Pineapple Buns菠萝包bō luó bāo

Generally found in Chinese bakeries rather than dim sum house, these buns get their name from pineapple skin-shaped patterns on the topping. The buns consist of two parts, a soft sweetened bread roll wrapped by a crunchy topping composed of sugar, butter and flour. There are very similar Japanese Melon Pan buns, which are in turn variations on Mexican concha buns. It’s a small world, after all.

Makes 10 pieces  

MAIN DOUGH for the soft bread roll

  • 250g all-purpose flour (King Arthur all-purpose flour is preferred as its protein content is 11.7% which is higher than other brands.)
  • 1 teaspoon, salt
  • 40g                        white sugar
  • 1 and ¼ teaspoon             dry yeast
  • 1 large egg (about 60g), beaten
  • 3 tablespoons                    whole milk, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons                    water
  • 35g                                  unsalted butter (if use salted butter, just reduce above mentioned salt from 1 teaspoon to ½ teaspoon.) Cut into small cubes and at room temperature

BISCUIT DOUGH for the crunchy topping

  • 60g                        unsalted butter
  • ½ cup                    white sugar
  • 1 large egg (about 60g), beaten
  • 200g                      cake flour
  • ½ teaspoon         baking powder

Toppings

  • 2 tablespoons                    white sugar

Method

Step 1  Making the Main Dough

  • In a large mixing bowl, mix all the dry ingredients of 250g all-purpose flour, 40g white sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 and ¼ teaspoons of yeast. Mix well. Add wet ingredients of 1 large egg, 3 tablespoons of milk and 3 tablespoons of water. Use a spatula or your fingertips, gently mix the ingredients together until they are combined. In the beginning, the dough is very sticky and wet, but keep mixing until it forms a loose, sticky ball. Also, use the dough to pick up the flour on the sides of the mixing bowl. This step should take about 2 minutes. Transfer the dough from the bowl to a lightly floured work surface.
  • Press the heels of your hands into the dough, pushing forward slightly. Fold the top half of the dough in half back toward you. Then rock forward on the lower part of your palm to press it flat. Turn the dough slightly (to clockwise), fold it in half, and rock into it again with the lower part of your palm. This process is called “punching” the dough and the goal is to lengthen and stretch the gluten strands in the dough. Repeat for 5 minutes or so. Tip: If the dough doesn’t seem to be losing its stickiness, sprinkle more flour over the top and work it into the dough. You can lightly dust your hands with flour to keep the dough from sticking too much.
  • After “punching” for 5 minutes and the dough gets more elastic, press and stretch the dough, about 10 inches (25 cm). Then put small cubes of 35 g unsalted butter on top of the dough. Roll up the dough tucking the butter in, and then continue the kneading process.
  • Your hands, dough, and the work surface will get oily and messy in the beginning. Don’t be panic. I recommend using a metal/silicone dough scraper to collect the dough stuck on the work surface once in a while and keep kneading.
  • As you knead, the dough will absorb the butter and it will eventually become very smooth and easier to work with. Finally, start banging the dough onto the work surface and fold it over away from you. This helps develop the gluten (elasticity). Bang the dough, turn it 90 degrees, and “punch” it, using the lower part of your palm. Continue this process for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth, supple, and silky. Tip: Don’t let go of the dough when you are banging onto the work surface and don’t let it rest for too long between turns.

When the dough gets silky and smooth, pull the end of your dough with your thumb and fingers. Keep spreading the dough with your fingers, stretching the dough into thin translucent membrane. This test is called Windowpane Test to see if the dough’s gluten has been developed enough. If the dough tears, the gluten isn’t quite ready yet. Knead the dough for another 2 minutes and test again.

  • Shape the dough into a ball by pulling all sides of the ball to the bottom and pinching them together. Place the dough in a bowl (the seam on the bottom). Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, about 1-2 hours. I use a Proof setting (100ºF/38ºC) in my oven.

Step 2   Making the Biscuit Dough

  • In a large bowl, add 60 g unsalted butter and mix with the spatula until it becomes smooth. Add 100 g white sugar and mix with the spatula until they blend well together.
  • Slowly add a very small amount of 1 large beaten egg into the bowl and blend well together before you add another small amount of the egg. Continue until all the egg is well blended. Sift 200 g cake flour and ½ teaspoon baking powder into the mixture. Using the spatula, mix well until the dough is not floury. Collect the dough and make it into a ball.
  • Roughly cut the dough into 10 pieces. Starting from the big piece, measure the weight again till it weighs ⅒ of the total weight (in my case, 40-41 g). If it’s heavier, pinch off the dough and add the extra dough to a smaller dough, by stuffing the extra into the inside of the smaller dough. Roll the 10 pieces of biscuit dough into 10 balls. Place them on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and rest in the refrigerator for 10 minutes until it hardens a bit.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size, dust your index finger with flour and put it in the center of the dough. If the hole doesn’t close, then the dough is ready for the next step. Remove the dough with a silicone dough scraper and transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Press the dough with your hands to release gas in the dough and deflate.
  • Using a dough scraper, roughly cut the dough into 10 equal pieces. Starting from the big piece, measure the weight again till it weighs ⅒ of the total weight (in my case, 46-47 g). If it’s heavier, pinch off the dough from the center and add the extra dough to a smaller dough, by stuffing the extra into the inside of the smaller dough. Knead to combine well. Shape each dough piece into a nice round ball, pulling from all the sides and tuck into the bottom. Place the dough on your left (right) palm, and rotate it with your right (left) hand, keeping the seam side on the bottom.
  • Put the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or kitchen towel to prevent it from drying. Rest the dough for 15 minutes at room temperature.
  • Put the biscuit dough on the lightly floured work surface and flatten the dough with your hand. Using a rolling pin, roll out into 4 inch (10-12 cm) flat rounds. Continue the rest until the main dough is ready.
  • Place the biscuit dough on your palm and put the main dough in the middle, seam side facing up. Then flip to show the biscuit dough on top. Gently pull all sides of the biscuit dough wrapping around the main dough.
  • Coat the biscuit dough with white sugar (2 Tbsp) and remove the excess sugar. Then using a dough scraper or knife, gently score the biscuit dough into a crisscross pattern (I score 3 lines each side). Place the dough on the baking sheet, seam side on the bottom. Cover the dough with plastic wrap to prevent from drying. Let the dough rise in a warm place until the dough rises one and a half (1.5 x) in size, about 50 minutes (I used the Proof setting (100ºF/38ºC) in my oven).
  • When the dough has risen halfway, preheat the oven to 360ºF (180ºC). Note: If you are using the oven for proof, you have to transfer the dough to a warmer place so you can preheat the oven.

Step 5 Baking

  • Bake at for 13-15 minutes. Toward the end of baking if you see the bread is not being browning evenly, rotate the bread once so that the bread gets an even color.
  • Once the bread is baked, transfer to a wire rack. Let it cool for 5 minutes, and enjoy!

To Store

  • Once the bread is cooled completely, individually wrap it in plastic to prevent it from drying. Then put it in an airtight container or bag and refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to a month. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator or microwave to warm up inside.

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