Bolo Bao is a staple in any Chinese bakery. I grew up with it not thinking much of it but after moving overseas and visiting the bakeries in Taiwan every summer, this bread became a very nostalgic food item for me. The best part of this bread is the buttery sugary crumbly goodness at the top of the bun that there just never seems to be enough of. There are some versions of this bread where they stuff char siu in it (bbq pork) mmm. The name Bolo Bao roughly translates to ‘pineapple bread’ but don’t be fooled, it has nothing to do with pineapples. The top appearance only looks like a pineapple which is where the name comes from. I always regret telling people it’s called pineapple bread because they always expect a pineapple flavour despite me telling them otherwise – I should just only use the name Bolo Bao in the future.
I stumbled upon this recipe from an Asian facebook group during quarantine on the farm and after looking through several versions of the recipe, the original one I found seemed to be the best and easiest follow with the most basic ingredients.
Although there are quite a few steps to this recipe, these buns are actually pretty simple to make! Just follow the instructions. It helps with a stand mixer. I haven’t had the chance to take photos of the process so refer back to the original recipe website for any tips on what things should look like.
Recipe adapted from: https://healthynibblesandbits.com/pineapple-buns/
- Tangzhong – essentially a paste that gives the dough a lighter texture
- 2 Tbsps (20g) all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup (75g) water
- 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsps (145g) whole milk
- 1.5 tsp (18g) granulated sugar
- 2.25 tsps (7g) active dry yeast
- 3 1/4 cups (490g) bread flour
- 1 tsp (3g) salt
- 4 Tbsps (80g) condensed milk – can substitute with 2 Tbsps milk powder + 3 Tbsps sugar, or just 3 Tbsps sugar if you don’t have any milk powder
- 1 large egg
- 4 Tbsps (55g) butter, melted
- 4 Tbsps (55g) butter, softened
- 2/3 cup (135g) superfine sugar (if you don’t have any, put regular sugar in the food processor until ground up – do NOT use powdered sugar)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 Tbsp whole milk
- 3/4 cup (120g) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/8 tsp turmeric – this gives the top a nice yellow colour, it doesn’t add any flavour so you can skip this if you don’t have any on hand
- Egg Wash
- 1 large egg
- 1 Tbsp whole milk
- Make the tangzhong by whisking the flour and the flour together and then microwave it for 20 seconds at a time until it forms a light thick gooey paste then leave it to the side to cool (it will thicken as it cools). Be careful not to over heat it! You can also do this over a saucepan.
- Next make the dough by first heating the milk in the microwave for 40-45 sec until warm (~48˚C). Add the sugar and yeast and stir. Let it sit for 5-8 mins to froth. This step activates the yeast.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the bread flour, salt, condensed milk, egg, melted butter, tangzhong, and the frothy yeast mixture. Use the stand mixer with a dough hook to mix on low speed/knead setting for 10mins.
- After 10mins, the dough should be well combined and knead it onto a surface a few times (the dough shouldn’t be too sticky, you shouldn’t need any flour to help with the kneading). Shape the dough into a ball and place it into a large greased bowl and place a tea towel over it. Let the dough rise in a warm area until it doubles in size (takes ~1 – 1.5hrs) – this step is called ‘proofing’ the dough.
- Note: if it’s a cold day and you don’t have anywhere warm for the dough to rise, you can “proof” it in the oven by putting your bowl in the medium or top rack of the oven and place a pan in the bottom rack with 3 cups of boiling water in it and close the oven oven door for the designated time in the recipe. You will not need to place a tea towel over your dough during this time since there will be more than enough humidity in the oven from the hot water. Don’t open the oven door unless you need to because you’ll let out the humidity and warmth needed for the dough to rise. Check on your dough by using the light in the oven! Note: the oven is NOT turned on at all in this process. We are only using the oven as a box to contain our warmth and humidity.
- While the dough is rising, you can prepare the topping! Cream the butter until light and fluffy (either with a mixer or whisk) and slowly mix in the superfine sugar. The mixture will be very crumbly.
- Then add the egg yolk, milk and vanilla. Slowly mix in the flour, baking powder and turmeric in small batches until it is all incorporated in a chunky mixture. Set this topping mixture aside until the buns are done proofing.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, knead it a couple times to release excess air. Divide the dough into 12 equal balls (~75g each) and knead each ball a few more times to get rid of any air bubbles and form it into a ball (seam side down). Place 6 balls on a baking tray lined with parchment paper x 2 (do not try to fit all 12 onto one tray – split it into 2 trays).
- Cover the balls of dough with a tea towel to let it rise about 1.5 times its size in a warm place (~30 mins) – this is a ‘second proof’. You can use the oven method previously if you do not have a warm place for the dough.
- Preheat the oven to 195˚C (385˚F)
- While the buns are going through a second proof, split the topping mixture into 12 equal balls (~28g each).
- Once the buns are done their second proof, flatten each topping ball evenly until it’s roughly 2mm thick and gently lay it over the top of each bun. You want to cover about 2/3 of the top of each bun. Do not cover the entire top bun because the topping will expand as it cooks and if it touches the pan, it may burn.
- You may find it easier to flatten the topping balls over a ziplock bag or plastic wrap and use it to transfer it over the buns since the topping mixture can be quite delicate and crumbly to work with.
- Brush the top of the buns and topping with the egg wash and bake in the oven (middle rack) for about 14 – 16mins until the tops are golden brown. Let the buns cool before serving. Enjoy while they’re warm! It’s also REALLY good when eaten with butter in the middle. Mmmmmmmmm.