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First, prepare the red bean paste. You can use our recipe for sweet red bean paste, or opt for store-bought. Our original recipe makes a large batch, but you can freeze leftovers to make other recipes. To make the exact amount needed for this recipe, scale the serving size down from 21 to 4 in the recipe card. The filling must be cooled completely and can be made up to several days in advance.
In a large mixing bowl, add 1 teaspoon sugar to ¼ cup warm water, and stir in the yeast until dissolved. Let sit for 15 minutes until the yeast foams up.
Next, stir in the milk and add the flour, powdered sugar, and salt. With the dough hook attachment, turn the mixer on low. Let the mixer go for 5 minutes, or knead by hand for 8 minutes, or until the dough is soft and smooth. The dough should not stick to your hands or the bowl.
Cover with a plate to proof for 1 hour in a warm spot, or until the dough doubles in size. I proof the dough inside my closed microwave with a large mug of just boiled water next to it.
While the dough is proofing, roll 8 balls of red bean filling between your palms. Each should weigh about 25g. Cover them with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out. Set aside.
Cut out eight 3"x 3" squares of parchment paper for the buns to sit on in the steamer.
Once the dough is done proofing, put it back in the mixer and knead for another 2 to 3 minutes to get rid of any air bubbles (or knead by hand). Transfer to a clean, lightly floured surface. Use a kitchen scale to equally divide the dough into 8 pieces (mine were 50g apiece). Cover with a clean kitchen towel while you assemble the buns.
To assemble, roll a dough ball into a 4-inch disc, making the edges slightly thinner than the center. Put one ball of red bean filling in the center of the dough. Gather the edges of the dough around the filling, and pinch the edges together to close the opening.
Place the dough seam side down on a parchment square, and transfer to your steaming rack. The buns need at least 1-inch of space between each other. Repeat with the remaining dough until all the buns are assembled.
Prepare your steamer with about 5 cups of warm water. Put the buns in the steamer and cover. Your steamer water should be lukewarm to help with proofing, but do not turn on the heat at this time. Let them proof for 30 minutes.
Now turn the heat on to medium/high. Set your timer for 15 minutes, during which the heat will slowly bring the water to a boil and steam the buns. It may seem slow to heat in the beginning, but don’t be tempted to disturb the buns or remove the lid.
After the 15-minutes have elapsed, turn off the heat, and let the buns sit in the steamer with the lid tightly covered for another 5 minutes. DO NOT UNCOVER THE LID AT ANY POINT DURING THE STEAMING AND POST-STEAMING TIME. The buns need 5 minutes to set, or they will collapse and become wrinkly, so be patient. They can only be revealed after the final 5-minute timer goes off! Enjoy.