Monday, May 13, 2013

AB #31 - Polo Bao/Pineapple Bun (菠萝包) Version 2

I thought I would rest for a few days, 养精蓄锐, before I embark on another round of polo bao making again. The failure of my previous hong kong polo bao (or so-called pineapple bun because the crust looks like a pineapple) has been "haunting" me for the past few nights. I thought I should try the recipe again, I just dun wanna give up so easily. Just 4 buns and they took me 4 hours from start to finish. It's a lot of effort for so little output but His Majesty (my 4 year old son) has been singing praises and nagging me about "that cute and delicious bread", asking me every morning when I am gonna make it again. Since yesterday was another dreary rainy day where you couldn't possible go anywhere else but stay at home with 2 small kids, I decided to attempt the polo bao again. (Yes I know it's Mothers' Day, but my 2 kids are too young to celebrate for me, and my hubby doesn't seem to know sunday is a special day, so there I am, still toiling in the kitchen, making buns for my dear son!)

I have 2 other recipes bookmarked for hong kong polo bao, one from Corner Cafe and another from Christine's recipes. Both used sweet bread dough (tangzhong method) as the bread dough, but I was too lazy to do the tangzhong method, moreover I felt there was nothing wrong with the bread dough I tried on Thursday, the problem I had was with the sticky polo crust dough. Maybe there was nothing wrong with the original polo crust dough in the first place, but I didn't wanna take any risks, so I decided to stick to the original bread dough from Grace, and try out the polo crust dough from Corner Cafe.

Bread dough recipe adapted from Grace's Kitchen Corner

Ingredients for bread dough
150g bread flour
1 tbsp milk powder
1/4 tsp salt
30g sugar
1 tbsp beaten egg (cold)*
1 tsp yeast
70g water (cold)*
15g butter, cut into small cubes (cold)*

*Note that the egg, water and butter have to be cold from the fridge, because this is a very sticky dough, and it is best to use cold ingredients. It is really sticky, so it is advisable to either knead with bread machine or kitchen aid, not with your bare hands. 

Method for bread dough
1. Place everything except butter into a the mixing bowl of the bread machine. Let it knead for 10 minutes using the "Dough" mode, and leave the lid open, otherwise it gets too warm and the dough becomes more sticky. 

2. After 10 min, add in cold butter. Restart the bread machine and let it knead for another 20 min using the "Dough" mode. (Total kneading time will be 30 min, after which the dough will become a smooth, not-so-sticky, stretchable dough that can pass the "window-pane" test, although it will still stick a little bit to your fingers as you remove it from the bowl. Weight of dough was about 285g.)

3. Place the dough in a well-greased bowl, cover with clingwrap, and let it proof for 1 hour in a warm place or until doubled in size. 

4. After 1 hour, punch out the gas and divide it into 4 portions, cover with clingwrap and proof for another 15 min.

Polo crust dough adapted from Corner Cafe

Ingredients for polo crust dough
30g butter, cut into small cubes (cold)
30g icing sugar
60g cake flour 
2 tsp milk powder
12g or 1/4 of a beaten egg

* Corner Cafe made 8 portions of polo crust dough with this recipe, strange but I made 4 portions with the same recipe. 

Method for polo crust dough
1. Sift the icing sugar, cake flour, milk powder in a large mixing bowl. 

2. Add in the cold butter, rub in the butter with the flour mixture (using cold finger tips!) until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Alternatively you can use the dough hook to briefly pulse the mixture a few times until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Do not over-rub or over-process with dough hook.

3. Add in 1/4 of a beaten egg, and use a spatula or use your hands to bring everything together to form a dough, do not over knead. Shape into a flattened ball, wrap in clingwrap and chill in fridge for at least 30 min for it to harden. Weight of dough was about 125g.

4. Divide the chilled polo crust dough into 4 equal portions. Take 1 portion and keep the remaining portions covered and chilled in the fridge, use a rolling pin to roll it out between 2 sheets of clingwrap into a circle with edges thinner than the centre. (The centre has to be much thicker than the sides otherwise the polo crust dough will break in the centre as you push in the bread dough, this is very important, and I only realised that while doing the last 2 buns.)

5. Place the rolled out polo crust dough in one hand and the bread dough in another hand. Put the bread dough on top of the polo crust dough such that the polo crust dough is encasing about 2/3 of the bread dough. Start pushing the centre of the bread dough down with your thumb into the polo crust dough while turning the palm of your hand and pressing upward the polo crust dough. Continue to turn and press the bread dough until it is completely enclosed by the polo crust dough. Pinch and seal the edges of the dough and place the sealed side down on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Repeat this for the rest of the buns. (For illustration, pls follow the step-by-step pictures in Corner Cafe's blog, it's impossible for me to take pictures with sticky hands. Some recipes do not enclose the bread dough with the polo crust dough completely the way I did, for eg. Christine's recipes. Maybe I should just cover the top with the polo crust dough in future, seems much easier.)

