Pineapple Buns (Bolo Bao)

Cook's Note: We’ve tested this recipe using both gram measurements and traditional U.S. volume and weight measurements so you get to pick the one that works best for you. The buns can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days or individually wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to two weeks (thaw frozen buns at room temperature before reheating). To reheat: Place buns on baking sheet and bake in 400-degree F/200-degree C oven or toaster oven on lowest setting until tops are dry (but not browned) and centers are warmed through, 4 to 6 minutes.

Photo by Lori K.
Adapted from cooksscience.com

PREP TIME

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minutes

TOTAL TIME

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minutes

SERVINGS

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servings

PREP TIME

--

minutes

TOTAL TIME

--

minutes

SERVINGS

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servings

Adapted from cooksscience.com

Ingredients

  • Dough:

  • 1/2

    cup water

  • 2

    tablespoons plus 2 2/3 cups (13 1/3 ounces) all-purpose flour, divided

  • 1/2

    cup cold whole milk

  • 1

    large egg

  • 1/3

    cup plus 4 teaspoons (3 ounces) sugar

  • 3 1/2

    teaspoons nonfat dry milk powder

  • 2 1/4

    teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast

  • 1

    teaspoon salt

  • 4

    tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces and softened

  • Topping:

  • 2/3

    cup plus 2 teaspoons (3 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour

  • 1/4

    teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/4

    teaspoon salt

  • 6

    tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

  • 2/3

    cup confectioners' sugar

  • 2

    large eggs, beaten

  • 2

    teaspoons vanilla extract

  • Pastry Cream:

