How does an image in your mind of a pineapple bun look like?

You may visualize it as a bun with some pineapple jam as the filling. But in reality, there isn’t any pineapple at all in the bun.

Pineapple bun (菠蘿包, Bolo Bao, Polo bun, Bolo Bao) is a sweet bun cover with a topping that tastes like butter cookies. It looks like a pineapple after making a few crisscrossed lines on the topping before baking, and the name has been associated with its shapes forever.

Eighteenth years ago, I visited a cafe near me called Polo Bun, serving these pineapple-shaped buns as the main menu item. According to the owner, the name Polo is the translation from the word 菠蘿包 pronounced in Cantonese in verbatim, which means pineapple bun. 

The name is derived from its shape, which resembles a pineapple famous in the Hong Kong style café. 

That café had closed long ago, and I hardly returned to Hong Kong, mainly due to the current situation, so I have decided to make my pineapple bun at home. 

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How to make the pineapple bun

The pineapple bun (Bolo Bao, Polo bun, Bolo Bao) is predominantly popular in Hong Kong and is also commonly available worldwide in the respective Chinatown. As I mentioned earlier, it does not contain any pineapple inside the bun. It is a sweet bun cover with a topping that tastes like butter cookies. It looks like a pineapple after making a few crisscrossed lines on the topping before baking, and the name has been associated with its shapes forever.

Here are the detailed steps on how to prepare the pineapple bun.

1. Prepare the bread dough

The process of making the dough is quite similar to other buns. You can also use the Japanese milk bread recipe on this blog, but I have simplified it here by omitting the process of making the TangZhong. If you are unfamiliar with making buns, you can refer to the Japanese milk bread recipe for more details. Otherwise, the following information should be sufficient for any regular bakers.

Here are the steps:

  • I start by mixing the warm water and yeast in a small bowl. Let it stand for five minutes until the yeast is dissolved and activated.
  • Next, I measure the bread flour and place it in the mixing bowl, combining the yeast mixture, salt, egg, and sugar with a spatula to form a sticky dough.
  • I use a small home-used mixer with the dough hook attached. Mix the dough until it becomes smooth and able to pull away from the bowl. This step takes roughly three to five minutes to achieve. 
  • Next, add the softened butter and continue mixing until all the butter is absorbed. It is easy to work with softened butter as it can incorporate into the dough quicker. Therefore, I suggest cutting the butter into small cubes before measuring and mixing the ingredients. The butter should become soft when you need it later.
  • Continue mixing the dough until it becomes elastic, smooth, shiny, and ultimately pulled away from the bowl. It takes around three minutes to achieve this.
  • Now stretch one part of the dough thinly with your finger. It should be able to stretch until very thin and become translucent. This action is called the windowpane test, which is used to check the development of gluten. If you can stretch it without breaking, gluten formation is sufficient, and there is no need to further knead the dough.
  • Cover the dough with a damp cloth to avoid it from drying. Let it rest at room temperature until it doubles in size, which will take roughly thirty for forty minutes. 

Note:

In theory, sugar is the nutrient for yeast and helps to activate it, ao it should be added to the yeast first. Also, salt may hinder the development of gluten and is best to add later. From my experience, these effects are minimal, so I mix all the ingredients. The result is good, and the gluten is developed in seven minutes until it passes the windowpane test. The yeast also works fine and can double the size of the dough in forty minutes. The amount of active dry yeast I used was 3g for 250 of bread flour.

2. Shape the dough

You can check whether the fermentation is completed by poking your finger into the dough. This action will form a deep hole without bouncing back if it has doubled in size.

Now you have to decide how big you want the bun to be. I weighed the dough and then divided it into ten portions to make ten buns. You may like smaller ones by dividing it into twelve or fourteen portions.

Once you have done that, roll each portion of the dough with your palm to form a smooth ball. 

3. Prepare the topping for the pineapple buns

Now it comes to the less conventional part of making this bun- prepare the topping.

The goal of adding a topping to the bun is to create a contrasting mouthfeel when you bite into the soft bun with the crumbly topping at the same time. The feeling is like eating buns and butter cookies in one bite, although this is better!

The topping of the pineapple bun is what makes it stand out from the clutter. (Can’t think of any other bread or bun that has a topping even close to it.)

Here are the steps:

  • Mix the softened butter and sugar to form a buttercream.
  • Add the egg and milk powder and combine well.
  • Blend the all-purpose flour, salt, and baking butter into it to form a dough. Do not over mix the dough so that it retains its crumbly texture while eating.
  • The dough is too soft to shape and handle at this moment. Therefore, you need to wrap it, then keep in the refrigerator for thirty minutes or until it is firm enough to handle by hand before you use it as a topping.
  • Once it is firm like plasticine, remove it from the refrigerator. Divide the topping to ten equal balls, and put into the fridge again if they are too soft.

4. Add the topping to the bread dough and bake 

Now it comes to the fun part, i.e., how to place the topping on top of the bread dough neatly and create a pattern that resembles a pineapple.

To create the shape of pineapple:

  • Place a portion of the topping on a cling film, then cover it with another film.
  • Flatten the topping by pressing it with a dough cutter or the back of a knife. I find that this is the best way to make a perfect circle. Bear in mind that the topping will crack if you force-pressed the hardened topping dough. It works best when it is firm like plasticine but not as hard as a solid ball.
  • Roll out the topping with a rolling pin to the size enough to cover the bun’s top portion.
  • Remove the top layer of the cling film.
  • Brush a thin layer of egg wash on the top side of bread dough. The egg will act as glue to secure the topping from falling off the bun after baking.
  • Place the part of the bun with the egg wash on the topping. Invert the bun so that now the topping is on top.
  • Remove the cling film carefully and then wrap the topping around the bun.
  • Make three indented lines on the surface with the dough cutter. Turn the dough ninety degrees and indent another three lines. Now the bun looks like a pineapple.

