Dim Sum Recipe #12: Golden Pineapple Buns (Bolo Bao)

Happy Chinese New Year!!

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.

Ingredients:

{Bun Dough}

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

{Water Roux}

1/2 cup water

2 Tbsp bread flour

{Pineapple Topping}

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

{Egg Wash}

1 egg

1 tsp milk

Equipment:

small saucepan or pot

stand mixer with dough hook attachment or bread machine

2 large baking sheets, fitted with parchment

medium bowl

large work surface

plastic wrap

chef’s knife

small bowl

pastry brush

cooling rack

Directions:

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.

Dim Sum Recipe #8: Steamed BBQ Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao)

The number 8 is a lucky one in Chinese culture.  It’s used to indicate fortune, prosperity, and success.  This is a good thing for me, because after much trial and error, I’m happy to bring you lucky Dim Sum Recipe #8 in my series on the highly coveted Chinese tea lunch…Steamed BBQ Pork Buns!  For the longest time I wasn’t successful at making Chinese steamed buns.  My steamed buns would often end up speckled, dimpled, or lopsided…just not right.  With success finally comes the recognizable dim sum treat we know as Char Siu Bao–fluffy buns stuffed with a slightly salty, slightly sweet pork filling that’s always a crowd favorite.

What I aimed to create in a recipe for Steamed BBQ Pork Buns was a supple bun dough where I could easily make baos in 2 ways–one with a perfectly smooth top and the other the traditional way, pleated and pinched with an open top for venting.  This bun dough, based on my recipe for Chinese Fold-Over Buns, easily adapts to either shape and is extremely versatile. You can use it as a base for both sweet and savory fillings, and even enjoy the buns made with it plain.  I have many more ideas and riffs on using this bun dough, so trust me, you definitely haven’t heard the last of it!

The filling I use here is the same filling I use for my Baked BBQ Pork Buns, the buns with a golden, honey-lacquered top that’s sticky to the touch.  One thing I prefer to do for the steamed version of these buns is processing the BBQ pork through a food processor instead of dicing it into cubes.  While high-gluten bread flour is used to make baked buns heartier and chewier, low-gluten Hong Kong flour is used to make steamed buns delicate and airy.  Since the texture of steamed bread is more tender than that of the baked variety, loosening up the texture of the meat to match the bread’s tenderness makes each bite lighter and more harmonious.

I could really use some help with my pleating.  I’ve mentioned in my Ha Gao post that pleating really isn’t my forte.  Luckily, with these Char Siu Bao, poor pleating doesn’t matter. If you want a neater look to your buns, just flip the baos over to reveal a smooth top. Anyhow, steamed pork buns really should be eaten while they are still warm and fresh out of the steamer.  If you are like me and can’t get into a good pleating groove, no worries!  You and your friends will be munching on the steamy pockets before anyone will even notice any of those perfect imperfections.

At Chinese restaurants you will commonly find steamed buns with a square of parchment attached underneath to prevent each bun from sticking to the steamer.  I like to steam my buns in a bamboo steamer lined with one large round of parchment, perforated and cut to the dimensions of the steamer.  Place the baos in colorful cupcake liners immediately after steaming for a pretty and modern look.  The liners will still adhere to the buns but won’t warp as they would if they were cooked with the buns in the bamboo steamer.

If you are looking for a delicious tea to enjoy with these buns, please check out my post on Steven Smith Teamaker’s Spring Harvest blend.  It’s a Chinese Mao Feng green tea that’s fresh and slightly sweet, just like these Steamed Char Siu Bao are!  The two make a delicious pairing, and are perfect served as a light springtime afternoon snack.

Dim Sum Recipe #8:  Steamed BBQ Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao)

Makes 16 small buns. 

