Dim Sum Recipe #12: Golden Pineapple Buns (Bolo Bao)

Happy Chinese New Year!!

I hope the Year of the Sheep finds you in good sprits and ready to eat!

Yesterday my family met up for an early celebratory Chinese New Year dim sum lunch. For the first time, the hubby and I actually gave red envelopes to my niece, Maddy. As as gesture of promise and prosperity during this holiday, it’s custom for older people give good luck money stuffed in small red envelopes to the little ones. This year, the hubby and I decided to finally acknowledge ourselves as older people.
Along with red, gold is also an iconic color during Chinese New Year. We’re not talking frosty gold, we’re talking yellow, shiny, like-the-sunshine gold–the 24 K variety. Golden Pineapple Buns are where the culinary meets the karats. These buns bake-off with a gorgeous, rich, and slightly crunchy cookie-like topping. You won’t find a more quintessential Hong Kong style treat to snack on while taking in Chinese New Year festivities.Just so it’s clear, there’s absolutely no pineapple in these Golden Pineapple Buns. The name is purely inspired out of the rough textured look of the buns, like the jagged surface of a pineapple. If you’ve never enjoyed them before, think of these as a rich, buttery cookie hopping on the back of a soft, chewy bun.

This bun dough is adapted from my recipe for Baked Char Siu Bao. In this variation, I add a dose of vanilla extract so that bun is more complementary to the sweet topping. What remains the same is the added water roux (tangzhong), which creates a milky-soft, chewy texture to the buns.

If you eat these straight out of the oven, the tops will be crunchy and crumbly. I actually like them even more a bit later, after they’ve cooled and the buttery crust softens. If you eat them the day after baking, a quick 15-20 second zap in the microwave and they are every bit as delicious as day they were baked.

A dark, complex Wuyi Oolong (a.k.a. Grand Scarlett Robe) or an earthy, peaty Pu-Erh are ideal pairings for these buns. Both will be bold and rich enough to stand up to that buttery crown of goodness!
Pineapple Buns (Bolo Bao)

Makes 16- 3″ buns.


{Bun Dough}

1 cup bread flour

2 cups + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp Bird’s Custard Powder

2 Tbsp nonfat dry milk

1 Tbsp instant yeast (I use SAF instant)

1/4 cup white sugar

1 tsp salt

5 Tbsp butter (at room temperature)

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/3 cup whole milk

1 tsp vanilla

bench flour and oil for proofing bowl

{Water Roux}

1/2 cup water

2 Tbsp bread flour

{Pineapple Topping}

1 stick butter (at room temperature)

1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup cake flour

2 T Bird’s Custard Powder

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

2 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract

{Egg Wash}

1 egg

1 tsp milk


small saucepan or pot

stand mixer with dough hook attachment or bread machine

2 large baking sheets, fitted with parchment

medium bowl

large work surface

plastic wrap

chef’s knife

small bowl

pastry brush

cooling rack


1.)  Make the Water Roux. Place a 1/2 cup of cold water into a small saucepan and add the 2 Tbsp of bread flour. Mix well until the mixture resembles homogenized milk, then turn on the stove top to medium heat. Cook the roux until it thickens up and has the consistency of a thick yogurt, making sure to keep the mixture a pure white color by not overcooking. The mixture should not exceed 150 degrees F. Place the mixture into a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap, making contact with the top surface of the roux (to prevent a skin from forming). You should end up with a 1/2 cup of roux, ready to use when it has cooled back down to room temperature.

2.)  Make the Bun Dough. Using the bowl of a stand mixer, place all the wet dough ingredients (including the roux) into the mixing bowl. Place the bowl in the stand mixer with a dough hook attachment and start to mix on low-speed. Add the yeast, sugar, milk powder, custard powder, and salt first. Then add the bread and all-purpose flours gradually, a cup at a time, scraping down the insides of the mixing bowl periodically. Increase the speed to low-medium and continue to mix until the shaggy mass becomes a soft, tacky dough. Knead the dough for 8 minutes. Transfer the tacky ball of dough to an oiled bowl to proof, lightly coating all sides of the dough with some of the same oil. Cover the bowl lightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough proof in a warm, draft free place for 30-40 minutes or until the mass has doubled in volume.

3.)  Make the Pineapple Topping. In a medium bowl, mix all the topping ingredients together thoroughly. Transfer this topping dough onto a large sheet of plastic wrap, then use the wrap to shape the dough into a log/cylinder, about 3″ in diameter. Unravel the plastic wrap from the dough, then cut it into 16 equal pieces (cut the log in half, then each half in half again until you get 16 pieces). Cover and set aside.

4.)  Portion Out the Dough. After the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down and transfer it to a work surface lightly dusted with bench flour. Give the dough a few light kneadings, then portion dough out into 16 equal pieces.

