Bolobao, or 菠蘿包, literally means “pineapple bun” except they contain no pineapples. Instead, these Cantonese yeast buns are topped with a crumbly, egg-washed cookie crust that resembles the namesake fruit. Bolobao does not require any fancy ingredients… just flour, egg, sugar, salt, butter, milk, yeast, and lots of love.


First, make the roux:
  1. First, to make 0.5 cup of roux, mix 1/8 cup flour plus 3/8 cup water. Heat and stir in a pan over heat until gravy consistency.
  2. Let cool completely (like in a fridge), then add it into the dough below. Roux (or tangzhong in Chinese) is often used in Chinese baking to help the bread retain moisture and fluffiness. Typically, roux makes up about 10-20% of the dough.
Second, activate the yeast:
  1. Mix 0.5 tsp yeast to 0.5 cup warm water.
  2. Wait 10 minutes for yeast to activate. When you see foam forming, you know the yeast is active.
Third, make bread dough:
  1. In a large bowl, mix the 0.5 cup of water with the activated yeast with 1 cup of bread flour. Let it rise for 30 min (in baking, this is called the sponge method, which better prepares the yeast for fermenting the rest of the dough). Then add additional 1.75 cups of bread flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon milk powder, 0.25 cup sugar, 1 whole egg, plus the 0.5 cup of roux made above. Knead to form a smooth dough. If it’s hard to knead, let the dough relax for a few minutes, then knead again. Kneading helps the gluten form, which makes the bread chewy. Last, add 2 tablespoon (or 0.25 stick) of unsalted butter (you want to add fats last because fats inhibit gluten formation), and slowly form a smooth, stretchy dough. Add extra flour if needed to get right consistency.
  2. Let the dough with the yeast rise for about an hour (“first proofing”) or until it doubles in size.
  3. Beat down the big bubbles in the dough then knead again.
  4. Cut into the size that you want. I like it cut the dough into 16 small pieces.
  5. Shape each piece of dough into a round ball.
  6. Mix 1 egg yolk with a small amount of water (about half the volume of the egg yolk) to make the egg wash.
  7. Egg wash each dough ball with a brush.
Fourth, make crust dough:
  1. Mix 0.25 cup (or 0.5 stick) of unsalted butter, 0.25 cup sugar, 2 tablespoon milk powder, 1 cup of cake flour (which is what I use, but I’ve seen other recipes that use all-purpose or bread flour), 1 egg yolk, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and a dash of salt (no more than 0.25 teaspoon).
  2. Roll a piece of crust dough thinly onto plastic wrap (otherwise it would be hard to pick up to be placed on the dough). Using the edge of a cup, cut out a small circle from the flattened crust dough, then transfer it onto each ball of bread dough.
  3. Using a sharp non-serrated knife, roll the blade across the crust dough in crisscross pattern.
  4. Brush crust with the egg wash.
Fifth, bake:
  1. Let the dough rise again (“final proofing”) for at least another hour. As the bread dough rises, the crisscross cuts on the crust dough will spread farther apart to make a beautiful “pineapple pattern.”
  2. Set oven to 350F and bake for 15 min (if using top rack) or until golden color. Bake for shorter time if using bottom rack of oven.
  3. Let the buns cool completely to room temperature before storage in closed container. Otherwise moisture will form and soften the crust, which is supposed to be crunchy. The buns should be soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside.

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