Cheeseburger baos have been popping up on Instagram again lately. It seems some local Bay Area bao shops have started making these delicious morsels of food. I was curious how this dish started so I did a little bit of research. While I can’t indicate exactly who made the first cheeseburger bao, it was Disney World’s Animal Kingdom that made it popular. The Satu’li Canteen served what they called cheeseburger steamed pods. They were steamed bao buns filled with ground beef and cheese with hints of ketchup and bits of pickles. Sadly, they were cycled out of the menu in December 2018. I’m a fan of Disney. I’m not a crazy fanatic with a bunch of Mickey Mouse clothing, but I do enjoy the amusement parks quite a lot. There’s something quite charming about the park that brings me back to childhood.
Personally I haven’t tasted these cheeseburger steamed pods, but I do know what a good cheeseburger tastes like. And also because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I decided to make my own version of the cheeseburger steamed pod. One of my favorite cheeseburger styles is a Juicy Lucy. A cube of cheese is inserted in the center of the beef patty. When cooked, there is an oozy cheese center. I have burnt my tongue countless times on a Juicy Lucy, but it’s all worth it. I also think a Juicy Lucy patty would be perfect in a steamed bao. Instead of the cheese getting lost in the mix of filling, the cheese can be prevalent and noticeable.
Next, what makes a cheeseburger really delicious? The char on the meat. Through my research, I believe the ground beef in the cheeseburger steamed pod was placed in raw. I really wanted to incorporate the smokiness from char so I decided to sear the patties first. I’ve kept this bao very simple: carbs, patty, and cheese. You can definitely dip the bao into a sauce (garlic aioli maybe?) and it’s delicious. It tastes like a good old cheeseburger but so much less messy to eat.
Juicy Lucy Baos
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups cake flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 packet (7g) active dry yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 1/2 lbs ground beef (I used a 90% lean 10% fat mixture)
- 16 cubes of medium cheddar cheese (I cut it to be about 1 in x 1 in x 1/2 in)
- Step 1 In a small sauce pan, heat milk and butter until lukewarm (you should be able to touch the liquid without burning your finger). Sprinkle the yeast on top and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
- Step 2 Sift the flours, salt, and sugar into a large mixing bowl.
- Step 3 Pour the yeast milk mixture into the flour. Mix with a plastic spatula until just incorporated.
- Step 4 Mix/knead by hand until a dough forms.
- Step 5 Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2-3 minutes.
- Step 6 Place dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 2 hours.
- Step 7 Divide the ground beef into 16 equal portions. Place a cheese cube into the center of each portion and form a 2″ beef patty.
- Step 8 Over medium high heat, cook/sear the patties about 5 minutes on each side. Set aside.
- Step 9 Punch down the dough and transfer it onto a lightly floured surface.
- Step 10 Divide the dough into 16 equal portions. Keep unused dough under a moist towel.
- Step 11 Roll out each dough portion to about 5-6 inches in diameter.
- Step 12 Place one beef patty into the center and pleat the top.
- Step 13 Set assembled bao aside under another moist towel to allow it to rise a second time.
- Step 14 Steam the baos for 15 minutes.