December 5, 2017

Pineapple Buns 菠蘿包

Pineapple Bun 菠蘿包

bo lo bao, Pineapple Bun, recipe, hong kong, bake, traditional, no ammonia powder, 菠蘿包, chinese bread, chinese bun, 香港, 傳統, 麵包
By Published: 2017-12-05
This recipe is for our reader Raymond who asked for a recipe for Pineapple Buns with the real traditional crackle cookie tops.  I hope that this recipe is the one he was looking for, anyways this is the one that we know as the traditional Pineapple Bun, or 菠蘿包, a soft fluffy bun underneath and a crunchy crumbly crackled sweet cookie like crust on top, invented in Hong Kong in the sixties and still a standard at all Hong Kong traditional bakeries.  A taste sensation, the cookie crust crumbles delightfully in your mouth when you bite into the soft warm tender bun.  Pineapple Bun, named for the texture of the crackle crust that resembles the real pineapple, is a real special afternoon or breakfast treat and an absolutely unique Hong Kong style bake!

 bo lo bao, Pineapple Bun, recipe, hong kong, bake, traditional, no ammonia powder, 菠蘿包, chinese bread, chinese bun, 香港, 傳統, 麵包

We made the buns with our Tangzhong Milk Bread 湯種牛奶麵包 recipe, a pretty much foolproof recipe that will yield a wonderfully soft, slightly sweet, fluffy bread that is traditionally used for pineapple bun.  The cookie crust of the bread however proved more difficult to crack and we made several trials before we got it right.  It's actually a simple mix of butter, sugar and flour, but the proportions and thickness are important in order to achieve the right texture and crackle.

One thing that perplexed me a bit at first was that many pineapple bun crust recipes included ammonia bicarbonate (also know as ammonia powder, ammonia carbonate, baker's ammonia or 臭粉) as well as the usual baking powder.  The rumor seemed to be that without ammonia bicarbonate the crust would not crackle in the proper way.  I did my research on ammonia bicarbonate and found that it was used as a rising agent back in the day when baking powder was not yet widely available.  The chinese name translates as 'stinky powder' due to the fact that it is actually very stinky.  Once in the food and baked however there is no longer any smell and also there is absolutely no taste of it in the bake, unlike baking powder which leaves a slight residual taste.  

So I figured that since they are both simple rising agents, I would try just baking powder by itself since I had it on hand unlike ammonia bicarbonate.  The verdict on baking powder is that it works just fine all by itself.  Give ammonia bicarbonate a try if you like, but you don't need it.  I found that a wee bit of baking powder was quite enough to give a bit of rise and a lot of crackle to the crust.  Actually I think the crackle comes from the right proportions of butter, sugar and flour in the crust and the adequate expansion of the milk bread in the oven.

 bo lo bao, Pineapple Bun, recipe, hong kong, bake, traditional, no ammonia powder, 菠蘿包, chinese bread, chinese bun, 香港, 傳統, 麵包

Here is the sugar, butter and flour mixed with a bit of egg to bind and a touch of Bird's custard powder to kick up the flavor.  The mix is then pressed into a log and refrigerated until firm enough to slice.  The mix should be just wet enough to bind together when pressed.  The relative dryness of the crust mixture is another key to the crackle I think.

 bo lo bao, Pineapple Bun, recipe, hong kong, bake, traditional, no ammonia powder, 菠蘿包, chinese bread, chinese bun, 香港, 傳統, 麵包

After refrigeration the crust is then sliced evenly and pressed into thin rounds.  Another key element to the crackle crust lies here.  If your crust is too thick it likely won't crackle.  Press to a maximum of  1/8" thinness by slipping it between two sheets of cling film and pressing with a flat bottomed pot or bowl.  

 bo lo bao, Pineapple Bun, recipe, hong kong, bake, traditional, no ammonia powder, 菠蘿包, chinese bread, chinese bun, 香港, 傳統, 麵包

A top hat for each little bun, cupped ever so gently over the risen dough balls.  Don't they just look nice and formal, all ready for the oven?  Don't forget the egg wash, or the crust won't become the golden brown they're meant to be!  (I forgot twice, dagummit!!)

 bo lo bao, Pineapple Bun, recipe, hong kong, bake, traditional, no ammonia powder, 菠蘿包, chinese bread, chinese bun, 香港, 傳統, 麵包

Here are my pineapple buns, see how they crackle!  No scoring necessary, these babies crackled all on their own!  Soft fluffy bun below, sweet crunchy crackle cookie crust above, no wonder these are Hong Kong's favorite bakery buns!

Another great thing is that these buns will keep quite well for 4-5 days or so in an airtight container at room temperature.  Just pop them into the toaster oven to heat and crisp up the crust and it'll taste just like fresh baked.  If you're going for the classic hong kong style of pineapple bun with butter, or 菠蘿油, wait a bit for the bun to cool, slice bun 3/4 way through horizontally, slide in a thick slice of salted butter and you're in pineapple bun heaven!  (Our preferred way by far!!!)

Happy Pineapple Buns everyone!!  

 bo lo bao, Pineapple Bun, recipe, hong kong, bake, traditional, no ammonia powder, 菠蘿包, chinese bread, chinese bun, 香港, 傳統, 麵包


Pineapple Bun Recipe 菠蘿包
(makes 8 buns)  Prep time:    Cook time:

Ingredients:

Bread
1 quantity Tangzhong Milk Bread dough (click link to see our recipe)

Crust
4 tbsp salted butter, room temperature, 57g
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup sugar, 100g
3/4 cup flour, 94g
2 1/2 tbsp custard powder
1/4 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp butter, room temperature (extra see recipe), 14g

1 egg white (or egg yolk for a more yellow color but why waste an egg white?)
1 tsp water

Directions:
Make roux and then dough according to our Tangzhong Milk Bread recipe.  When the dough is having its first rise prepare the crust as below:

Cream butter in mixer until pale in color and fluffy.  Add egg yolk in and incorporate.  In separate bowl stir together sugar, flour, custard powder and baking powder.  With the mixer on low, add in dry ingredients to the butter. Mix just until mixture looks crumb like and sticks together when pressed.  At this point if the mixture is too dry to stick together when pressed, add extra butter 1/2 tbsp at a time until the mixture just comes together.  Gather dough and press all into a log, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for an hour (or prepare one day before and chill overnight - I found the crust dough worked even better when chilled longer.)

When the dough is doubled in size punch down and divide into 8 equal pieces.  Shape each piece of dough into a bun by tucking the dough in towards the bottom until the surface of the ball is taut and smooth.  Place seam side down onto a parchment lined baking sheet and let rise again for 40 mins or until dough is doubled in size.  
Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C).  Slice chilled crust dough into 8 equal slices.  Press each slice with a flat bottomed pan or dish between 2 pieces of cling film or parchment paper until the slice is  max. 1/8" thick and can drape over the top half of your dough bun.  Place over risen dough balls and use cupped hands to very gently shape to fit the dough.  Whisk egg white with water and brush over crust and dough.  Pop into middle of oven and bake 15-20 mins or until the bun is a nice golden brown on top and bottom.  Remove and serve hot and crunchy!  Enjoy your pineapple!

Tip:  Store in an air tight container at room temperature for 4-5 days.  I usually pop in a few silica packets that I've saved from various junk healthy food packets.  When pineapple attack strikes, just pop pineapple bun into toaster oven to warm up and re-crisp the top and they'll taste like they just came out of the oven!




More Hong Kong Traditional Bakes at The Hong Kong Cookery:




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