Since moving to Texas there are a couple of foods that we do miss from back home in NYC. You can find almost anything here, but the foods we miss are the asian foods we grew up eating. Food like, Korean tofu soup, Black bean sauce noodles, and Chinese bao. However, on a trip downtown, my husband urged us to try an upscale Chinese restaurant, Wu Chow for Dim sum. The place was sleek, swanky and packed with people! We waited an our for our table and despite the high prices the food was amazing! Har gow (Chinese shrimp dumplings) packed with large gulf shrimp, Steamed sticky rice, perfectly cooked and brimming with Chinese sausage and of course the pineapple bun. Their buns were shaped like little turtles with tiny black sesame eyes and had a shiny, crunchy cookie shell. But I was still skeptical.
The pineapple buns, I had growing up had the same crunchy crust but they were larger and filled with nothing... which is how I liked it as a kid. But these buns were all grown up, adorable and their pineapple filling gave it a fun twist. The pineapples were caramelized in a brown sugar sauce and worked very nicely with the fluffy buns. I wanted to order more but since we had already gorged ourselves on more plates of dim sum that I would like to divulge, I went home with only one tiny pineapple bun in my belly. But from that day I was dying to try to recreate these myself. And here they are!
These buns are from a mix of different recipes. Milk bread, plus a crust I found from the Lady and pups blog, and a pineapple filling from my own imagination. The bun is soft and feathery, just how I think milk bread should always be. The crust is crisp with a flavor that you just can quite pin down. A mixture of custard powder (a staple in many cantonese bun recipes) and coconut cream which gives it a perfect aroma. And then the filling, not too sweet, but buttery and tart. I love this bun more than I can explain. While I was taking photos of it for this post, the smell overcame me and I had to tear one open for a taste. The flavor flooded my mind with many many childhood memories of these buns. We use to bring a box of buns to our relatives houses as a hostess gift, where my cousins and I would fight over the last one. We would eat these while sitting in a car in Chinatown, while my mom rushed around buying groceries for the week. These buns are not just filled with pineapple, they are filled with many happy memories. And I despite a bit of a process it takes o make them, I think they are well worth it.
They start out with the milk bread dough I've made time and time again, but with some extras, I like to make the filling first. I melt a little but of butter in a pot, add in some brown sugar and a can of pineapple. In hindsight I should have used crush pineapple but I had chunks on hand so I drained them and added them to the pot. This cooked together for about 10 minutes until the pineapple softened. I then used a potato masher to crush up the chunks and cooked it for a few more minutes. Then I made a slurry from cornstarch and water, added that to the pit and cooked this mixture until it had thickened. You want the mixture to have a good thickness so that when you place it into the buns they down drip out. Once thickened, refrigerate until ready to use.
Then it's time for the cookie crust. Butter is creamed until light, then in goes the egg, sugar, custard powder, salt, flour, baking soda and powder. This is mixed together until it becomes a dough reminiscent of a sticky cookie dough. Refrigerate this for at least and hour.
Once the milk bread has proofed, shaped into 16 pieces and proofed again, it's time to fill! Take each dough ball and flatten it into a circle about 4-5 inches across. place out 1 tsp of pineapple in the center and stretch the sides of the dough to meet the other side of the circle, sealing the edges together. Careful not to touch the filling with the edges of the dough, or else it will not create a proper seal. Place the buns seal side down on a parchment lined backing sheet. Cover and allow to proof for another 30-40 minutes. Once time is almost up, take the crust dough out to he fridge and roll into 1 tbsp sized balls. Flatten each ball into a disk and place it like a helmet atop each bun. The disk does not need to cover the bun entirely just the tops. Brush with the coconut cream egg wash and bake at 400F for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. I rotated the pans about halfway through the baking (top to bottom and rotated) to ensure a more even browning.
These buns go great with a milk tea, coffee or just a cold glass of milk. Let me know what you think and as always follow me on Instagram for more bakes, stories and eatings around town!
*Adapted from various recipes including Woks of Life and Lady and Pups
Yields 16 buns
The “pineapple” crust:
- 4 tbsp (60 grams) of unsalted butter, softened
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tbsp of coconut cream (I didn't have coconut cream on hadn't so I skimmed the fat from the top of a can of coconut milk)
- 3/4 cup + 1 tbsp (110 grams) of cake flour
- 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (90 grams) of powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp of custard powder (I bough mine from amazon, but I have also seen this at various supermarkets and World Market)
- 1/4 tsp of baking soda
- 1/4 tsp of baking powder
For the pineapple filling
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 20oz can pineapple chunks or crushed, drained
- 2tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp corn starch
- 1 tsp water
For the Buns
- ⅔ cup heavy cream (at room temperature)
- 1 cup, plus 1 tablespoon milk (at room temperature)
- 1 large egg (at room temperature)
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ½ cup cake flour, leveled
- 3½ cups bread flour, leveled
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- Coconut egg wash: 1 large egg + 1 tbsp of coconut cream + 1 tsp of water
Make the Filling:
- In a small sauce pan, melt the butter. Once melted, add in brown sugar and drained pineapple
- Bring to a simmer for 10 min, If using pineapple chunks, crush pineapple with potatoe masher.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water. And this slurry to the pineapple.
- Cook for about a minute or until the mixture has thickened.
- Refrigerate until ready to use
Make the Crust
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until pale and creamy, approx 3 min.
- Add the egg yolk and coconut cream, and beat until thick
- Add the cake flour, powdered sugar, custard powder, baking soda and baking powder, and mix until everything comes together into a dough. The dough will be similar to a sticky cookie dough.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.
Make the Bun
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the all the ingredients (cream through salt) on a low speed until just combined. Increase speed to to medium low and knead for 13-15 minutes. You will know its ready by using the windowpane test. Spread the dough apart with four fingers if the dough holds together and creates a window that is thin enough to see through, you're good to go.
- Place the dough in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to proof for 1 hour.
- Once the dough has proofed, punch down the dough and turn it out onto your board. Divide into equal 16 pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball by pushing it though a circle created by your index finger and thumb. Cover with a cloth and allow them to rest for 15 minutes.
- Take each piece of dough and flatten it out, pressing the edges out and making an indent in the middle, about 4- 5 inches in diameter.
- Spoon about 1 teaspoon of pineapple filling into the bun and carefully seal it up pulling the edges of the dough out and then pressing the opposite sides together. Careful do not to touch the filling with the edges of the dough, because once it gets wet, the edges won't seal.
- Once tightly sealed. Turn the bun over and gently cup with your hands to shape it into a ball and place a parchment lined baking sheet. Do the same with the rest of the buns. Cover with plastic wrap and allow them to rise for another 30-40 minutes.
- Once almost done rising, take the crust dough out the the fridge and shape into small balls (approx 1 tbsp) flatten out the dough into a disk. (you may need some flour for this as this dough is pretty sticky! Place the disk of dough onto the tops of the risen buns. No need to be perfect here! You want them to look a bit rustic and craggy. Repeat with all the buns.
- Brush the tops with a good amount of the coconut egg wash and bake at 400F for 15-18 min or until golden brown.
- Enjoy warm!