knead until it is smooth, and leave to prove somewhere warm for 1.5 hours or 2, basically until it has risen 1.5 times in size.
Any kind of barbecued meat, or char siu. You'll want it to have a bit of sauce though so that it's not too dry.
10 squares of greaseproof paper
1 tbsp white vinegar
When the dough has risen, dust it with a bit of flour and knead for a minute. Divide into 9 or 10 pieces and roll into balls.
Flatten the dough into a circle. It's better to have the middle a little thinner than the edges. Place a tablespoon of filling into the centre and start gathering the dough from the right handside - try to pleat and twist towards the centre so that you have a middle gathering at the top of the bun. Place on a square of greaseproof paper and leave to rise for another 15 minutes.
Add the white vinegar to the water in the steamer - this is supposed to make the bao fluffier - and once the water is boiling, add the buns to the steamer and place the lid on. Steam for 10 minutes on high and then remove. Eat while hot; any leftovers can be refrigerated and steamed gently to reheat, or frozen.