Uncle ken’s bo lo bao – baked pineapple buns

Uncle ken’s bo lo bao – baked pineapple buns

By
From
Hong Kong Diner
Makes
8-10
Photographer
Kris Kirkham

My UNCLE KEN is the baker of our family, having inherited the skill and natural baker’s touch from my grandfather. One challenge that comes with inheriting family recipes however, is that in my grandfather’s day, nothing was ever really measured – so every time my uncle kindly passes down a recipe to me, the measurements seem to come in a variety of different forms. This particular recipe, from Uncle Ken, read, ‘Just THROW TOGETHER a sack-full of flour, three-quarters of a Chinese rice bowl of sugar, a bit of margarine or butter, and enough water to make the dough perfect.’ After a few tries and my trusty scales, I have to say this recipe really does make the same kind of pineapple buns (named after the shape of the crumble topping, resembling the outside of a pineapple, rather than having pineapple in the recipe itself) you’d find in any good HONG KONG BAKERY. Thanks, Uncle Ken, I’m proud to be your baking disciple.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient

The bread dough

Quantity Ingredient
400g the bread dough
70g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon organic bread/dough improver, optional, but you can find this easily online
7g fast-action dried yeast
25g margarine
200ml warm water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

The crumble topping

Quantity Ingredient
200g butter
200g caster sugar
1 egg, plus extra beaten egg for the eggwash
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 small dab yellow food colouring, optional
200g plain flour
200g self-raising flour

Method

  1. Put the dry bread dough ingredients into an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the margarine, and start to mix at a low speed.
  2. Gradually pour in the warm water, until all the flour has come off the edge of the mixer. Turn the speed up to high and knead for 3–4 minutes, until the dough becomes a little ‘stringy’ in texture – tacky and slightly moist. Remove from the mixer and knead by hand for a minute or so, then roll into one large ball and put back into the mixing bowl. Rub 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil all over the dough, then cover the bowl with a clean damp tea towel.
  3. Place in a warm, humid environment and allow to rise for 1–1½ hours.
  4. Once the dough has doubled in size, knock it back by punching into it a few times and shaping it into a rough ball once more, then allow to prove for a further 30 minutes, in the same humid and warm environment.
  5. Now make the crumble topping. Whisk the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and whisk in well, either by hand or on a medium speed in a dough mixer with the k-hook attachment. Once the egg has been well combined with the butter and sugar, add the vanilla extract and the yellow food colouring, if using, then sift both the flours into the bowl and slowly combine all the ingredients together, either with your hands, or, if using the dough mixer, on speed 1. (The yellow food colouring will help to enhance the changes in colour across the crumble topping, giving you that classic Hong Kong bakery ‘pineapple’ effect.)
  6. Once well mixed, the crumble topping should resemble a cookie dough. Remove from the bowl and roll out on a floured surface to about 3–4mm thick. Use an 8–9cm round cookie cutter to cut the crumble topping into circles the correct size to cover the buns. Use the back of a butter knife to gently make a criss-cross pattern on each crumble topping surface, but make sure not to cut through completely.
  7. By the time you’ve finished your topping, the dough should have doubled in size once more. Shape it into 8–10 buns, as follows: roll the dough into a large cylinder, then cut into pieces roughly 6–7cm wide. Roll each piece into a smooth ball and place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Once all the bun shapes have been made, cover once more with the damp tea towel and place in the same humid, warm place for a final 15–20 minutes to prove one last time.
  8. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Brush the top of each bun with beaten egg, then carefully place a circle of crumble over each of the buns. Add another coat of eggwash over the crumble filling and bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes, until the top of the crumble is golden brown and crispy. The buns should rise by at least 50% more while baking.

Tip

  • There is purposely more crumble topping in this recipe than is needed, in case you need more because of breakages or slight accidents.For what to do with the extra biscuit-like crumble once the buns have been made.Two treats hatched from one recipe is my kind of cooking!

Tip

  • One way to help your dough rise is to preheat your oven to about 40°c for 10–15 minutes while the dough is being kneaded, with a small, metal bowl of boiling hot water placed in the bottom of the oven. turn the oven off and immediately put the dough into the oven to rise, placing the bowl on the middle shelf.
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