Please see here and here to learn more about concentrated lactic acid sourdough (CLAS).
While in Hong Kong, I sampled pineapple buns (called 'ball-law-bao' 菠蘿包 in Cantonese) from various bakeries I passed by. To my disappointment, they didn't live up to my childhood memories. Some lacked that satisfying bounce after a bite, and some had an odd taste in their pineapple crust. However, my disappointment quickly faded because I found the perfect, authentic recipe to recreate the ball-law-bao of my youth. This recipe comes from the book Hong Kong Bread by Chef Yung Ling Yau. Since decent ball-law-bao is hard to come by, I feel compelled to share this recipe with those who long for the delectable taste of this classic treat.
While working with Chef Yau's recipe, I noticed something interesting: no salt was used. Surprisingly, the absence of salt didn't result in any unusual taste, thanks to the sweetness of the bread that masked the blandness. However, it's worth noting that the blandness becomes quite apparent in other salt-free bread dough, like Montreal-style bagels. So, generally, it's not a good idea to skip the salt.
The format of today's recipe differs from my usual ones, as I prepared the instructions for a friend who adores my ball-law-bao but lacks experience in bread baking.
Ingredients for the Pineapple Crust
- enough for 16 buns; use half for one bake
- Pastry/cake flour: 168g
- Sugar: 112g
- Butter: 14g
- Milk powder: 14g
- Egg yolk: 1
- Lard: 66g
- Condensed milk: 28g
- Evaporated milk: 28g
- Ammonia carbonate: 2g (available at Michael’s or online)
- Baking soda: 1g
- Yields approximately 454g of crust
1. Mix the above ingredients until they are just homogeneous.
2. Use half of the batch for one bake. The crust per bun should be approximately 28g. Roll it into a ball, flatten it into a disc by hand, then gently roll it out once. Rotate the disc 90 degrees and roll it out again. Repeat this process until you've come full circle. The discs should be large enough to cover the proven dough balls' top. Refrigerate the discs while the buns are proving.
3. Refrigerate the remaining crust for the next bake.
Hong Kong Pineapple Buns
Ingredients (for 8 buns):
- All-purpose flour: 243g
- Whole egg: 1 (about 50-60g)
- Sugar: 38g
- Warm water: 84g (divided)
- Whole-wheat CLAS (flour + liquid): 19g
- Kosher salt: 3.8g (optional)
- GOLD yeast: 1.8g
- Butter: 23g (diced)
- Milk: 51g
- Add ingredients from A. to the mixer with a paddle attachment.
- Start the mixer.
- Gradually add B. until a dough forms and all ingredients are moistened. Reserve any unused water for later use; you may not need all 84g, depending on how absorbent the flour is.
- Cover the dough in the mixing bowl and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour.
3. Mix (again)
- Switch to the dough hook.
- Add C. and mix until all ingredients are well incorporated. Add a little water to moisten if needed.
- Mix with the dough hook until the dough gains strength and starts pulling away from the mixing bowl's sides.
- Gradually add D. until well incorporated.
- Gradually drizzle E. while the mixer is running. Add more after each drizzle is well incorporated into the dough.
- If, at any point, the machine sounds labored or heats up, stop mixing and put the mixing bowl into the fridge to cool for 10 minutes before resuming mixing.
- If you feel that the dough can take in more water or it feels dry (though not likely), and you have water reserved from above, drizzle it into the dough while the mixer is running and mix until it’s well incorporated.
4. Bulk Ferment – 1st rise
- Place the dough in a straight-sided container and let it rise in a warm place until the volume doubles.
5. Divide and Preheat Oven
- Divide the dough into 8 portions, approximately 63g each, and shape them into dough balls.
- Prepare the crust, dividing it into 8 portions, approximately 28g each. Flatten and roll them into discs large enough to cover the top of the dough balls.
- Preheat the oven to 392°F (for a darker crust) or 375°F (for a golden crust).
6. Final Proof - 2nd rise
- Cover the dough balls and let them rise in a warm place (around 30°C) for about 30 minutes or until the dough appears slightly puffy.
- Place a crust disc on each dough ball.
- Apply an egg wash (whole egg whisked) on top.
- Bake on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper at 375°F for 15-20 minutes or until the top appears golden. Rotate halfway through.