August 23, 2018

Pineapple Buns with Chinese BBQ Pork

Hard to believe but after living in San Francisco for more than twenty years I must confess that I'd never tasted a Pineapple Bun until  just recently when I made them myself from a Cook's Illustrated recipe.  It sounds a bit silly to admit since my neighborhood is literally inundated with Chinese bakeries that sell this popular sweet bread.   One taste of the soft, fluffy interior and crunchy sugar top crust and I was a goner.

The secret to this bread is tangzhong, a cooked flour and water paste, that's added to the dough and makes the interior so light and soft.  I adore working with this dough - it is so forgiving and has the most beautiful elasticity.   You seriously can't mess it up!

The topping is piped in spirals over the proofed buns and is made of a butter, powdered sugar and flour mixture.  In the oven it melts down the sides of the bread and bakes in to a crunchy crust, very similar to craquelin on a choux pastry. 

I ended up filling my buns with Cook's Illustrated char siu or barbecue pork, another staple dish in Chinese cuisine, which I recently posted to my blog.   The savory, sweet filling was a delicious complement to the pineapple bun.   I brought samples of my first batch in to the office and my Chinese-American colleagues gave them the thumbs up.  If that's not the seal of approval I don't know what is!

Pineapple Buns with Chinese BBQ Pork 

1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons plus 2 2/3 cups (13 1/3 ounces) all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup cold whole milk
1 large egg
1/3 cup plus 4 teaspoons (3 ounces) sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons nonfat dry milk powder
2 1/4 teaspoons instant or rapid rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces and softened

2/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons (3 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup confectioner's sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/4 pounds Chinese BBQ Pork filling

For the dough: Whisk water and 2 tablespoons flour in small microwave-safe bowl until smooth.  Microwave, whisking every 20 seconds, until mixture thickens to stiff, smooth, pudding-like consistency and registers at least 150 degrees F/65.5 degrees C, 40 to 60 seconds.  Whisk in milk until smooth, then whisk in egg until smooth.

In a bowl of stand mixer, whisk together 2 2/3 cups flour, sugar, milk powder, yeast, and salt.  Add cooked flour mixture.  Fit stand mixer with dough hook and mix on low speed until all flour is moistened, 1 to 2 minutes.  Increase speed to medium-high and knead until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl, 10 to 12 minutes.

Fit stand mixer with paddle.  With mixer running on medium speed, add butter, 1 piece at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each addition.  Continue to mix until butter is fully incorporated and dough is no longer shiny, 1 to 2 minutes longer.

Transfer dough to very lightly floured counter.  Knead dough briefly to form ball and transfer, seam side down, to lightly greased large bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 1 to 1/2 hours.  (Wash and dry mixer bowl and paddle.)

For the topping: Meanwhile, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in small bowl.  Using clean, dry mixer bowl and paddle, beat butter and confectioner's sugar on medium high speed until light, pale, and fully, about 3 minutes.  With mixer running, gradually add eggs, then vanilla; mix until smooth, scraping down bowl as needed for about 2 minutes.  Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds.  Scrape down bowl, then fold ingredients by hand to mix fully.  Transfer mixture to 1-quart heavy-duty zipper-lock bag and snip off 1 corner, making hole no larger than 1/4 inch (alternatively, transfer to pastry bag fitted with 1/4-inch piping tip); set aside until ready to use (do not refrigerate).

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Transfer dough to counter and divide into 20 equal pieces (about 1 1/2 ounces each).  Working with 1 piece at a time, press dough into 4-inch round on lightly floured counter and drape in muffin tin to form cup shape.  Fill dough cup with about 1 1/2 tablespoons pork filling.  Pull edges of dough to center and pinch tightly to seal.  Transfer bun to counter, seam side down, and rotate gently to form round shape.  Repeat with remaining dough pieces and remaining pork filling.  Space 10 balls evenly on prepared sheet.  Lightly spray tops of buns with vegetable oil spray, cover with plastic, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees F/190.5 degrees C.

When buns are doubled in size, pipe about 2 tablespoons topping in tight spiral on top of each bun (topping should form circle roughly 2 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thick).  Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until topping is golden brown, 14 to 16 minutes, rotating sheet halfway though baking  Transfer buns to wire rack and let cool for at least 10 minutes.  Serve.


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  6. I cannot thank you enough for the article. Much thanks again.
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