Ingredients:

1 batch of Chinese Steamed Bun Dough

1 full recipe of Char Siu Bao Filling

Equipment:

stand mixer with mixing bowl and hook attachment

large whisk

large proofing bowl

plastic wrap

work surface

bamboo steamer

wok with slightly larger diameter than steamer OR a stockpot with exactly the same diameter as the steamer

rolling-pin or scale

parchment, to line steamer

food processor (optional)

large frying pan or wok (for making char siu filling)

large plate

Directions:

1.)  Make 1 batch of Chinese Bun Dough (aka dough for Chinese Fold-Over Buns).  While dough is going through first proofing, make the Char Siu Bao Filling.

2.)  Make 1 full recipe of Char Siu Bao Filling.  If you prefer, process the store-bought/prepared BBQ pork in a food processor until you get a shredded-like texture to the meat, then proceed with Char Siu Bao Filling recipe.  If not, just dice the pork into 1/4 inch cubes and proceed with the filling recipe.  I’ve omitted the chives here as a like a completely reddish looking filling.  You can add chives into the filling if you prefer.  After cooking, place the filling on a large plate and cover with plastic wrap.  Set it aside to cool to room temperature.

3.)  When the first proofing is complete, cut the dough into 16 equal pieces.  You can just eyeball this or use a scale for extra accuracy.

4.)  Form each of the 16 portions of dough into balls, then roll each ball into a 3.5″ flat round. Place 1 Tbsp of the cooled char siu filling in the center of each round, then pleat the edges of the dough round and pinch to seal the top of the bun (see below).  Set finished buns into a parchment lined bamboo steamer (or large plate) about 2″ apart, then cover with plastic wrap and allow the buns about 15 minutes to proof again.  Preferably, proof the buns in a warm, draft free place.

5.)  Meanwhile, fill wok or stockpot with 3-4″ of water.  Set water on high heat and let it come to a full boil.  After the 15 minutes of proofing have elapsed, place the steamers in/on top of the wok/stockpot and cook on high heat for 8 minutes, or until the buns are puffy, fluffy, and risen.

Chinese Fold-Over Buns

Chinese Fold-Over Buns are the naked version of those steamed pork buns that dim sum lovers can’t get enough of.  Having a unique pocket-like shape, Chinese Fold-Over Buns eliminate the need for pre-stuffing buns, which is one of the more complicated steps in bun making.  After a quick steam, these tender pillows are ready to serve with a cooked filling of your choice.

If you want the texture and look of your buns to be similar to the kind you get at a Chinese restaurant, search for some bun flour, also called Hong Kong or bao flour, at your local Asian market.  Hong Kong flour is a flour that’s lower in gluten than all-purpose (AP) flour.  It steams up fluffier, whiter, and brighter than buns just made with plain AP flour.  Look for the flour package that has white, steamed buns on it and you should be good to go.

If you prefer to use all-purpose flour that you can find at a regular American grocery store that’s fine too.  I would suggest making a blend of all-purpose and cake flours, where for every 1 cup of flour in this recipe, you use 3/4 cups of AP and 1/4 cups of cake flour.  This flour blend will give you a bun texture closer to that of Chinese restaurant buns, but they still won’t be as white and fluffy as the buns made with Hong Kong flour.

These Fold-Over Buns actually take to freezing very well.  If you don’t plan on eating them right away, set them aside to cool to room temperature after they’ve been steamed off and then place them in ziplock bags to place in the freezer.  When you are ready to use them later, just remove them from the zip locks and steam until them until they get soft and warm throughout.  You could also warm them in the microwave, but they will get a bit tougher and chewier this way.

And while we are talking about having extra buns stashed in the freezer, here are some more ways that you could enjoy these tender, soft bun pockets:

* Chinese Roasted Duck, Scallions, & Hoisin Sauce (the classic)

* Kalua Pork & Pickled Red Onions

* Store-bought Roasted Chicken & Olive Tapenade

* Korean BBQ & Kim Chee

* Teriyaki Chicken & Pickled Ginger

* Smoked Salmon & Capers

* Cucumber & Herbed Cream Cheese

* Pastrami & Sauerkraut

* Applewood Smoked Bacon & Tomato

* Roasted Turkey & Roquefort Bleu Cheese

* Fried Chicken & Sweet Pickles

* Hummus & Sun Dried Tomatoes

* Black Forest Ham & Gruyère

* Nutella & Strawberries

* Peanut Butter & Grape Jelly

Ok, you get my point. The buns are extremely versatile.  They are the original version of crustless tea sandwich bread!

