Recipe

Pineapple Buns with Chinese Barbecue Pork (Bolo Bao)

by Tim Chin

If there is one benchmark against which to judge any Chinatown bakery, Bolo Bao is it. Its moist, fluffy interior is the result of adding a cooked flour and water paste called tangzhong to an enriched bread dough. Tangzhong allows the dough to absorb far more water, yielding super moist buns that bake up extra light and fluffy. Most bakery-style versions come with a hard, custardy topping with a crosshatched pattern that resembles the outside of a pineapple. My version is inspired by the shatteringly crisp bolo bao offered at Tim Ho Wan—one of Hong Kong’s only Michelin-starred dim sum restaurants (dubbed “the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant”). These buns are filled with Chinese Barbecue Pork for the ultimate bun experience.

Yield
Makes 20 buns
SFS_Pork-Filled_20Bun_029.jpg
Ingredients

Dough

100 g water
25 g plus 375 g all-purpose flour, divided
115 g cold whole milk
50 g egg (1 large egg)
85 g sugar
22 g nonfat dry milk powder
7 g instant or rapid-rise yeast
5 g Salt
60 g unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces and softened

Topping

100 g all-purpose flour
2 g baking powder
2 g Salt
100 g unsalted butter, softened
80 g confectioners' sugar
100 g eggs, beaten (2 large eggs)
8 g vanilla extract

Filling

550 g Chinese Barbecue Pork filling

Dough

½ cup water
2 tablespoons plus 2⅔ cups (13⅓ ounces) all-purpose flour, divided
½ cup cold whole milk
1  large egg
⅓ cup plus 4 teaspoons (3 ounces) sugar
3½ teaspoons nonfat dry milk powder
2¼ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 teaspoon Salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces and softened

Topping

⅔ cup plus 2 teaspoons (3½ ounces) all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon Salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
⅔ cup confectioners' sugar
2  large eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Filling

1¼ pounds Chinese Barbecue Pork filling
Essential Equipment
Instructions
    • 100 g water
    • 25 g all-purpose flour
    • 115 g cold whole milk
    • 50 g egg (1 large egg)
    FOR THE DOUGH: Whisk water and 25 grams flour in small microwave-safe bowl until smooth. Microwave, whisking every 20 seconds, until mixture thickens to stiff, smooth, pudding-like consistency and registers at least 150 degrees F/65.5 degrees C, 40 to 60 seconds. Whisk in milk until smooth, then whisk in egg until smooth.
    • 375 g all-purpose flour
    • 85 g sugar
    • 22 g nonfat dry milk powder
    • 7 g instant or rapid-rise yeast
    • 5 g salt
    In bowl of stand mixer, whisk together 375 grams flour, sugar, milk powder, yeast, and salt. Add cooked flour mixture. Fit stand mixer with dough hook and mix on low speed until all flour is moistened, 1 to 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high speed and knead until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl, 10 to 12 minutes.
    • 60 g unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces and softened
    Fit stand mixer with paddle. With mixer running on medium speed, add butter, 1 piece at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Continue to beat until butter is fully incorporated and dough is no longer shiny, 1 to 2 minutes longer.

