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Pineapple Bun, Bo Luo Bao 菠蘿包 by Christine's Recipes

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Chinese New Year is just a few days away and I feel the need to post something "pineapple" since pineapple signifies luck and prosperity. I'm sure you guys are sick of pineapple tarts by now, so I'm not going to blog about another pineapple tart recipe but pineapple buns. Like egg tarts, pineapple buns or polo buns are huge in Hong Kong. Although it's called a pineapple bun, it doesn't contain any pineapples. The sweet and crunchy topping is baked to golden brown and its checkered top resembles a pineapple, thus the name. Since I have no luck in bread baking, I've invited Christine to share her pineapple bun recipe with us.

Christine is the author of Christine's Recipes and 簡易食譜 (her Chinese blog). She's originally from Hong Kong but have migrated to Australia with her husband and daughter for many years. Her blogs feature a wide variety of delicious homey Chinese recipes and also other Asian dishes. Besides, she's also a very good baker. Now, please welcome Christine to Pig Pig's Corner as she shares her pineapple bun recipe with us!

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Every time I visit and browse Ann’s blog, Pigpig’s Corner, I’m attracted and amazed by her gorgeous, mouth-watering pictures. Not only does Ann have intriguing recipes, but also publish heaps of high quality of restaurant reviews written by the Wild Boar, her partner. When Ann asked me to guest post on her lovely blog, I was wondering what I could contribute more than she’s already had. Then came a suggestion from Ann, a challenge to me, to make a very popular snack in Hong Kong, Pineapple Buns (aka BoLuo Bao 菠蘿包 in Cantonese).

Thank you, Ann, for giving me this opportunity, but sorry for taking quite a long time to send my post in. The recipe I developed here, was adapted from the owner of a Hong Kong bakery shop, specialized in making and selling pineapple buns (refer to this video for original recipe in Chinese and the whole process). There are two important ingredients in the original recipe, lard for making the topping crispy, and ammonia powder for making crackling patterns on the crispy topping. As I don’t use lard in my home-cooking at all, I tweaked it and used butter only. Besides, how would I make Asian breads without tangzhong? Absolutely not. Many of my readers have already known that I’m addicted to tangzhong breads because they are soft and fluffy, and can be kept for days. Since I tweaked the original recipe with butter and tangzhong, I have had three trials until I got it right and feel satisfied. In the end, the original recipe was totally unidentified with mine. Or to say, doing the same thing by taking different routes. If any of you would like the original recipe translated in English, feel free to email me.

As for using ammonia powder, it’s quite tricky. If used not enough, you’d be disappointed for no crackling patterns appear on the topping. If more than enough, your buns would smell weird (yes, like wee). Hope that I didn’t scare you off. If you don’t want to risk, or can’t find any ammonia powder, you can skip the ingredient, and use a knife to score the top pastry before transferring your buns in oven for baking. You’d get regular patterns, instead of getting irregular crackling that classic Hong Kong pineapple buns would have. Taste remains the same anyway. Hope you all like my sharing here.

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Pineapple Buns
Makes 12 buns, each about 62 grams

Ingredients of bread:
  • 350 gm bread flour
  • 70 gm caster sugar
  • 4 gm salt
  • 56 gm whisked egg
  • 10 gm milk powder
  • 6 gm instant dry yeast
  • 120 gm tangzhong (refer this post for making tangzhong)
  • 125 ml milk
  • 30 gm butter, softened at room temperature

Ingredients of topping (makes 12, each about 20grams)
  • 125 gm cake flour
  • 55 gm caster sugar
  • 40 gm butter, softened at room temperature
  • 7 gm milk power
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp evaporated milk
  • 1 tsp condensed milk
  • a bit less than 1/4 tsp edible ammonia powder, available at Asian stores
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder

To make buns:
  • Combine all dry ingredients: flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a bowl. Make a well in the center. Whisk and combine all wet ingredients: milk, egg and tangzhong, then add into the well of the dry ingredients. When all ingredients get together, knead in the softened butter. The dough is quite sticky and messy at this stage. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth, not sticky and elastic. Shape dough into a ball. Place in a greased bowl and cover with a wet towel or cling wrap. Let it proof till it's doubled in size, about 40 minutes.
  • Transfer the dough to a clean floured surface. Deflate and divide into 12 equal portions. Cover with cling wrap, let rest for 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, make the topping, refer to the directions below.
  • Knead each little dough portions into ball shapes. Let them complete the 2nd round of proofing, about 35 minutes, doubled in size.
  • Preheat oven to 210°C (410°F). When the dough portions are doubled in size, remove topping paste from fridge, cut into 12 equal portions and roll in balls. Cover by a film wrap and press each portion into a flat disc. Place on top of the small dough. Repeat this step with the rest. Brush the top with whisked egg yolk and bake in a preheated 210°C (410°F) for 5minutes. Reduce the temperature to 180°C (356°F) and bake for another 15 minutes.
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To make topping:
  • Cream softened butter with an electric mixer over medium speed until smooth. Add sugar and continue to beat until fluffy.
  • Add milk powder, egg yolk, evaporated milk, condensed milk, baking powder, combine well. Sift in flour and ammonia powder and incorporate well. The mixture is quite moist and sticky. Use a piece of film wrap to roll into a log. Chill for 30 to 40 minutes. When it becomes harder, it’s ready to use and shape it.
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  • As for the amount of ammonia powder, don’t go over 1/4 teaspoon of it when using 125 grams of cake flour to make the topping. If you use less or more flour, please adjust the amount of ammonia powder accordingly.

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