World Series: Hong Kong Style Pineapple Buns

Finally, another World Series recipe! Ok, so this one isn’t to do with Halloween (sorry) but as much as I LOVE Halloween and autumn, I know there are some of us that really struggle to come to terms with darker days and colder nights so I've decided to take us to Hong Kong and make some (sort of) summery Pineapple Buns! These warm, sweet soft on the inside and moreishly crunchy on top buns originated in Hong Kong and is actually recognised by the Hong Kong government as part of their cultural heritage. For anyone familiar with Pineapple buns you’ll know what I'm about to say but for all of those who aren’t, just wait for it…Pineapple Buns actually traditionally contain no form of pineapple ingredient, the pineapple element comes in to describe the crispy top that looks like the body of a pineapple! 
Po Lo Bao is traditionally served in bakeries and you can get the most famous version, Boh Loh Yau which features an inch thick wedge of butter as a filling for the bun, the pineapple buns are usually eaten as a single portion as either a dessert or a sweet snack. I won't be trying to replicate the buttery pineapple buns here today but I will be making them as traditionally as I can and then of course adding a little pineapple feature for a bit of fun, my plan is to make a simple sugar syrup, add in a few splashes of good quality pineapple juice and brush this over the top of each bun once baked so they have a sticky, sweet pineapple glaze! 
I’ve made a video for the process, and it is quite a process! But I’ve had alot of fun making them, as always I'll leave the full recipe down below. 

Makes 12

20g Plain Flour 
75ml Hot Water 

145ml Whole Milk (I used sweetened soya) 
20g Granulated Sugar 
7g Dried Yeast 
500g Bread Flour 
1 tsp Salt 
80ml Condensed Milk 
1 Egg
60g Butter, Melted 

Crunchy Crust 
60g Butter
100g Caster Sugar 
1 tsp Vanilla 
100g Plain Flour 
1/4 tsp Baking Powder 
1/8 tsp Turmeric 
1 Egg Yolk 
2 1/2 tbsp Custard Powder 

1 Egg combined with 1 tbsp Milk for an egg wash 

Pineapple Syrup 
100ml Water
100g Caster Sugar 
2 tbsp Pineapple Juice 

  1. We need to make our Tangzhong/ water roux first, this is simply combining flour and water in a small pan on medium heat, keep continuously stirring until the mix forms a very thick paste but don’t walk away as it will burn quickly! Once most of the lumps are out and the paste has thickened, take it off the heat and pour it onto a small plate/bowl and leave it there to cool, don’t worry if it isn’t really thick, it will thicken further as it cools. Grease a large bowl with 1/2 tsp of neutral oil (this means oil with no flavour like vegetable oil or sunflower oil) and set aside. 
  2.  Now onto the pineapple bun dough. In a small bowl pour the milk and sugar, heat this up in the microwave on medium for between 40-45 seconds, just until the milk starts to steam, give this a stir then add in your yeast, don’t stir at this point and just leave the yeast to activate for 5 mins. 
  3. In a stand mixer bowl pour in the bread flour, salt, condensed milk, egg and butter, then add in your tangzhong and milk/yeast mixture. Set the mixer to a low speed and let this combine for 8-10 mins, after this time you should see the dough has come together completely and isn’t sticky. A couple of times throughout the mixing I took the dough off the beater, placed it in the centre of the bowl then started up the mixer again, this was just to make sure each part of the dough was pushed around evenly. 
  4. Once the dough has come together and isn’t sticky, dump it out onto a clean counter (you won't need flour or oil) and knead gently for 2-3 mins just to bring it into a ball shape. 
  5. Put the dough ball into the earlier prepared bowl, cover with a damp tea towel, place somewhere warm and let it rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until doubled in size. 
  6. Whilst the dough is rising we’ll make our crunchy crust! Cream butter, sugar and vanilla together in a large bowl until soft and fluffy with no lumps. Add in your egg yolk and whisk again until combined. 
  7. In a separate small bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, turmeric and custard powder until combined. We only want a small amount of turmeric it’s just to help with the yellow colour of the crust. Once combined, tip the dry mix into the wet and combine until you have a loose dough, it might be quite dry and crumb-like but that's ok, the mixture should be easily brought together with your hands. 
  8. Take the mixture out of the bowl and onto a clean surface, again, you won't need flour or oil for this. Very gently roll the dough out into a 30cm long log, wrap the log in foil and chill it in the fridge for 1 hour and then grease a large baking tray with oil and set aside. 
  9. Once the bun dough has risen, use a weighing scale to separate it into 12 x 75-77g dough balls, roll them into balls and place them on the baking tray seam side down. 
  10. Cover the dough balls with a tea towel and let them rise for 40 mins until almost double in size. In the last 10 mins of rising time, preheat the oven to 190C/ 170 Fan/ Gas Mark 3. 
  11. Now prep the egg wash, whisk together the egg and milk until fully combined then set aside. 
  12. Now it’s time for our crunchy crust! Take the dough log from out the fridge and score it into 12 even slices, then one at a time cut one slice, roll it into a ball, gently press it onto a clean surface and then roll it out VERY GENTLY with a rolling pin to around half an inch thick and around 3-4 inches in diameter. I think this was the most difficult bit for me as this dough is so thin that it will break apart very easily if you roll it out too hard or too thin, just take your time. Once rolled out to the ideal size, drape the dough over the top of your buns and gently tap the dough around the edge to seal it to the bun, we don’t want the crust to go all the way down to the bottom of the dough otherwise it will burn against the baking tray so just drape them halfway down the dough balls. 
  13. Brush the top of the buns with egg wash. 
  14. Bake the buns in the oven for 15-20 mins until the tops have cracked and are lightly golden. 
  15. Whilst the buns bake, measure out the water and caster sugar into a small saucepan for our pineapple syrup. Get the syrup onto medium heat and keep stirring until all the sugar has dissolved then let it get to a simmer before taking off the heat and adding in the pineapple juice. Once the syrup has cooled a bit, taste it and see if you need to add any more juice for extra flavour! 
  16. Now the buns should be baked and crispy! Take them out of the oven and let them cool on the tray for 5 mins before brushing over the syrup on the top of each bun, I brushed each one 3 times just to make sure they’d be sweet and glistening. 
  17. Now, you’re ready to eat! 

I can’t express how proud I am of myself for actually getting through this bake! If you’ve read a couple of the more recent recipes you’ll know I was struggling with just seeming to fail each time, but I think I've clawed my way back with this one. I know they aren’t perfect, some of them could definitely have had crispier tops to really show off their pineapple look but the last thing I wanted was for them to burn or for the bread to become dry and thankfully, that didn't happen this time. This recipe was probably one of the most difficult tasks I've ever undertaken on the blog, there were so many different bits to remember and piece together but I think I did an alright job, and as long as you have some baking knowledge (and plenty of time and mixing bowls) under your hat, there's no reason you can’t attempt these delicious buns too. I’m really happy with how the pineapple syrup stuck to the top of each bun as well, it gives that instant hit of sweetness as you crunch through that delicious topping. Before looking up an idea for this week I'd never heard of pineapple buns, mooncakes or the mid-autumn festival in Asia where all of these incredible dishes come from, I know I say this almost every time but I'm always so grateful for everything I learn with each World Series recipe. Through pineapple buns, I’ve found a recipe that I want to add to my Christmas baking list and show off to my family! I hope that someday soon I'll be able to visit Hong Kong and try a real pineapple bun, but for now, I'll have to munch away on all of these! 

Only 2 days until Halloween!! 

H x