Char Siew Bo Lo Buns (Sweet Buns with Barbecued Pork Filling)

Revisiting this favourite of mine.

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So I’m back in Singapore! Which means not only am I reunited with my blowtorch (which will be relevant in a future post), but Char Siew (barbecued pork) is readily available at all times.

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Also, for some reason, I just think the flour in Singapore’s better suited (compared to London) for Asian bread? The flour just seems lighter with a smaller particle size somehow, which is better for the fluffy, sweet buns that’s characteristic of Asian bread.

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I’ve made this recipe before, but with a pineapple filling instead of the savoury filling I’m doing here. There’s more flowery, excited rhetoric about Bo Lo Bao and the difference between Asian and Western bread in that post, so check it out!

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Char siew is a classic filling in Bo Lo Buns. The sweetness of the topping marries perfectly with the (very) enriched dough and the sweet-salty umami of the pork.

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You get a complete package of textures as well, with the crunchy crumbly topping, the soft fluffy bun, and the…chewiness(?) of the meat. That’s the extent of my vocabulary, sorry.

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I ran out of clingfilm unfortunately so I had to use a damp cloth to cover the bread instead. So the bread stuck to the cloth and deflated a bit when I took the cloth off.

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I also learnt from my previous Bo Lo Bao attempt and used less topping this time! Definitely made the buns more presentable. If you use too much topping it kind of overflows and overwhelms the bun, kind of what was happening in the bottom left bun two pictures up.

(Also, isn’t that plate pretty? The luxury of non-student tableware)

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I used storebought Char Siew stir fried with some cornstarch, oyster sauce, and random condiments I had around the kitchen. I used the same recipe source as the last time I made this bun.

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, shake well before using)
  • 1 large egg white
  • 37g unsalted butter, softened (2 1/2 tbsp)
  • Sea salt for sprinkling
  • Char siew (I used about 20g for each bun, and I definitely think it could use with more filling. Meat’s expensive though D:)

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 water roux, 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.
  • Heavy cream is also known as double cream or whipping cream.
  • For extra decadence, serve the bread with some cold butter.
  • All timings listed are a general guide. It’s better to follow the description (eg doubled in size) rather than the timings, as the timing depends on many factors like the activity of your yeast, or the surrounding temperature. For example bread proofs twice as fast in Singapore than in London due to the temperature and humidity difference (yaaaas).
  • Cover the bread with some oiled clingfilm to stop the bread from sticking to it.
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