The longevity peach (shou tao) is not a fruit but a Chinese steamed bun in the shape of a peach, with lotus paste filling and coloured a bright festive pink. Traditionally, the shou tao is eaten at birthday celebrations of elderly folks where the buns are piled at least knee high on a tray.
Peaches are well known Chinese symbols of longevity and there is a Taoist story about the Queen Mother of the West who has a magical peach tree which bears peaches granting immortality to those who eat them. The tree however only bears fruit every three thousand years. The peach shaped steamed buns are made to symbolize those magical, immortality granting peaches.
- 500g pau flour
- 100g castor sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 10g instant yeast granules
- 2 tsp double-action baking powder
- 2 tbsp vegetable shortening
- 250ml lukewarm water
- A bit of pink colouring (for brushing the bun skin)
- 200g lotus seeds, soaked for 2 hours
- 1 tbsp alkaline water
- 155g castor sugar
- 160ml oil
For the filling: Place the soaked lotus seeds in a basin with enough alkaline water to cover. Boil the lotus seeds for 8-10 minutes. Drain and wash, then rub off the skin.
Put the cleaned lotus seeds in a pressure cooker. Add enough water and cook for 15 minutes until soft. Remove and blend into a paste.
Put 2-3 tablespoons sugar in a nonstick saucepan. Stir and cook till golden brown then add lotus seed paste and remaining sugar. Stir and cook until thick. Add in oil and cook until the lotus seed paste leaves the sides of the saucepan.
Dish out and leave to cool completely. Divide into small balls to form filling.
For the dough: Sift pau flour into a mixing bowl fitted with a dough hook. Stir in salt, sugar, yeast and double-action baking powder. Add shortening and lukewarm water. Knead for 10-15 minutes until it forms a smooth and elastic dough. Cover with a damp tea-towel. Leave to proof for 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.
Remove dough and knead on a lightly floured surface for about 2 minutes. Divide dough into small portions. Wrap up a ball of lotus seed paste. Form into the shape of a longevity bun.
Place the gathered seal edges facing downwards. Press a dent to get a line in the centre of the bun to create a peach. Place the bun on a piece of small grease-proof paper. Repeat the process. Cover the buns and leave to proof for 30 minutes.
Steam over low heat for about 5-8 minutes or till cooked through. Dip a toothbrush into pink colouring. Run your finger along the brush to create a spray of colour.