To bake the pineapple bun:

  • Finally, apply some egg wash on the surface before baking.
  • Bake at 190°C/375°F for twenty minutes on the middle rack or until the buns turn golden. The exact time required depends on the position of your rack and the actual temperature in the oven. There are no two identical ovens, and it is best to decide when to remove it by visually observing the color.

The buns taste best when it is fresh from the oven when the topping is still crumbly. This crumbly texture will last for half a day and will start to soften after some time. You can make it crispy and crumbly again by reheating it in the oven or a small toaster.

Make a pineapple bun with custard filling

You can replace part of the bread dough with some custard filling. 

To do this, I reduce the bread dough’s weight by forty percent and replace it with the custard of equal weight. You can check out my easy custard recipe in the snow skin mooncake article. The mooncake is filled with custard, and so you can get the full detail of making the custard over there.

You need to wrap the custard with the pastry first before putting on the topping.  The rest of the steps for the pineapple bun with custard filling is identical to this recipe.

Other similar Chinese buns with the pineapple bun

Check out the following Asian bread recipes if you like this pineapple bun recipe.

1. Japanese milk bread– This is one of the softest bun recipes I have tried. It takes a little more time to prepare because you need to make the TangZhong, but it is worth the effort if you like soft buns.
2. Pull-apart garlic bread is a unique bread loaf that can be pulled into slices without cutting it.
3. Hong Kong-style sausage roll is a dainty small roll with sausage wrapped within the bread dough. It is a widely popular item in Asian bakeries.

Yield: 10 buns

The pineapple bun recipe

pineapple bun image thumbnail

Pineapple bun (菠蘿包, Bolo Bao, Polo bun, Bolo Bao) is a sweet bun cover with a topping that tastes like butter cookies. It looks like a pineapple after making a few crisscrossed lines on the topping before baking, and the name has been associated with its shapes forever.

Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients

Bread Dough (A)

Topping (B)

Instructions

Prepare the dough

  1. Dissolve the yeast with warm water and milk. Let it stand for five minutes.
  2. Place the bread flour, yeast mixture, salt, egg, and sugar in the mixing bowl. 
  3. Combine all the ingredients with a fork of a spatula to form a sticky dough.
  4. Mix the dough (with an electric mixer or hand knead) until it becomes smooth and starts to pull away from the bowl. pineapple bun - combine dough ingredients
  5. Add the softened butter and continue mixing until all the butter is absorbed. The dough will become more elastic, smooth, and shining and pass the windowpane test.
  6. Cover the dough and rest at room temperature until it doubles in size.pineapple bun - knead dough

Shape the dough

  1. Divide the dough to ten equal portions.
  2. Roll each portion into the shape of a ball. pineapple bun - shape the dough

Prepare the topping

  1. Mix the softened butter and sugar until it forms a buttercream.
  2. Add the egg and milk powder and combine.
  3. Add the regular flour, salt, and baking butter and combine until it becomes a uniform dough.
  4. Refrigerate the topping for thirty minutes or until it becomes firm enough to handle by hand.
  5. Divide the topping to ten equal balls.pineapple bun - shape the topping

Shaping and baking

  1. Place a portion of the topping on the cling wrap.
  2. Cover the topping with another cling wrap, then flatten the topping dough with the pastry cutter.
  3. Roll out the topping to a circle with the rolling pin to a size enough to cover the entire bun.
  4. Remove the top layer of the cling film.
  5. Apply a layer of egg wash on the surface of the bun.
  6. Place the bun at the center of the topping, then invert the bun/topping so that now the topping is on top.
  7. Make three indented lines on the topping surface, then turn ninety degrees and indent another three lines. Now the bun looks like a pineapple.
  8. Apply some egg wash on the surface.
  9. Bake at 190°C/375°F for twenty minutes on middle racks or until the buns turn golden.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

10

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 222Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 35mgSodium: 210mgCarbohydrates: 34gFiber: 1gSugar: 9gProtein: 5g

This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 9/25/2020

    8 replies to "Pineapple bun 菠蘿包- How to make it at home"

    • KP Kwan

      Hi, this is KP Kwan. I am happy to see you in this comment area, as you have read through my recipe. I am pleased to reply to any questions and comments as soon as possible.

    • Goh

      Hi, thanks for sharing! for the Topping, can we replace the milk powder with milk? if so, what should be the measurements? thank you!

      • KP Kwan

        Hi Goh,
        This one is a dry recipe so that it will become crumbly after baking. I suggest you omit the milk powder and do not replace it with anything.
        KP Kwan

        • Goh

          Ok thank you! will give it a try!

    • elaine

      It looks delicious. I will give it a try. BTW do you have any recipe on fried sweet potatoes balls, similar to the one at China Town Petaling Street. Not the Taiwn type. Looking forward to it.

      Thanks

      • KP Kwan

        Haha, Elain I yet to learn how to make it:). Meanwhile head to Petaling Street where the best one is available there.

    • Elisa Tan

      Do you have any tips for making a good seal when using custard? I pinched the dough around the custard closed until it looked smooth but it burst when I baked it. I will try again soon, thank you

      • KP Kwan

        Hi Elsa,
        I never try to add custard to the pineapple bun before but made liu sha pao 流沙包 before. I keep twisting the seal as if tightening a screw, and it worked. I hope the same method works for you in this recipe.
        KP Kwan

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