My families love of Din Tai Fung is no secret. I did a copycat recipe of their chilled cucumber salad (a true favorite) and to this day, this simple dish, remains one of my most viewed blog posts. I think that says something. Din Tai Fung has a cult-like following and for good reason. Their soup dumplings, or Xiao Long Bao, as they’re known, are meticulously made and truly sublime. I have had many soup dumplings over the years, but theirs are exquisite.
Xiao Long Bao itself is a type of Chinese steamed bun (baozi) from the Jiangnan region in China. Traditionally prepared in a “xiaolong”, which is a kind of small bamboo steaming basket and how they got their name, Xiao Long Bao, or Xiaolongbao.
But Din Tai Fung has another lesser known secret my boys discovered and fell in love with-their chocolate Xiao Long Bao also known as their dessert Xiao Long Bao. Served similarly to their beloved soup dumplings; piping hot and in a bamboo steamer, these slightly smaller, chewier dessert dumplings have a decadent molten chocolate center that are just as addictive as their savory cousins.
My boys challenged me to recreate this tasty new-found favorite well before I had even tried them myself. Thankfully, I love a good challenge. And my research here did not suck. With the help of a few of my younger son’s friends, we were able to agree upon flavor and texture. The chocolate filling was not all that hard, a simple mix of chocolates would be required to mimic the richness of Din Tai Fung’s version. A chilled chocolate ganache would stand up against the steaming process and create the molten-like center needed. The real issue was the dough.
There are lots of articles written about how to make the perfect Xiao Long Bao. There are many people who have even tried a crack at making an exact replica to Din Tai Fung’s soup dumplings, but their sweet version is not the same. Their dessert dumplings were special and not a typical hot water dough as I had first suspected. At one point I had thought it was a mochi dough made from a fine rice flour, but I quickly learned that was not the case. Back to the drawing board I went.
I quickly circled back on my original thought, chocolate Xiao Long Bao had to be a hot water dough, but it required a high protein flour (such as bread flour), that when mixed with the hot water, enhanced the proteins ability to form the gluten bonds giving the dough the strength it needed. Low protein flours (as was the case with the first few hot water doughs I made) simply created too much gluten, making the wrappers chewy and tough. Bread flour allowed me to get a super thin wrapper, with great texture that remained delicate during the steaming process. Bingo. Always important to remember, cooking is often just science.
Once I had mastered the dough, I was almost there. I have read many articles about Din Tai Fung and what struck with me most was their highly controlled system for making their soup dumplings, almost like a factory. To start, absolutely everything is weighed. When I looked back I was able to find the weight of Din Tai Fung’s dumpling wrappers. In an article I had read a representative from the restaurant had been quoted saying that their wrappers weighed between “4.8-5.2 grams each“. And that right there was the missing piece I needed. I weighed my dough, I had been using double that suggested amount per dumpling. I made the adjustment and was quickly able to get the thin delicate wrapper I need to make perfect chocolate Xiao Long Bao that tasted (according to my kids) exactly the same as the ones at Din Tai Fung. Mission almost complete.
The actual folding of the dumplings was another hurdle (and for guidance on this I highly suggest you watch this video). My advise here is, the more you make them, the easier it will become, but they do not need to be perfect to taste great. I needed to play around with the steam time a bit, but after a few attempts, I think I hit the nail on the head. My family has had a lot of these dessert dumplings recently (the cost of recipe development) but I’m glad I accepted the copycat challenge because hands down these babies are worth it!
Chocolate Xiao Long Bao Dough
- 3 1/4 cups bread flour
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 3/4 cups boiling hot water
- 1/3 cup cold water
- Step 1 In the bowl of a kitchen mixer, such as a KitchenAid fitted with a paddle attachment, add the flour and the salt, mix well.
- Step 2 Add the hot water and pulse to blend. Add the cold water and pulse on and off to incorporate. (Note: the dough will not look perfect just yet, don’t panic).
- Step 3 Remove the paddle attachment and replace with a dough hook. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and slightly tacky.
- Step 4 Using your hands, form the dough into a ball and lightly dust it with flour. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and letting it rest for 20 minutes.
Chocolate Xiao Long Bao Filling And Assembly
- For the Ganache:
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
- 4 ounces semisweet chocolate
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- For the Chocolate Xiao Long Bao:
- one recipe Xiao Long Bao dough (see recipe above)
- Step 1 For the Ganache: In a small saucepan, add the chocolate, heavy cream and place over a low flame. Bring a simmer and remove from the heat. Allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes and whisk to blend.
- Step 2 Transfer the ganache to a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to chill for at least 2 hours.
- Step 3 Once the ganache has set, remove from the refrigerator. Using a melon baller teaspoon (and your hands), roll the ganache into small balls. Place on a plate and repeat until you have used up all the ganache. Place in the refrigerator until needed.
- Step 4 Assembling the Chocolate Xiao Long Bao: Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide into 2 equal pieces. Take one piece (cover the remaining piece with plastic wrap) and roll it into a long thin log. Using pastry scraper or paring knife, cut dough into smaller pieces weighing between 4.8-5.2 grams per piece. Work one dough ball at a time, while keeping the remaining dough covered with plastic wrap. (Note: This part is critical, you must weigh the dough on a kitchen scale to get the right amount. This range allows for the wrappers to be rolled out as thin as needed for the right texture).
- Step 5 Remove the ganache balls from the refrigerator and set near your work station. Roll one of the dough balls between your palms to get a nice, round, smooth ball. Using a rolling pin, roll it out flat to about 3″ round.
- Step 6 Place a ganache ball in the middle of the dough circle. Pinch pleat all the way around as shown in the video link above. Repeat with the remaining dough and ganache. This recipe will yield a bit more dough than needed, but that was to allow for errors when assembling/folding.
- Step 7 Steaming the Dumplings: Line the steamer with a piece of parchment paper with small holes (made by a paring knife) at the bottom to allow the steam to escape. Place a few Xiao Long Bao in the steamer being careful not to overcrowd them. Steam over medium heat for 5 minutes. Serve the chocolate Xiao Long Bao right away directly from bamboo steamer. Repeat with the remaining Xiao Long Bao.