  1. Transfer dough to very lightly floured counter. Knead dough briefly to form ball and transfer, seam side down, to lightly greased large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours. (Wash and dry mixer bowl and paddle.)
    • 100 g all-purpose flour
    • 2 g baking powder
    • 2 g salt
    • 100 g unsalted butter, softened
    • 80 g confectioners’ sugar
    • 100 g egg, beaten (2 large eggs)
    • 8 g vanilla extract
    FOR THE TOPPING: Meanwhile, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in small bowl. Using clean, dry mixer bowl and paddle, beat butter and confectioners’ sugar on medium-high speed until light, pale, and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With mixer running, gradually add eggs, then vanilla; mix until smooth, scraping down bowl as needed, about 2 minutes. Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl, then fold ingredients by hand to mix fully. Transfer mixture to 1-quart heavy-duty zipper-lock bag and snip off 1 corner, making hole no larger than ¼ inch (alternatively, transfer to pastry bag fitted with ¼-inch piping tip); set aside until ready to use (do not refrigerate).
    • 550 g Chinese Barbecue Pork filling
    To fill buns: Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Transfer dough to counter and divide into 20 equal pieces (40 grams each). Working with 1 piece at a time, press dough into 4-inch round on lightly floured counter and drape in muffin tin to form cup shape. Fill dough cup with 25 grams (about 1½ tablespoons) pork filling. Pull edges of dough to center and pinch tightly to seal. Transfer bun to counter, seam side down, and rotate gently to form round shape. Repeat with remaining dough pieces and remaining pork filling. Space 10 balls evenly on each prepared sheet. Lightly spray tops of buns with vegetable oil spray, cover with plastic, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees F/190.5 degrees C.
  2. When buns are doubled in size, pipe 30 grams (about 2 tablespoons) topping in tight spiral on top of each bun (topping should form circle roughly 2 inches in diameter and ¼ inch thick). Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until topping is golden brown, 14 to 16 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Transfer buns to wire rack and let cool for at least 10 minutes.
Instructions
    • ½ cup water
    • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
      ½ cup cold whole milk
    • 1 large egg
    FOR THE DOUGH: Whisk water and 2 tablespoons flour in small microwave-safe bowl until smooth. Microwave, whisking every 20 seconds, until mixture thickens to stiff, smooth, pudding-like consistency and registers at least 150 degrees F/65.5 degrees C, 40 to 60 seconds. Whisk in milk until smooth, then whisk in egg until smooth.  
    • 2⅔ cups (13⅓ ounces) all-purpose flour
    • ⅓ cup plus 4 teaspoons (3 ounces) sugar
      3½ teaspoons nonfat dry milk powder
    • 2¼ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    In bowl of stand mixer, whisk together 2⅔ cups flour, sugar, milk powder, yeast, and salt. Add cooked flour mixture. Fit stand mixer with dough hook and mix on low speed until all flour is moistened, 1 to 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and knead until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl, 10 to 12 minutes.
    • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces and softened
    Fit stand mixer with paddle. With mixer running on medium speed, add butter, 1 piece at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Continue to mix until butter is fully incorporated and dough is no longer shiny, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
  1. Transfer dough to very lightly floured counter. Knead dough briefly to form ball and transfer, seam side down, to lightly greased large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours. (Wash and dry mixer bowl and paddle.)
    • ⅔ cup plus 2 teaspoons (3½ ounces) all-purpose flour
      ¼ teaspoon baking powder
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
      6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
      ⅔ cup confectioners’ sugar
    • 2 large eggs, beaten
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    FOR THE TOPPING: Meanwhile, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in small bowl. Using clean, dry mixer bowl and paddle, beat butter and confectioners’ sugar on medium high speed until light, pale, and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With mixer running, gradually add eggs, then vanilla; mix until smooth, scraping down bowl as needed about 2 minutes. Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl, then fold ingredients by hand to mix fully. Transfer mixture to 1-quart heavy-duty zipper-lock bag and snip off 1 corner, making hole no larger than ¼ inch (alternatively, transfer to pastry bag fitted with ¼-inch piping tip); set aside until ready to use (do not refrigerate). 
    • 1¼ pounds Chinese Barbecue Pork filling
    To fill buns: Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Transfer dough to counter and divide into 20 equal pieces (about 1½ ounces each). Working with 1 piece at a time, press dough into 4-inch round on lightly floured counter and drape in muffin tin to form cup shape. Fill dough cup with about 1½ tablespoons pork filling. Pull edges of dough to center and pinch tightly to seal. Transfer bun to counter, seam side down, and rotate gently to form round shape. Repeat with remaining dough pieces and remaining pork filling. Space 10 balls evenly on each prepared sheet. Lightly spray tops of buns with vegetable oil spray, cover with plastic, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees F/190.5 degrees C.
  2. When buns are doubled in size, pipe about 2 tablespoons topping in tight spiral on top of each bun (topping should form circle roughly 2 inches in diameter and ¼ inch thick). Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until topping is golden brown, 14 to 16 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Transfer buns to wire rack and let cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve.
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