Bolo Bao (菠蘿包/bor lor bao/bo lo baau/bo luo bao) are Pineapple Buns from Hong Kong generally served during breakfast or alongside tea. The bun doesn’t actually contain any pineapple. The name comes from the cookie-like crust that covers the bun and is decorated into a pattern that resembles the outside of a pineapple. This crumbly, golden crust gives way to an extremely soft bread. Dozens of variations exist. You may find some filled with custard, peanut butter, or meat. They are also often sliced in half with the addition of a thick piece of butter (bolo yau/菠蘿油).
Bolo Bao takes a little bit of prep work. First, the tangzhong (water roux) needs to be made and chilled. Flour and milk are combined on the stovetop to create a paste. It is refrigerated, then used as the base for the soft dough that is kneaded for a long period to create that light texture. The buns are topped with the pineapple decorated cookie crust, brushed with an egg wash, and baked until golden. Like most fresh breads, these buns are best within a couple of hours of baking.
Cutting the checkerboard pattern into the crust of the buns is optional, but gives it the iconic look. I am not sure if I just didn’t cut deep enough/rolled the crust too thin or if Evan and I brushed a little too much with the egg wash before baking, but mine wasn’t as noticeable when it came out of the oven.
I made 10 medium sized buns using this recipe. You can also divide the dough/pineapple crust into 8 equal pieces to make larger buns.
The original recipe from Yi Reservation is listed in Metric. I gave my approximations as I recreated the recipe, but metric is still best for consistent results during baking.
Bolo Bao (Hong Kong Pineapple Buns)
Adapted from Yi Reservation
20 grams (1 1/3 tablespoons) bread flour
80 ml (1/3 cup) milk
1 egg yolk
50 grams (3 1/2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
45 grams (scant 1/4 cup) granulated sugar
10 grams (1/2-1 tablespoon) milk
110 grams (3/4 cup) cake flour
10 grams (2 teaspoons) nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
5 grams (1 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
100 ml (7 tablespoons) milk, lukewarm (105-115 degrees F)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
310 grams (2 cups) bread flour
50 grams (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
30 grams (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 egg yolk
1/2 egg white
To make the roux: In a small saucepan, whisk together the flour and milk until no lumps remain. Place over low heat and continue to whisk until it begins to thicken, about 3 minutes. Once it becomes a paste with soft peaks, remove from heat and allow to cool. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours to overnight.
To make the pineapple crust: In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, butter, and sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly add the milk while whisking.
In a small bowl, combine the cake flour, milk powder, baking powder, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and stir together with a spatula or spoon until smooth. Transfer to a large piece of plastic wrap, cover, and form into a log. Refrigerate until well chilled, 1 hour to overnight.
To make the dough: In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the lukewarm milk. Stir and allow to sit until frothy, about 10 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer filtered with a dough hook or a large bowl, add the chilled water roux, egg, frothy yeast with milk, and vanilla extract. Top with the flour, sugar, and salt. Combine to bring the ingredients together and mix in the softened butter. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth and slightly sticky, 10-20 minutes. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and allow to rest at room temperature until doubled, 1-2 hours.
Line two baking sheets with parchment or lightly grease.
Transfer the risen dough to a lightly floured surface and divide into 10 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Allow to rest for 15 minutes.
Remove the chilled crust from the refrigerator. Divide into 10 equal pieces. Roll one of the pieces into a ball and place between two layers of plastic wrap. Flatten and roll until it is a thin, 4 inch wide circle.
Carefully remove the top piece of the plastic wrap and flip the circle over to transfer onto one of the buns. Remove the plastic and lightly press the edges to cover the bun. Repeat with remaining pieces of crust. If desired, use a small knife to create a checkerboard pattern without cutting all the way through the crust. Allow the buns to rest for 30-45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 380 degrees F. In a small bowl, beat together the egg yolk and 1/2 egg white. Brush over the tops and sides of the buns. Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes. Decrease heat to 350 degrees F and continue to bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Best day it is made.