6. Use a sharp serrated knife to gently draw a criss-cross pineapple pattern on the crust, cover with clingwrap and let it proof for 1 hour. (I prefer to cut the criss-cross pattern before proofing so that the pattern would expand nicely after 1 hour, and then apply the egg wash before putting in the oven. Corner cafe did the criss-cross pattern and egg wash as a final step before putting in the oven, whereas Grace did both the criss-cross and egg wash before proofing.)

7. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Brush the buns with some egg wash and bake in the upper half of the oven for 12-15 min or until golden brown. (Keep an eye on your buns when they are placed so close to the top of the oven. My oven had uneven heating on top so there was an uneven shade of golden brown on my buns.)

Hubby says the this special-effect foto looks like a radioactive glow-in-the-dark pineapple bun, LOL!

So what is the verdict? I already knew these polo buns were great bcos I made 4 of them last Thursday, and we finished 3 of them within 5 minutes. There was only a tiny morsel left on Friday morning for poor mama, most of it was already gobbled up by His Majesty. The crust dough was heavenly, while fresh and hot from the oven, but I can assure you the taste was still good even on the 2nd day, without heating in the oven. 

Note: Thanks to Small Small Baker for her advice on what went wrong for my previous attempt on polo bao. :)

I am submitting this to Aspiring Bakers #31 - Bao Ho-Chiak (May 2013) hosted by none other than myself, Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders.

I am also submitting this to YeastSpotting.


  1. Miss B, i love polo yummy... yrs looked fantastic w its golden color. Oooh, a bread machine needed??? Hmmn i doubt my normal mixer can mix e dough for tat long...

    1. Hi Charmaine,
      Is your normal mixer a hand-held or a stand-mixer? If you are using a hand-held mixer, I suggest you mix for 4 min with dough hook and rest 1 min (knead with hand) so as not to overheat your mixer, and continue kneading again with mixer. But the dough will become very sticky again once you add the butter, and with SG's hot/humid weather, I can imagine the butter will melt very easily and everything becomes very sticky. That's why I suggested using breadmachine "dough" mode or using a heavy-duty mixer such as Kitchen Aid instead of using hands.

      For the bread dough, maybe you can try Corner Cafe's japanese sweet bun dough or Alex Goh's sweet bread dough. Corner Cafe mentioned that he hand-kneaded the bread dough, but based on my experience with sweet bread dough, you need at least 30-40 min to achieve the window-pane stage especially with hand-kneading.

  2. good try! Nice Polo bun...i am looking for a good recipe as well. thanks for sharing

    1. Hi wvfy,
      This polo bun is a bit difficult but it's well worth the effort, do try it!

  3. Miss B, your pineapple bun look awesome, very well baked. Nice to go with coffee.

    Have a nice day.

    1. Hi Amelia,
      Thanks for your compliments! Yes, it's indeed nice to go with coffee :)

  4. I'm doing your recipe now. It's at the last 1 hour proofing. The crust dough was toughest to handle no thanks to our weather :/ when I moulded it to the bun, it broke/crumble cos it was too cold I think. When I moved to mould the remaining dough, the crush dough 'melted' so I have some odd/disfigured looking buns. Haha and trying to criss cross the crust when it's already wet/melted made it tougher. I'm wondering at the end of my 1 hour proofing if the crust wld just melt off? How did u manage that?

  5. Yes, the sticky crust dough was v difficult to handle, mine was v fragile and brittle too. But luckily when I did it, the weather was very cold and my room temp was 20 degrees only.

    I was told to use cold ingredients (everything has to be cold from the fridge) so that the kneaded dough is less sticky. And while you are draping the first bun with the crust dough, you have to wrap and keep the remaining crust dough in the fridge to keep it chilled always.

    Hope the end result turns out well for you :)

  6. Hi miss b! The buns tasted awesome. Thanks so much for sharing. The crust didn't melt off thankfully but I didn't get a nice criss cross effect but that can always be improved. The buns were really soft and yummy and by the time I knew it 4 buns out if 8 was gone!

    I will try again using all cold ingredients and also to make sure it stays in the fridge while I'm moulding. I did a small mistake (impatient!) by freezing the crust dough and taking them out to mould so that may have explained the cracks. And I'll prolly try moulding them in my Aircon hall instead. Thanks so much again for the recipe!!

    1. Hi anyeongsophie,

      Glad to hear the good news from you, did you double the recipe to make 8 buns? :)

      Actually I only succeeded on the 2nd attempt, if you have followed my blog. The 1st attempt was quite ugly and messy, and I made the same mistake as you, I placed the crust dough in the freezer because I was rushing for time, and it became so fragile and brittle and difficult to handle, should have just let it stayed in the fridge. Lesson learnt. :(

      If you find it tough to achieve the criss-cross effect, you may want to consider just draping the top part of the bread dough only instead of enclosing the whole bread dough with the crust dough, bcos the latter will require pushing the bread dough into the external crust dough and that may break the crust dough if it is too fragile.

  7. Can I make more crust dough and keep it inside fridge for another use on another day? Lazy me...


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