For the Blackberry Jello Filling
1 pint (2 cups) Oregon blackberries or marionberries, fresh or frozen, divided
½ cup water
½ cup sake or rice wine (not cooking wine), divided
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon fresh ginger, finely minced
⅛ teaspoon cracked black pepper
⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 star anise
2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
For the Xiao Long Bao Dough
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons (90 ml) warm water
Special Equipment Needed
Two-tiered 10-inch bamboo steamer
Steamer liners (either parchment liners or lotus leaf)
In a small saucepan, bring to a boil 1 cup of the blackberries, water, ¼ cup of the sake, sugar, and the spices, then simmer over low heat for five minutes; stir gently to dissolve the sugar, but take care not to mash the berries up. Turn off the heat and let it cool for five minutes. Remove and discard the star anise.
Whisk the gelatin into the remaining sake, then stir this into the warm blackberry syrup. Pour into a container with a lid and allow to cool fully before refrigerating. Allow the jello to set for 4 hours or overnight. (If you just want to eat delicious blackberry jello, you can stop here!)
When the jello has set, dice it by dragging a knife back and forth through the pan. Set this aside in the fridge until the dough is ready.
To make the dough, mix the flour and water in a bowl until fully combined, then knead for 10 minutes until a soft and smooth dough is formed. Cover with the bowl (overturned) and allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes.
Have your blackberry jello and the remaining cup of blackberries at the ready.
Cut the dough ball into quarters, then roll each quarter into a 1” thick coil. Quarter each coil to end up with 16 pieces of dough.
Roll each dough piece into a ball with your hands. On a well-floured surface, roll each ball into a flat disc of dough, about 3 ½ to 4 inches across, adding a sprinkle of flour to your workspace and rolling pin as needed. (Note: You’ll want to make each dumpling one at a time, so don’t roll the next piece of dough until you’re done filling the first one!)
Take the disc of dough in your not-dominant hand, place a 1-tablespoon square of jello and a blackberry into the center of the dough, then with your dominant hand, gently pleat the dough into tiny folds, cradling and rotating the dumpling in your other hand and working around the edge of the dough until it’s sealed (try to get at least 12 pleats). Gently roll-pinch the top shut. (Here’s a short and helpful how-to video from Woks of Life.)
As you finish each dumpling, place them in a bamboo steamer lined with either lotus leaf or steamer liner papers. You should be able to fit 8 dumplings per tier.
When you’ve finished making all the dumplings, fill a 10” pot with an inch of water, then bring to a boil. When the water is boiling, stack the bamboo steamers (and lid) on top and steam for 6 minutes. Remove the steamers and serve immediately.
To eat a xiao long bao, gently pick one up with chopsticks with one hand, and cradle the dumpling with a soup spoon with the other hand. Nibble a little hole in the dumpling skin, slurp out the juice, then eat the dumpling!