One of the best things about visiting another country is tasting all of its different foods. Hong Kong is no exception; it has a huge array of foods to eat—dim sum, street markets, tea houses—that can basically cater to any taste buds. One of the prominent meals I remember eating was brunch. We’d have dim sum basically ever other day when we went to visit my grandma (who’s 80 and going strong!). I remember there was this restaurant that was in one of those apartment/mall-esque buildings, and right after dim sum, my cousin and my sister and I would walk two shops over and have bubble tea from gong cha. Man. Those were the days. Now I look back and wonder how I could eat so much.
Anyway, besides dim sum, we would have the egg waffles (yum…) which were oddly shaped, waffle-y and egg-y, hot, cheap, and delicious, and, more importantly, buns.
There were tons of bakeries in Hong Kong, that had tons of baos, or buns. But the family favorites have to be bo loh bao, or pineapple buns (aka melonpan in Japanese) and gai mai bao, or cocktail buns. While the cocktail bun is native to Hong Kong, I’m not sure where the pineapple buns are originally from, because there are many different forms of it all across Asia.
My sister and I prefer the pineapple buns, while my mom prefers the cocktail buns, which is a little richer but oh-so-delicious. It’s a soft bun that’s filled with a mixture of coconut, sugar, butter, and milk powder.
Pineapple buns, on the other hand, are basically buns with a butter cookie on top. It’s not exactly sweet, but it’s soft, and the topping melts in your mouth. It’s great hot out of the oven. Or you can freeze it, and zap it in the microwave for 45 seconds and you’ve got a great, hot, steaming breakfast.
The only thing that’s different, and what makes this super soft is this thing called tangzhong. Apparently that’s the secret to a nice dough (well, that and a bread machine, because the dough is so sticky). Tangzhong is a water rue (or was it roux?) that you need to make in advance. You’re supposed to whisk it over the stove until it reaches some temperature, but I never bother, especially because I broke my camdy thermometer (oops…). You just need to whisk it until it becomes so thick there are lines when you drag your whisk across it. Overcook it a bit? It’s all good. Don’t worry; it’ll still be super soft.
Here’s the recipe for tangzhong:
- 250 mL of water
- 50 g flour
- Whisk the two in a pot over medium to high heat. Keep whisking until you see lines in the roux, but don’t let it burn! Remove from heat and cool in a bowl. Let it go to room temperature (or close to room temperature…) before using.
Be sure to WEIGH out your ingredients; it’s much more accurate to do it this way than by volume. However, because America loves its measuring cups, I’ll also put in the measurements by volume. Good luck!
For the bun:
- 350 g (2 ½ cups) bread flour (or all-purpose, and add a little bit of gluten)
- 55g (1/4 cup) caster sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 1 egg
- 7 g (1 tsp) milk powder
- 125 (1/2 cup) mL milk, about 100-110° Fahrenheit
- 30 g (generous 2 tbsp) butter, softened
- 120 g (ABOUT 2/3 cup) tangzhong
for the topping:
- 55 g (1/2 cup) butter
- 55 g (about ½ cup)powdered sugar
- 25 g (about ½) egg
- 2 tbsp milk powder
- 130 g (about 1 cup) flour
- 1 egg, for eggwash
- Combine all the of the topping ingredients together and refrigerate.
- Stir together flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and milk powder in a large bowl. Add in tangzhong, egg, and milk, and stir until mostly combined. Dump it all in the bread machine, and set it on the dough cycle. Add the butter.
- Let it knead for one cycle, then restart the cycle two more times, so it kneads for a total of three cycles (for my bread machine, the kneading and rising are both in the “dough cycle”, so I had to reset it before the dough started the rising stage), about 60 min.
- On the last cycle, let it rise. We usually use a double batch, and 10 min into the rising stage, the dough rises so much we have to transfer the dough into a large bowl and pop it into the oven (which is turned off!) with the light on for the last 50 minutes.
- Weigh out dough into 12 portions, to about 60 g each, and knead into balls. Place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover, and let rise for 30 min.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Scoop out the topping into 15-20 g balls, then flatten out so it is slightly larger than the palm of your hand. Refrigerate until needed
- Beat the egg for eggwash and brush over the loaves and the topping. Working quickly, place the topping on the buns and place it into the oven. Bake for 15 min, or until golden brown.
- Let rest a while on the baking sheet, then transfer on a wire rack.