In my upcoming posts, I’ll be giving you even more ideas on how use this very versatile bun dough.  For today, I’m pairing these beautiful buns with my recipe for Kalua Pork and Pickled Red Onions for a true taste of Hawaii.  My slow cooker recipe for Kalua Pork uses Lapsang Souchong tea to give the luscious meat a gentle, smoky savoriness.  The recipe takes about 5 minutes of real work and then some patience, but the results are totally worth it.

And if you don’t have patience, store-bought roasted chicken can be stuffed into these buns for a tasty and easy meal.  Pair these with a hot, soothing cup of Asian tea and you’ll be enjoying the simplest of gourmet meals.

Chinese Fold-Over Buns

Makes 12 large buns.

Ingredients:

3 1/4 cups Hong Kong flour

3/4 cup water + 1-2 Tbsp more if needed

2 tsp SAF instant yeast

2 tsp baking powder

2 Tbsp non-fat dry milk powder

1/4 tsp fine salt

4 Tbsp powdered sugar

2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil

extra oil for coating proofing bowl

Equipment:

stand mixer with mixing bowl and hook attachment

large whisk

large proofing bowl

plastic wrap

work surface

bamboo steamer

wok with slightly larger diameter than steamer OR a stockpot with exactly the same diameter as the steamer

rolling-pin or scale

parchment, to line steamer

Directions:

1.)  Using the bowl of a stand mixer, place all the dry dough ingredients into the mixing bowl. Use a large whisk to stir all the dry ingredients together, so that they become evenly incorporated.  Place the bowl in the stand mixer with a dough hook attachment and start to mix on low-speed.  Add the water and oil.  Continue to mix on low-speed.  If the dough isn’t coming together after 3 minutes and looks dry, gradually add 1-2 Tbsp of water until the dough comes together.  Continue to knead the dough on low for an extra 10-15 minutes until the shaggy mass becomes a soft and supple ball of dough.

Pull off a piece of the dough and conduct a windowpane test, where you gently try to pull the dough out into a very thin membrane-like sheet that does not tear.  If you aren’t able to do this easily and the dough breaks apart, continue to knead the dough on low-speed for 2-3 more minutes, then try this windowpane test again.  Passing the windowpane test means that the dough has been sufficiently kneaded.

2.)  Transfer the ball of dough to a lightly oiled bowl to proof, 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.)  After the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down and transfer it to a work surface.  Give the dough a few light kneadings, then roll the dough out into a rectangle, and portion it out into 12 equal pieces (see below).  You can also use a scale if you prefer.  Roll out each of the 12 dough pieces into a ball.

4.)  Place any dough balls that you aren’t immediately using under clear wrap to prevent them from drying out.  Roll each ball into an oval shape about a 1/4″ in thickness (just eyeball it).  Try to keep the thickness of the dough even throughout in each piece.  Fold one half of each oval onto itself to create a half-moon looking bun. 

5.)  Place buns in a bamboo steamer lined with parchment, then cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Let the buns rise for about 15-20 minutes in a warm, draft free place, long enough for them to have just doubled in puffiness.  Meanwhile, fill a large wok or stockpot up with water to a depth of 4″.  Set the water on high heat to reach a full boil.

6.)  Place bamboo steamer filled with risen buns on top of wok or stockpot, place steamer lid on, and steam the buns for about 8 minutes, or until they are light, fluffy, and puffy.  Your Chinese Fold-Over Buns are now ready to be stuffed with a filling of your choice, or you can even eat them plain…enjoy!

PB & J.  You thought I was just kidding, didn’t ya?