Pineapple Buns (Bolo Bao)

Pineapple Buns (Bolo Bao)

Ingredients for the milk bread dough

  • 2 1/2 cups (320g) all purpose flour
    • You can also use bread flour and just reduce the kneading time.
  • 1/4 cup (41g) sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup of milk
    • You can also substitute with 1/4 cup of heavy cream plus 1/4 cup water.
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
    • This is usually one package of yeast.
  • 3 tablespoons butter
    • Make sure to cut the butter into small pieces and that it is softened at room temperature.
  • 1 serving of tangzhong
    • This is a separate recipe and you will use all the tangzhong made with the recipe just right below

Ingredients for the tangzhong

  • 6 tablespoons (43g) all purpose flour
    • You can also use bread flour here as well!
  • 1/2 cup of water

Ingredients for the pineapple bun topping

  • 2 tablespoons (30g) melted butter
  • 1/3 cup (67g) sugar + more for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 egg yolk
    • Yes, I know this is annoying, but try your best to separate the egg yolk in half, which is approximately 1/2 tablespoon of egg yolk.
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (128g) all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • A pinch of salt

Ingredients for the egg wash

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Basically, this tangzhong technique gives the pineapple bread an awesome fluffy texture. It’s like magic! The pineapple bun topping is going to leave an awesome crust on the top. This recipe yields approximately 12 pineapple buns.


  1. First, let’s make the tangzhong, which is actually super simple and gives the milk bread its signature fluffy texture. Mix the 6 tablespoons of flour and water together. Whisk until the flour is completely dissolved there are no lumps.
  2. Pour the mixture into a saucepan and turn on the heat to medium. Stir the mixture constantly as the mixture heats up. Cook the tangzhong until the mixture thickens. You should be able to draw “lines” in the mixture and the indent should remain for a little bit (it will be noticeable). If you have a thermometer, your mixture should be perfect at 149 degrees Fahrenheit (65 degrees Celsius). Once the mixture is just right, take it off the stove and let it cool until it’s lukewarm.
  3. Next, let’s make the rest of the milk bread dough. In a bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, salt, sugar, and instant yeast. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add in all wet ingredients, which are the milk, eggs and the lukewarm tangzhong.
  4. Using your stand mixer, mix on medium speed until the dough comes together. Then, add in the butter and continue mixing/kneading. Keep kneading until it is a smooth dough that shouldn’t be too sticky and have some elasticity. It took me around 20 minutes to mix the dough to this point. Since this timing may be variable, keep checking for elasticity and stretchiness. (You can knead the dough by hand totally, but it can be very, very, very tiring).
  5. Now, it’s time to proof the dough. Place the dough into a large greased bowl. Cover with a wet towel, and let the dough proof until it’s doubled in size, about an hour. My trick to to heat up my oven for a few minutes, turn the oven off, and then place the bowl of dough into the warmed oven. To let the flavor develop more, you can also proof the dough in the refrigerator overnight.
  6. Now, it’s time to make the pineapple bun topping. In the bowl, add the melted butter, sugar, heavy cream, egg yolk,  vanilla extract, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix until everything comes together as a dough. Roll the dough into a disc and wrap it in cling wrap. If it’s too crumbly, add more of the egg yolk or heavy cream. Place dough in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
  7. Now, back to the milk bread dough, after proofing, move the dough to a clean surface and split up the dough ball into approximately 12 equally sized pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Cover with the wet towel again and let it rest for 15 minutes.
  8. Take the pineapple bun topping out and roll it out to approximately 1/4 inch thick. If the topping is too cold, let it rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Take a peek at the milk bread dough balls, and then find a round cookie cutter that is approximately the diameter of that dough ball. I honestly just used a random circular glass or lid, whatever works. Cut out 12 circular pieces of topping. For each piece, use a knife to score it like a tic-tac-toe board (basically drawing a grid on the topping, but make sure you don’t cut all the way through!). You might have extra topping dough, but that’s okay!
  9. Next, let’s make the egg wash. In a small bowl, add the egg, milk, and sugar. Mix until evenly combined.
  10. Now, let’s assemble each pineapple bun. Take one of the milk bread dough balls and brush the egg wash onto the dough ball. Now, place one of the scored circular pieces of topping on top of the dough ball. Brush the topping with the egg wash. Then, place the dough ball onto parchment paper on top of a cookie sheet. Repeat until you have done this for each of the dough balls. 
  11. Next, it’s time to proof the pineapple buns. Place a wet towel over the pineapple buns and let it rise until it’s double in size (about an hour).
  12. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  13. Before baking the final proofed bread, brush the top again with the egg wash. 
  14. Finally, bake the pineapple buns at 350 degrees until the top is golden brown, approximately 30 minutes. You’re done!

Pineapple Buns (Bolo Bao) are a staple in Chinese bakeries that are known to be super fluffy, but also has a sweet crunch scored topping that gives it the look like a pineapple, which is why it’s called a pineapple bun, even though there isn’t any pineapple! These buns both fluffy because of the milk bread dough, crunchy because of the classic pineapple bun topping, and of course fun to eat, since each piece pulls apart. Next time, you want to try a classic Chinese bakery item at home, try out this recipe out, and if you do, be sure to drop a comment below and tell me how it turned out! Happy baking!

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