For quite some time, when I visit a Chinese bakery, I always get pineapple buns, also known as bo lo bao. I ignore the char siu bao, coconut buns, and hot dog buns in favor of something else. …then amble on over to those buttery, sugary yellow half-domes that appear so quaint and charming. They are the best there is.
For those of you who have never heard of this yellow, wonderfully crumbly bakery treat, I should probably preface the fact that there is no actual pineapple in the recipe. Despite this, when I was nine, I came up with all sorts of convoluted explanations for the name, convinced that the pineapple bun’s distinctive topping must have something to do with pineapple. I fancied myself a pineapple bun aficionado, and I was able to fake a taste for the mild pineapple flavor. A snob in the baking section, I could detect flavors that weren’t there.
Realizing I’d been duped, I stopped bothering to learn the true process of creating a pineapple bun. Involvement in weird, kitchen-based magic seems inevitable.
In any case, I chose to accept the challenge at last, and now the secret of the pineapple bun is mine to keep forever. It’s not hard to make, despite the fact that there are some highly convoluted recipes floating around the internet. This pineapple bun recipe is based on our tried-and-true, easy milk bread recipe. It’s easy to do, and you can find everything you need at a supermarket. Hurrah!
NOTE: Cake flour and bread flour can be replaced with all-purpose flour. We’ve done a lot of retesting since then, and we can confirm that using 100% all-purpose flour in this Pineapple Buns recipe does not significantly alter the outcome.
FOR THE BREAD DOUGH:
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- 3 1/2 cups of bread flour
- 1 cup of milk at room temperature
- 2/3 cup of heavy cream at room temperature
- 1/2 cup of cake flour
- 1/3 cup of sugar
- 1 tablespoon of active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
FOR THE TOPPING DOUGH:
- 1 egg yolk
- 1¼ cups of all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup of superfine sugar
- ¼ cup of vegetable shortening
- ¼ cup of dry milk powder
- 2 tablespoons of milk
- ½ teaspoon of baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon of baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon of vanilla extract
TO FINISH THE BUNS:
- 1 egg yolk
- Prepare the bread dough first. Whisk together the whole milk, egg, sugar, cake flour, bread flour, yeast, and salt. Connect the dough hook to the mixer and set the speed to “stir.” Leave it for 15 minutes, pausing the mixer every so often to press the dough back together.
- The dough needs to rest and rise for 15 minutes before it can be used. The bowl should be covered with a moist towel and left in a warm area for an hour. The dough will double in size after rising.
- After an hour, remove the bread dough from the refrigerator and return it to the mixer for 5 more minutes of mixing to eliminate any remaining air pockets. Spread the dough out on a surface dusted with flour and divide it into 12 pieces.
- Make a bun with each piece and set them on a baking pan. Buns should be allowed to rise for an additional hour after being covered with a dry kitchen towel.
- Make the topping while that’s going on. Powdered dry milk should be put into a large bowl. Crush any clumps of dry milk powder with your fingertips to make it powdery and consistent.
- In the bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and granulated sugar. Incorporate all of the ingredients by stirring. Melt the butter, and then add the milk, egg yolk, and vanilla. Making dough requires using your hands. If the mixture is too dry, add extra milk, one teaspoon at a time.
- Seal the plastic wrap tightly around the container and leave it out at room temperature.
- Set oven temperature to 350 degrees F after the second rise of the buns. Form 12 individual balls from the topping dough. Before placing it on a bun, each ball must be rolled out into a flat circle on a clean surface.
- Bake for 12 to 13 minutes at 350 degrees after brushing with egg yolk. Then serve the Pineapple Buns.