Chinese dumplings pastry
Well, nowadays, you can get ‘prepared’ dumpling pastry sheets in Chinese supermarkets, they normally come frozen, and contain around 30 sheets per pack.
Frozen pastry sheets are very convenient if you are running out of time to make them yourself, or just feeling a bit lazy.:)) They are good to use, the only difference is that, since they are mainly machine made, hence the thickness of the centre and edges of each pastry is the same, where traditionally it is better if the centre of the pastry is slightly thicker and the edge is thinner. And they come with a slightly bigger size than those made at home – influence from my mum – the petite ones are beautiful (also means more work though).
Making the dumpling pastry from scratch
Anyway, here is how to make Chinese dumplings pastry sheet from scratch.
Things needed to prepare
Apart from the flour and a bigger size board, you need a nice rolling pin. It is commonly made from wood, around 30cm long, and 2-3 cm diameter, (the middle bit is a bit ‘fatter’ than the two ends). Modern rolling pins can be made of marble as well; marble is heavier, which makes it easier to roll the pin using less strength.
Preparing the dough
I prefer do the dough first before preparing the fillings. Then the dough can be left to rest for 20 minutes (for example), while you are preparing the other things (time-saving as well:)))).
The choice of dumpling flour
The flour I normally use..well, if I only just cook for two of us at home, and I am very lazy to go to the shops, I just use ‘plain flour’ which can be found in any supermarket. However, if we have guests, I would not make this choice. It is only because the dumplings are supposed to be nice ‘white’ (almost transparent), and the dumplings made from ‘plain flour’ normally come out ‘dark’ after boiling –not very pretty.:)) (not important though).
And, there is another reason, since the dough made from ‘plain flour’ has a tendency to get softer and softer after letting it sit for a while, so if only prepare for two people, it is ok because before it gets too soft, you are finishing using it already, but if you are cooking for more people, while you are taking time to make each dumpling, the dough you use at last could be too soft to hold up.
When we have guests at home, I would buy the flour in Chinese supermarket, actually, now in some Chinese supermarket, they sell ‘special dumpling flour’. It is more expensive than the alternatives, but then, you don’t have to worry about the colour and softness. :))
Amount of flour
Depends how many dumplings and how many people you are serving, how much flour needs to be prepared. I normally use 4 cups of flour for 3 ‘big eaters’ without any other dishes or only just some salad on the side. Or normally 15 – 20 average size dumplings per person, bear in mind that guys eat more though. :)) However, if you have some other dishes on the table, then the amount can be reduced a little bit. I would make some ‘extras’ for avoiding getting panic when the plates are getting emptier, coz I learned that sometimes people find difficult to stop … ha… :))
Making the dough
1) As for the proportion of flour and water, I normally put three cups of flour with 1 cup of water, or 4 cups of flour with 1 cup and quarter of water. If I use plain flour, I would put a little spoon of salt for the ‘stretchiness’ of the dough, it is useful especially when the dough gets softer. After kneading the dough well, keep it in the mix bowl, and traditionally use a slightly dump kitchen cloth to cover the dough, allow it to sit for a while.
2) To make each pastry sheet is .. hard work. I normally divide the dough into 2 or 3 portions – it is always easy to work with smaller dough, especially I have small hands. :)))
3) Make sure you have dusted enough flour on the board so that the dough won’t get sticky on the board, then knead the dough into a long ‘slender tube’, diameter is around 2cm (for example).
4) Then divide them again into smaller pieces. I prefer use knife to chop it (my dad taught me this way, I never been able to change since , it is easy to measure them evenly, for instance, every 1.5cm (lots of experienced people can measure them by hands to divide them).
5) Press each of them on the board, make them flat, to get ready for rolling into thin pastry sheet. (This is the first thing I ever did for learning making dumplings when I was little). If you want to get perfect round shape, you can roll the small dough in between your palms, then press them flat. (Again, spread enough flour on the small dough and on the board for avoiding stickiness).
6) Rolling the dough into thin pastry sheet needs … practice. :)) Again, spread a pinch of dry flour on the board, then place the small dough on the top. The easiest way to do it is just roll with the rolling pin with both hands, then stop time to time for changing the directions for making it thin evenly. However, what we normally do is to roll with rolling pin with right hand (if you are right handed), while constantly turning the edges of the pastry with left hand. Every time when you push the rolling pin up, stop at the centre area. This way, in the end, you would get a nice round pastry with slight thicker in the middle for holding the filling very well, but thinner at the edges, as the edges will be ‘stick’ together.
— Ok, eventually, done with the pastry sheet!! :)))
Just couple of reminders — firstly, don’t get frustrated if the pastry dumpling sheet is not in ‘perfect round shape’. I used to try really hard to get them round, which is very difficult, my parents kept on telling me that no matter what shape they are, they could always make up a nice beautiful dumpling — it is very true. so don’t get stuck with the shape too much.
Second, again, when you stack all the pastry sheets together while you are making them, make sure you have dusted enough flour at button of each sheet, otherwise, they will get sticky together, all the work would be wasted. If only one person is making lots of dumplings, the better to start making the dumplings (with fillings and ‘seal’ them up) after making a few pastries, otherwise, the pastry sheets could get dry, it will cause problems for ‘sealing’ at the very end. You see, here is where the ‘family activity’ comes in, then this problem can be avoided…
Next, how to make the fillings.