Pineapple Buns (Bo Lo Bao)

This well-known Chinese bakery classic is interpreted literally by adding pineapple jam as a filling.

This bread uses the water roux (汤种/湯種/tangzhong) method which results in the fluffier texture that is characteristic of most Asian bread. The flour’s heated with the water first before adding the mixture to the dough. I’ve tried it before in my Matcha Bread with Azuki Filling, but I think this recipe yielded a much softer dough that’s easier to work with, that was more reminiscent of Chinese bread.

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Bo Lo Bao (菠萝包/菠蘿包) is typically a plain bun topped with a crunchy, sweet topping, and is a mainstay in many Chinese bakeries. The topping is made of a separate, sweeter dough which can also be the base of many Chinese cookies.

Common variations of the bun typically revolves around stuffing it with different things, like sweet barbecued pork (cha siu/叉烧/叉燒) or sweet red bean paste.

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Bo Lo Bao literally means “pineapple buns”, and it’s named because of its appearance, not because it contains pineapple (because it usually does not). The way the crunchy topping cracks when it’s baked reminds some people of how pineapple looks like but I have no idea what they’re on about.

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In my case though I thought why not put actual pineapple inside? I had loads of pineapple jam leftover from making pineapple tarts during Chinese New Year (yes it’s been more than 3 months but jam keeps well okay don’t judge me) and I really needed to use it up.

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And the jam tasted good with the bread! Lesson learnt though: definitely put less than 50g of jam in each bread. It was waaaaaaay too much. A smear of jam in the middle of each bread would probably have been much more appropriate.

Also I crowded my buns a bit too much so they ended up expanding into each other. So I lost that perfect round shape 😦

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The bread tasted great though, definitely my best Asian bread so far. I got the recipe from here.

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Look at that fluff!

If you want to try another bread with a similar concept (ie a soft bun with a sweet crunchy topping), check out my Melon Pan (which despite its name does not contain melon). Seems like Chinese and Japanese bakers just like to mislead their customers by naming their bread after fruits.

Ingredients (makes 10 buns)

Water roux

  • 75g water (1/3 cup)
  • 14g plain flour (1 1/2 tbsp)
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Bread dough

  • 310g bread flour (2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 packet instant dry yeast
  • 25g granulated sugar (2 tbsp)
  • 80g heavy cream (1/3 cup)
  • 100g sweetened condensed milk (1/3 cup)
  • 30g coconut cream (2 tbsp)
  • 1 large egg white
  • 37g unsalted butter, softened (2 1/2 tbsp)
  • Sea salt for sprinkling
  • 100g pineapple jam to fill

Crust

  • 60g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 15g coconut cream (1 tbsp)
  • 110g cake flour (3/4 cup + 1 tbsp)
  • 90g powdered sugar (1/2 cup + 2 tbsp)
  • 15g custard powder (2 tbsp_
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder

Egg wash

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp coconut cream
  • 1 tsp water

Method

Water roux

  1. Mix the water, flour, and salt together in a microwave-proof bowl until there are no lumps.
  2. Microwave on high at 15 seconds intervals, whisking the mixture until smooth every time you take the bowl out of the microwave. The mixture is ready when it is thick and leaves behind ribbons.
  3. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Bread dough

  1. Mix together the bread flour, yeast, and sugar. Then add the heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, coconut cream, and egg white. Knead well until the mixture is smooth and elastic.
  2. Add the softened butter in 3 additions, adding a new addition after the butter has been well incorporated into the bowl. Keep kneading until your bread reaches windowpane stage.
  3. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Crust

  1. Cream the butter until pale and creamy. Then add the large egg yolk and coconut cream and mix until thick.
  2. Add the cake flour, powdered sugar, custard powder, baking soda, and baking powder and mix with your hands until everything comes together into a dough.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about an hour.

Assembly

  1. Weigh your bread dough, and divide the mixture into 10. It won’t seem like a lot of dough but it will expand by quite a bit.
  2. Roll each ball out flat (not too thin, there’s not a lot of filling). Then scoop about 10g of pineapple jam (see notes) into the middle of each bread. Gather up the edges of the bread and seal well.
  3. Place each sealed ball of bread onto a lined baking sheet seam-side down. Cover and let rise for about 40 mins, not quite doubled in size.
  4. Make the coconut egg wash by mixing together the egg, coconut cream, and water.
  5. After the second rise, weigh and divide the topping into 10.
  6. Brush the buns with the egg wash.
  7. Roll the topping out into discs by placing the topping between 2 sheets of baking paper and rolling it with a pin. Place each disc on top of the buns. Make sure not to cover the whole of the bun, and only cover the top half (you might have to trim your disc). The topping will expand when baked.
  8. Brush the topped buns with the egg wash and leave for about 5 mins. Then egg wash it again. Sprinkle the top of the buns with some sea salt.
  9. Bake at 200ºC for 16-18 mins, or until golden brown.

Notes

  • This bun tastes best fresh out of the oven.
  • If you are baking in 2 batches, keep the second batch refrigerated while waiting.
  • The topping of my buns expanded A LOT, it was practically pooling around my buns. I thought I topped my buns to the same degree as the original recipe source did, but I’d be a bit more conservative with the topping next time.
  • It’s really hard to find cake flour in London so I just used all purpose flour for the topping. I don’t think that’s why the topping expanded so much, and I think the texture was still good (even though it did not crack as much as I wanted it to).
  • Heavy cream is just double cream here in the UK.
  • For extra decadence, serve the bread with some cold butter.
  • I used closer to 50g of pineapple jam in each bun in my bid to use up the jam and it was much too sweet. Ended up removing most of the jam when eating it.
  • Honestly speaking though the pineapple jam did not add much to the bread, and I still prefer the bread plain.
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