Pineapple Buns (Bolo Bao)
Serves: 16 buns
Tangzhong (Water Roux)
  • 25 g (2 tablespoons) bread flour
  • 100 ml (1/2 cup) water
Bun Topping
  • 170 g (1½ cups) cake flour
  • 2 tablespoons custard powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 113 g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 100 g (1/2 cup) sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
Bun Dough
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) whole milk, lukewarm
  • 2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 86 g (1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp) sugar
  • 125 g (1 cup) bread flour
  • 250 g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 22 g (1/4 cup) custard powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) salt
  • 1 large egg + 1 more for egg wash
  • 60 g (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
For the tangzhong:
  1. Whisk flour and water together in a small saucepan. Place over medium-low heat on the stove.
  2. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens into a pudding-like consistency and you can leave lines in the mixture, about 5 minutes. You might be tempted to walk away from the mixture at the beginning when it's taking a while to thicken, but don't - it will come together surprisingly quickly and you don't want it to overcook. If you want, you can check the temperature - it's finished when it reaches 65 degrees C (149 degrees F), but I don't find it necessary.
  3. Let the tangzhong cool to room temperature before using. You can also store in the refrigerator for a couple days and bring to room temperature before using. If you see grayish spots in the tangzhong, discard it and make a fresh batch.
For the topping:
  1. Combine flour, custard powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Combine butter and sugar in bowl of a stand mixer. Beat to combine until light and fluffy.
  3. Add in the egg yolks and beat to combine.
  4. Add in the dry mixture and beat until it forms a smooth dough.
  5. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and form into a block. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to let it firm up. You can use it immediately after making, but it might a little too soft to work with, so I find a little chilling time makes it easier.
For the buns:
  1. The milk should be at 108-110 degrees F to develop the yeast (any hotter and it will kill the yeast). Combine yeast and milk and 2 teaspoons of the sugar in a small bowl and let stand for about 5-8 minutes until yeast is bubbly.
  2. Combine the remaining sugar, flours, custard powder, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add in the yeast mixture, the tangzhong, and the egg.
  3. With a dough hook attachment, mix all the ingredients until it comes together into a soft, sticky dough, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add in the butter and mix to incorporate. Continue beating the dough for about 10-15 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. You should be able to stretch the dough out fairly thin without it breaking (the windowpane test). If it breaks right away when you try to stretch, mix it for a couple more minutes.
  5. Turn out the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let proof for about 40 minutes until dough has doubled in size. The amount of time this takes will depend on the ambient temperature. I like to leave the bowl on top of the stove (no burners turned on) but with the oven turned to 250 degrees. Meanwhile, line two baking sheet with parchment paper. You can also make the bun topping during this time.
  6. When the dough looks like it has doubled in size and is puffy to the touch (if you poke the dough it should hold the indent and slowly fill back in), take the dough and split into 16 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, tucking the edges below and rolling to form a smooth surface. Place them on the prepared baking sheets, 8 to a sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let proof again for another 30 minutes, until buns are puffy again and almost doubled in size.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F while the buns proofing for the second time
To finish the buns
  1. Beat the remaining egg lightly to make an egg wash.
  2. Take the bun topping and divide into 16 equal pieces. Flatten each piece into a round circle about ⅛" thick. You don't need to roll it out or spend a lot of time manipulating the shape. The piece should be big enough to cover the top of the bun but should not cover the entire bun, as the topping will spread down as it bakes.
  3. Place a piece of topping on top of each bun. Brush the tops with a little egg wash.
  4. Bake the buns for 18-22 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Cool on wire rack.
Recipe by Dessert First at