I hope the Year of the Sheep finds you in good sprits and ready to eat!
Yesterday my family met up for an early celebratory Chinese New Year dim sum lunch. For the first time, the hubby and I actually gave red envelopes to my niece, Maddy. As as gesture of promise and prosperity during this holiday, it’s custom for older people give good luck money stuffed in small red envelopes to the little ones. This year, the hubby and I decided to finally acknowledge ourselves as older people.
Along with red, gold is also an iconic color during Chinese New Year. We’re not talking frosty gold, we’re talking yellow, shiny, like-the-sunshine gold–the 24 K variety. Golden Pineapple Buns are where the culinary meets the karats. These buns bake-off with a gorgeous, rich, and slightly crunchy cookie-like topping. You won’t find a more quintessential Hong Kong style treat to snack on while taking in Chinese New Year festivities.Just so it’s clear, there’s absolutely no pineapple in these Golden Pineapple Buns. The name is purely inspired out of the rough textured look of the buns, like the jagged surface of a pineapple. If you’ve never enjoyed them before, think of these as a rich, buttery cookie hopping on the back of a soft, chewy bun.
This bun dough is adapted from my recipe for Baked Char Siu Bao. I swap out the oil in that savory recipe with butter here to create a richer, brioche-like dough. I also add some more sugar (1/3 cup verses 1/4 cup). What remains the same is the added water roux (tangzhong), which creates a milky-soft, chewy texture to the buns.
If you eat these straight out of the oven, the tops will be crunchy and crumbly. I actually like them even more a bit later, after they’ve cooled and the buttery crust softens. If you eat them the day after baking, a quick 15-20 second zap in the microwave and they are every bit as delicious as day they were baked.
A dark, complex Wuyi Oolong (a.k.a. Grand Scarlett Robe) or an earthy, peaty Pu-Erh are ideal pairings for these buns. Both will be bold and rich enough to stand up to that buttery crown of goodness!
Pineapple Buns (Bolo Bao)
Makes 16- 3″ buns.
3 cups bread flour
3 Tbsp Bird’s Custard Powder
1 Tbsp nonfat dry milk
1 Tbsp instant yeast (I use SAF instant)
1/3 cup white sugar
5 Tbsp butter (at room temperature)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup water
bench flour and oil for proofing bowl
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp bread flour
1 stick butter (at room temperature)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 T Bird’s Custard Powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 tsp milk
small saucepan or pot
stand mixer with dough hook attachment or bread machine
2 large baking sheets, fitted with parchment
large work surface
1.) Make the Water Roux. Place a 1/2 cup of cold water into a small saucepan and add the 2 Tbsp of bread flour. Mix well until the mixture resembles homogenized milk, then turn on the stove top to medium heat. Cook the roux until it thickens up and has the consistency of a thick yogurt, making sure to keep the mixture a pure white color by not overcooking. The mixture should not exceed 150 degrees F. Place the mixture into a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap, making contact with the top surface of the roux (to prevent a skin from forming). You should end up with about 1/3 cup of roux, ready to use when it has cooled back down to room temperature.
2.) Make the Bun Dough. Using the bowl of a stand mixer, place all the wet dough ingredients (including the roux) into the mixing bowl. Place the bowl in the stand mixer with a dough hook attachment and start to mix on low-speed. Add the yeast, sugar, milk powder, and custard powder first. Then add the bread flour gradually, a cup at a time, scraping down the insides of the mixing bowl periodically. Increase the speed to low-medium and continue to mix until the shaggy mass becomes a soft and supple ball of dough. If necessary, gradually add a teaspoon of water at a time until the dough comes together. Knead the dough for 10 minutes. Transfer the ball of dough to an oiled bowl to proof, lightly coating all sides of the dough with some of the same oil. Cover the bowl lightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough proof in a warm, draft free place for 30-40 minutes or until the mass has doubled in volume.
3.) Make the Pineapple Topping. In a medium bowl, mix all the topping ingredients together thoroughly. Transfer this topping dough onto a large sheet of plastic wrap, then use the wrap to shape the dough into a log/cylinder, about 3″ in diameter. Unravel the plastic wrap from the dough, then cut it into 16 equal pieces (cut the log in half, then each half in half again until you get 16 pieces). Cover and set aside.
4.) Portion Out the Dough. After the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down and transfer it to a work surface lightly dusted with bench flour. Give the dough a few light kneadings, then portion dough out into 16 equal pieces.
5.) Shape the Buns. Shape each of the 16 pieces into a round, slightly flat ball. Place them on the large baking sheet, 8 to a sheet, so that they are at least 3″ apart from each other. Cover the buns with a large piece of plastic wrap, then let the buns rise for 30-40 minutes, or long enough for them to have doubled in puffiness. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
6.) Shape the Pineapple Topping. While the buns are proofing, shape each piece of the topping dough into a round-edged 3″ disk. Just use your hands to shape them. When the buns have doubled in puffiness, place one topping dough disk over each proofed bun, carefully placing it so that the bun doesn’t deflate.
7.) Finish and Bake. In a small bowl, mix together the egg and milk to create an egg wash. Using a pastry brush, brush the tops of the buns (the topping dough) generously with the egg wash. Bake the buns for 22-25 minutes, until the tops are golden. Remove from the oven, then transfer the buns to a cooling rack to sit for a few minutes before serving.
*** Tip: Store leftover buns in fridge for up to 5 days. When you are ready to eat them, reheat the buns in the microwave for 15-20 seconds or until warm and soft again.