These cheese stuffed bao are made with a fluffy yeasted dough, wrapped around smooth fontina cheese and nutty parmesan. Oh so soft, easier than you think, and they can be frozen ahead of time!
Fall is in the air! As I sit here in my quilted gray slippers and cozy sweater, I can see gold and yellow and red tree tops from my window. This is my favorite time of year and always makes me so happy to live somewhere with four seasons and beautiful, tree-covered mountains.
This season and the cooler weather also mean that I am craving comfort food and every form of baked good. Cookies? Yes, please. Pumpkin-everything? Of course. Halloween candy? Why, thank you.
But today, we’re taking an adventure that we’ve not yet taken here on wyldflour before. But one which is a frequent favorite of David’s and mine! Bao. Steamed yeasted dough – not baked. If you have not tried bao, you are missing out.
Origins of Bao
With origins in Northern China, bao (or baozi) refers to a steamed, yeasted dough similar to traditional bread and typically filled with other ingredients. David and I were first introduced to bao through Molly Yeh’s cookbook Girl Meets Farm (which I highly recommend as one of my top 10 cookbooks).
A more traditional bao was filled with a spiced meat mixture, but as its popularity has grown and more and more countries get creative with the idea of a filled steamed bun, you can find all sorts of different fillings. Here, we crossed the idea with a grilled cheese sandwich–often made with very fluffy, soft white bread and American cheese in the midwestern United States. Our preferences tend to run towards other cheeses, so we’ve used fontina – a great melting cheese – and parmesan for flavor!
Why We Love It
This steamed bread-like bao is SO fluffy and not overly sweet. It is the softest grilled cheese sandwich you’ve ever had. I use my hands to tear open the bao (yesssss for cheese pulls) and then dunk them in soup. (Might I suggest roasted tomato soup?)
The possibilities for cheese-stuffed bao are also endless. Swap in your favorite cheeses. Throw some diced ham in there. Add fresh jalapenos or green chile if you’re feeling feisty.
While you have to stick around the house for any yeasted dough (mixing then waiting, shaping then waiting), the actual steps involved are very easy and don’t take much time. These also freeze and reheat exceptionally well, so I always make extra and save the leftovers.
How to Make Cheese-Stuffed Bao
- Mix the dough ingredients with a bread hook (or knead with your hands) and then let it rest in the bowl to rise.
- Cut out little parchment squares.
- Divide the dough into balls, fill each with cheese, and shape into a bun on a parchment square. Let it sit to rise.
- Get some water boiling in your steamer.
- Steam the bao in batches for 20 minutes and then carefully remove to a towel-lined basket.
- Serve warm!
- Freeze the leftovers but tell no one. Hoard for the next week.
Cheese-Stuffed Bao FAQ
Nope. So long as you have a solution for covered steaming. This could be a traditional bamboo steamer, a tamale steamer, a pot with lid and a steaming basket, or a general-purpose steaming pot (I use a double-decker beauty that is no longer sold but this steamer is very similar). If it has tiers, then you’re able to do more at once, but that’s not necessary.
Soup (tomato soup, cream-based soups, chicken noodle soup). Hearty salads. Roasted veggies.
Yes! Place the bao on a plate or flat dish so they are not touching on each other. Freeze until the bao are no longer tacky to the touch. Place all of the bao in a large zip-top bag, remove the air, and freeze. When you’re ready to reheat, remove as many bao as you want and either (1) steam the bao again until warmed, or (2) wrap the bao in a damp paper towel, and microwave until warmed through.
Any cheese you like! Harder cheeses like parmesan may not melt quite as smoothly but they’ll still be delicious. If you want melty cheese pulls, use a melting or soft cheese like fontina, soft cheddar, american, brie, mozzarella, gruyere, etc.
If you make these Cheese Stuffed Bao, be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! I love looking through the photos of recipes you all have made!
mikaela | wyldflour
Fluffy yeasted dough filled with smooth fontina cheese and nutty parmesan
2 hr, 50 Prep Time
20 minCook Time
3 hr, 10 Total Time
5 based on 1 review(s)
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 1/4 cup warm whole milk
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon + 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (plus additional for dusting)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
- 16 1/2-inch cubes fontina cheese (about 3-4 oz)
- 15 1/4-inch cubes parmesan cheese (about 1-2 oz)
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- Prepare the Dough! Combine the water and milk and heat until warm but not hot (about 100 degrees Fahrenheit). In a small bowl, stir together warmed milk and water, 1 teaspoon sugar, and yeast. Let sit until foamy - about five minutes. In the bowl of a stand mixer, measure out remaining 1/2 cup sugar, flour, and salt. Fit the mixer with a dough hook and swirl the dry ingredients together on low. Once the yeast is foamy, add to the dry ingredients while running the mixer on low. Add the butter and increase speed to medium-high, kneading for five minutes. If the dough is sticking to the bottom of the bowl, add up to 3 tablespoons additional flour, a 1/2 tablespoon at a time. Pull the dough out, lightly oil the bowl, place the dough back in the bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Set in a warm place (or in your oven with the light on) to rise until doubled in size (about 2 hours).
- Form the Bao! Cut out sixteen 3-inch squares of parchment paper and set aside. Turn the dough out onto your work surface and divide into sixteen equal-ish balls. As you work with each dough ball, cover the remaining balls lightly with plastic wrap. Use a rolling pin to flatten each dough ball until about 3 inches across. Place one cube of fontina and one cube of parmesan in the center of the dough and pinch the edges up and together to surround the cheese. Turn over and roll gently over your work surface to ensure the edges are sealed together well. Place each cheese-filled bao on a square of parchment paper. Repeat with each dough ball and load the cheese-filled bao onto cookie sheets for easy transportation. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm place to rise another 30 minutes.
- Prepare Your Steamer! Fill a pot (if using a bamboo steamer) or the bottom pot of a tamale steamer with water and place over high heat until it comes to a boil. (The water should not come into contact with the steaming basket that will hold your bao.) Reduce the heat just slightly such that the water continues to boil but it's not an aggressive boil.
- Steam Your Bao! Fill your steamer with as many bao as will fit, leaving about 1 inch in between the bao. Steam, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove from the steamer and serve! Repeat with any remaining batches of bao and freeze any leftovers.
If the water is dripping from your pot lid onto your bao, wrap the lid in a clean dish towel and then place back onto the top of the pot. It will soak up any of the steam that tries to drip down.
Freezing Bao. Place the bao on a plate and freeze until no longer tacky to the touch. Place the bao in a large ziploc bag, remove any air, and freeze. To reheat, wrap each bao with a damp paper towel and heat in the microwave until warmed through.