Hua juan are steamed buns flavored with scallions and twisted to look kind of like a flower (hua juan means "flower twist" in Mandarin).
It's a yeasted dough, so you'll have to plan ahead to allow time for the dough to rise and then for the shaped buns to proof. Also, you'll need a way to steam the buns; I use my stock pot with the pasta insert and steamer insert for two layers of steamy goodness. —Joy Huang | The Cooking of Joy
Test Kitchen Notes
This is a simple yeasted white dough, made of all-purpose flour, instant yeast, milk, and sugar; not too wet, not too dry, it's a dream to shape and roll. And because the buns are steamed rather than baked, they're soft and fluffy all the way through—ideal for dipping in a spicy or vinegary dish or eating on the run, when you don't want to grapple with the crumbs of a crusty loaf.
Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk until it foams and smells yeasty. Mix in the rest of the ingredients for the dough (flour, oil, and sugar) and knead, either by hand or in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, until you have a smooth ball. Cover with a damp cloth or seal tightly with plastic wrap and let proof in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours. [Editor's note: Joy proofs her dough in an oven that's on the lowest setting.]
Mix together the ingredients for the scallion-sesame glaze and allow to macerate at room temperature. Cut out 12 squares of parchment paper, about 4- by 4-inches.
After the dough has doubled in size, punch it down, transfer it to a lightly-floured work surface, and then separate into 12 egg-sized pieces.
Roll each piece into a long oval and slash into long strips, leaving a 1/4-inch section attached at one end. Brush lightly with the glaze.
Pick up the dough with both hands, twist like a cheese straw, and tuck the ends underneath to shape the buns and place on a square of parchment paper. (Here's a small video to show you how: http://bit.ly/1iixL9A)
Place the shaped buns into baking pans (I have to use 2 pans to fit all 12 buns) and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place the pans in a warm spot (or back in the warm oven) for another 40 to 60 minutes to proof.
Steam the buns for 13 minutes. Using my stock pot with my pasta insert and steamer basket, I can steam 6 buns at a time (3 on each level).
If not not eating immediately, transfer to a freezer bag once it has cooled and freeze. To reheat, wrap with plastic wrap or put in a fold-and-close sandwich bag and microwave for 45 seconds.