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I recently tried to make soup dumplings in the style of the Din Tai Fung restaurant. Their dumplings are relatively small and have very soft and thin skin that is still strong enough to not leak out the soup when you pick them up. It was the first time I ever tried to make any sort of dumplings in my life.

I tried following a recipe that recommended 00 flour instead of all-purpose flour. The recipe said:

I tested different flours for the wrappers and found that extra fine "00" flour, often used for pizza and pasta, worked best here. The fine grind of the flour made folding the dumplings an easier task, and the wrappers were better at absorbing moisture from the steam.

So I used 300g of 00 flour (13.3% protein), 180g of hot water, and 1/8 tsp of salt as the recipe specified. The recipe did not say how hot the water should be, but since I had seen several discussions on Reddit say that you should use boiling water, I heated the water until it was almost boiling. When I poured the water into the flour, some of the flour seemed to gelatinize as described by a second recipe I had seen. Also, the amount of water was nowhere near enough to moisten all the flour, so I poured in about 100g of cold water because the second recipe recommended a combination of boiling water and cold water for the dough. That was a bit too much water, so I poured in another 50g of flour. Then I kneaded the dough for 15 minutes by hand and let it sit for 45 minutes.

A Din Tai Fung soup dumpling weighs 21 grams (5 grams for the skin and 16 grams for the filling). I was not able to make any wrappers that were 5g and still large enough to hold 16g of filling (16g of filling seemed to be about 1 tbsp), so most of my wrappers were around 10-11g each. They were rolled out to around 2.5 inches in diameter. I also tried to make sure to roll out the outer part of the wrappers to be thinner than the middle part.

They ended up being the worst soup dumplings that I've ever had in my life. The skin was thick and very tough, and a lot of the soup had leaked out of them before I even tried to pick them up.

Here are some photos:

I still have about half of the filling left, so I want to try to make them one more time. But I want to make a skin that is a lot softer and possibly thinner, so I have the following questions:

  • What type of flour should I use? I've seen some recipes that call for all-purpose flour, and other recipes that call for a high-gluten flour such as bread flour. Some recipes even call for a combination of all-purpose and high-gluten flour.

  • How hot should the water be? I've seen some recipes that call for warm water, some recipes that call for hot or boiling water, and some recipes that call for a combination of hot and cold water.

  • What should the hydration level of the dough be?

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    It sounds like you were trying to mix and match recipes, I suggest you pick one and stick to it. Once you get experience with it you can then modify it.
    – GdD
    Sep 7, 2023 at 12:14

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Using boiling water, which breaks down the gluten (as is used to great effect with choux pastry, and with some fluffy steamed buns) would not be a good idea here. For xiaolongbao you want thin, flexible skins, and that means gluten.

180g water is absolutely enough to moisten 300g of flour. That’s about normal for the pizza crusts I make. It probably seemed like less because the boiling water instantly hydrated some of the starch… doughs like that are harder to work with. When making doughs, decide on a hydration level and stick to it. Don’t be tempted to fix the recipe before you’ve even made it. Save that for the next time.

With better hydration control and not destroying the gluten (by not using hot water), you should be able to roll the skins thinner. There is no need to switch flour.

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  • Was the gluten really broken down if my skins turned out really tough? Sep 7, 2023 at 7:37
  • Yes, yes it was. And your skins were tough because they were overworked and too thick.
    – Sneftel
    Sep 7, 2023 at 7:46
  • I didn't realize I overkneaded it. I haven't kneaded dough that often, so it's hard for me to tell when it's done. Sep 7, 2023 at 7:51
  • Not overkneaded, overworked (when you were rolling them out). It’s pretty normal to overwork dough when one is unfamiliar with the recipe. It’ll be better the next time (even if you didn’t change anything).
    – Sneftel
    Sep 7, 2023 at 7:52
  • I tried again tonight with 60% hydration and 110F water, and tried making 6g wrappers, and that turned out better. The skins were thinner and softer, although there was still a lot of leaking during steaming. I noticed a few of the bottoms had broken, so maybe the thick center of the wrapper wasn't wide enough? Sep 10, 2023 at 5:31

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