  • 1 1/2

    teaspoons unflavored gelatin

  • 5

    teaspoons cold water

  • 1/4

    cup plus 3 cups whole milk, divided

  • 1/2

    cup cornstarch

  • 9

    egg yolks

  • 2/3

    cup (4 2/3 ounces) sugar

  • 1/4

    teaspoon salt

  • 3

    tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 1/2

    teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

With Pastry Cream: ½ cup water 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour ½ cup cold whole milk 1 large egg FOR THE DOUGH: Whisk water and 2 tablespoons flour in small microwave-safe bowl until smooth. Microwave, whisking every 20 seconds, until mixture thickens to stiff, smooth, pudding-like consistency and registers at least 150 degrees F/65.5 degrees C, 40 to 60 seconds. Whisk in milk until smooth, then whisk in egg until smooth. 2 2⅔ cups (13⅓ ounces) all-purpose flour ⅓ cup plus 4 teaspoons (3 ounces) sugar 3½ teaspoons nonfat dry milk powder 2¼ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast 1 teaspoon salt In bowl of stand mixer, whisk together 2⅔ cups flour, sugar, milk powder, yeast, and salt. Add cooked flour mixture. Fit stand mixer with dough hook and mix on low speed until all flour is moistened, 1 to 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and knead until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl, 10 to 12 minutes. 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces and softened Fit stand mixer with paddle. With mixer running on medium speed, add butter, 1 piece at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Continue to mix until butter is fully incorporated and dough is no longer shiny, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer dough to very lightly floured counter. Knead dough briefly to form ball and transfer, seam side down, to lightly greased large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours. (Wash and dry mixer bowl and paddle.) ⅔ cup plus 2 teaspoons (3½ ounces) all-purpose flour ¼ teaspoon baking powder ¼ teaspoon salt 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened ⅔ cup confectioners’ sugar 2 large eggs, beaten 2 teaspoons vanilla extract FOR THE TOPPING: Meanwhile, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in small bowl. Using clean, dry mixer bowl and paddle, beat butter and confectioners’ sugar on medium-high speed until light, pale, and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With mixer running, gradually add eggs, then vanilla; mix until smooth, scraping down bowl as needed, about 2 minutes. Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl, then fold ingredients by hand to mix fully. Transfer mixture to 1-quart heavy-duty zipper-lock bag and snip off 1 corner, making hole no larger than ¼ inch (alternatively, transfer to pastry bag fitted with ¼-inch piping tip); set aside until ready to use (do not refrigerate). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Transfer dough to counter and divide into 20 equal pieces (about 1½ ounces each). Roll each piece into tight ball. Space 10 balls evenly on each prepared sheet. Lightly spray tops of buns with vegetable oil spray, cover with plastic, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees F/190.5 degrees C. When buns are doubled in size, pipe about 2 tablespoons topping in tight spiral on top of each bun (topping should form circle roughly 2 inches in diameter and ¼ inch thick). Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until topping is golden brown, 14 to 16 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Transfer buns to wire rack and let cool for at least 10 minutes. For Pastry Cream Filled: 3¾ cups Pastry Cream 1½ teaspoons unflavored gelatin 5 teaspoons cold water ½ cup cornstarch ¼ cup whole milk 9 egg yolks 3 cups whole milk ⅔ cup (4⅔ ounces) sugar ¼ teaspoon salt Sprinkle gelatin over water in small bowl and let sit until gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. In bowl of stand mixer, whisk cornstarch and ¼ cup milk until smooth; whisk in egg yolks until smooth. In large saucepan, whisk together 3 cups milk, sugar, and salt and bring to boil over medium-high heat; turn off heat and cover to keep warm. Bring 2 inches water to simmer in medium saucepan over medium heat. Place mixer bowl over simmering water and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture registers 100 degrees F/37.8 degrees C. Meanwhile, return saucepan with milk mixture to high heat and bring to rolling boil (liquid will start to climb sides of saucepan). 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract Working quickly, transfer mixer bowl to stand mixer fitted with whisk. With mixer on high speed, pour in boiling milk mixture in one motion (do not add gradually) and mix until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, add gelatin mixture, and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Add butter and vanilla and mix until combined, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to bowl; spray plastic wrap with vegetable oil spray and press onto surface of pastry cream. Refrigerate until set, about 3 hours or up to 2 days. Before serving, whisk pastry cream until smooth. To fill buns: Fit pastry bag with ¼-inch piping tip. Fill pastry bag with pastry cream. Working with 1 bun at a time, twist paring knife into center of bottom of bun to create ½-inch-deep hole. Push tip of pastry bag into hole and fill with about 3 tablespoons pastry cream. Serve. For Char Sui Pork Filling: 4 pounds boneless pork butt 1 cup soy sauce 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar ¾ cup hoisin sauce ½ cup Shaoxing Chinese rice wine ¼ cup grated fresh ginger 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil 4 garlic cloves, minced 1 tablespoon red food coloring 2 teaspoons five-spice powder ½ teaspoon ground white pepper ⅛ teaspoon pink curing salt #1 ¾ cup honey 2 tablespoons cornstarch (if filling Pineapple Buns) 4 pounds boneless pork butt 1 cup soy sauce 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar ¾ cup hoisin sauce ½ cup Shaoxing Chinese rice wine ¼ cup grated fresh ginger 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil 4 garlic cloves, minced 1 tablespoon red food coloring 2 teaspoons five-spice powder ½ teaspoon ground white pepper ⅛ teaspoon pink curing salt #1 Cut pork into 4 pieces and butterfly to create ¾-inch-thick pieces. Divide pork between 2 one-gallon zipper-lock bags. Whisk soy sauce, sugar, hoisin, Shaoxing, ginger, sesame oil, garlic, food coloring, five-spice powder, and pepper together in large bowl. Measure out 1 cup marinade and set aside. Whisk pink curing salt into remaining marinade; divide equally between bags and rub to distribute evenly over pork. Press out as much air as possible from bags and seal; refrigerate pork for at least 10 hours or up to 16 hours. ¾ cup honey While pork marinates, whisk honey and reserved marinade together in medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until glaze is reduced to 1 cup, 4 to 6 minutes. (Glaze can be prepared up to this point and refrigerated for up to 2 days.) If filling Pineapple Buns: Reserve 2 tablespoons glaze and set aside. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees F/121 degrees C. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and set wire rack in sheet. Spray rack with vegetable oil spray. Remove pork from marinade, letting excess drip off, and place on prepared rack. Cover sheet tightly with aluminum foil, crimping edges to seal. Bake until pork registers 195 degrees F/90.5 degrees C, 2 to 2½ hours. Remove pork from oven and discard foil. Let pork rest on rack for 30 minutes. If filling Pineapple Buns: Pour pan juices into fat separator and let settle for 5 minutes. Pour off and reserve ¾ cup defatted juices; discard remaining juices. Heat broiler. Brush both sides of pork with half of remaining glaze; broil until top is mahogany, 2 to 6 minutes. Flip pork and broil until second side is mahogany, 2 to 6 minutes. Brush both sides with remaining glaze and continue to broil until top is dark mahogany and lightly charred, 2 to 6 minutes longer (second side does not get broiled again). Transfer pork to carving board, charred side up, and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice pork crosswise into ½-inch-thick strips and serve. 2 tablespoons cornstarch If filling Pineapple Buns: Combine reserved defatted juices with reserved 2 tablespoons glaze in small saucepan and whisk in cornstarch. Bring to boil over medium heat, whisking constantly, and cook until mixture is thickened and glossy, about 1 minute. Transfer to bowl with 12 ounces chopped pork and toss to combine; set aside until ready to use. (Pork filling yields 1¼ pounds and can be refrigerated for up to 7 days.) 1¼ pounds Chinese Barbecue Pork filling To fill buns: Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Transfer dough to counter and divide into 20 equal pieces (about 1½ ounces each). Working with 1 piece at a time, press dough into 4-inch round on lightly floured counter and drape in muffin tin to form cup shape. Fill dough cup with about 1½ tablespoons pork filling. Pull edges of dough to center and pinch tightly to seal. Transfer bun to counter, seam side down, and rotate gently to form round shape. Repeat with remaining dough pieces and remaining pork filling. Space 10 balls evenly on each prepared sheet. Lightly spray tops of buns with vegetable oil spray, cover with plastic, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees F/190.5 degrees C. When buns are doubled in size, pipe about 2 tablespoons topping in tight spiral on top of each bun (topping should form circle roughly 2 inches in diameter and ¼ inch thick). Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until topping is golden brown, 14 to 16 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Transfer buns to wire rack and let cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve.

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