5.)  Shape the Buns. Shape each of the 16 pieces into a round, slightly flat ball. Place them on the large baking sheet, 8 to a sheet, so that they are at least 3″ apart from each other. Cover the buns with a large piece of plastic wrap, then let the buns rise for 30-40 minutes, or long enough for them to have doubled in puffiness. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

6.)  Shape the Pineapple Topping. While the buns are proofing, shape each piece of the topping dough into a round-edged 3″ disk. Just use your hands to shape them. When the buns have doubled in puffiness, place one topping dough disk over each proofed bun, carefully placing it so that the bun doesn’t deflate.

7.)  Finish and Bake. In a small bowl, mix together the egg and milk to create an egg wash. Using a pastry brush, brush the tops of the buns (the topping dough) generously with the egg wash. Bake the buns for 22-25 minutes, until the tops are golden. Remove from the oven, then transfer the buns to a cooling rack to sit for a few minutes before serving.

*** Tip:  Store leftover buns in fridge for up to 5 days.  When you are ready to eat them, reheat the buns in the microwave for 15-20 seconds or until warm and soft again.

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these are my absolute favorite! I never really get them at dimsum…usually just from chinese bakeries. 🙂 I always wondered what they were made of.

Bonnie Eng

I never used to see these at dim sum, but now I do all the time, in mini form. I love these too Floey. They remind me of my childhood, so quintessentially Cantonese. 🙂 I think it’s nice to know that you can make these with just a few simple ingredients, nothing too fancy or too hard to get.

Lan | morestomach

happy new year bonnie! these look so comforting, like they would fit perfectly in my hand before i shove them in my mouth.

Bonnie Eng

Happy New Year Lan…only a few days left! These are very shove-able, so I often make a half recipe instead of the full. 🙂


This makes so much sense now *hangs head in shame*. My family were always confused at why the buns would be custard buns one day, and then pineapple the next. They were the same thing!

Bonnie Eng

I know right!? The whole pineapple thing is so confusing, and yet I’m perpetuating it by continuing to call them pineapple buns! Kind of like melon pan in Japan…go figure. 🙂

Catherine Vidinha

I’m so looking forward to giving this recipe a try. And once I figure out the custard filling option, LIFE will be PERFECT! (**Cue maniacal evil laughter.**) Thanks so much, Bonnie!

Catherine Vidinha

It’s an interesting experience to gasp with surprised delight and squeal with delighted surprise at the same time, without fainting in rapturous variance, as I just attempted to do…. You’re just the best! 😀

Bonnie Eng

These are totally the bread of my childhood too! I hope you can make and enjoy them sometime soon…thanks so much Thalia!! 🙂

Kim @ MomCanIHaveThat

I remember having buns l like these in Hong Kong when we went to adopt our beautiful daughter. The food there was so good it knocked me out! Thank you for providing a wonderful recipe that I can make for my kids to celebrate an important Chinese Holiday.

Bonnie Eng

Well this is just about one of the best comments I’ve ever received! Thank you so much Kim!! I hope your little ones truly enjoy these. Indeed, these are the classic Cantonese bakery treat…no culinary experience in HK is complete without them! 😉

Tina Jui | The Worktop

These are so beautiful! I love Chinese New Years and all the delicious recipes for it. Happy year of the sheep to you! I used to eat these all the time as a kid, but I’ve never actually made it before. I’d love to give this recipe a try.

Bonnie Eng

Happy New Year’s Tina!! Hope you can try these sometime soon. It’s funny how many people remarked that these remind them of their childhood…definitely true for me too! 😉


Happy New Year! Such a classic! They are so perfect. Very well done on the top. I bet your kitchen smells fantastic when baking. I need some of these for breakfast!

Bonnie Eng

Yes, the added vanilla and almond extracts make all the difference! For anyone else, I’d say they should try to make these, but where you live there’s hardly a reason to, right!? Easy access to dim sum and Chinese bakeries is always a good thing. Happy New Years Lokness!! 🙂

Bonnie Eng

Why thank you girl!! So happy to hear from you…Happy New Year! Anything festive going on in Switzerland for the holiday??

Bonnie Eng

Hahah, so confusing, I know. And it’s even more confusing if you’ve never had one before! Hope you can try one sometime girl, I think you would enjoy… 😉


Hi Bonnie!
I was wondering what I could substitute for custard powder since I’ve been having trouble finding it here in Boston. I could probably find custard mix made by Jell-O, but this has sugar in it, whereas Bird’s custard powder does not. Should I just use Jell-O custard mix and reduce the amount of sugar in your recipe? Thanks!!


I’m not sure where I went wrong. My topping was very crumbly. Maybe next time I will use less flour. At any rate it tasted great! Thanks for posting.

Bonnie Eng

Oh no! Anyhow, glad it still tasted great. Swapping out pastry flour for the regular flour may also help too. I’ll try doing that and let you know how it goes. 🙂 Thanks, YV!


Thank you so much for the recipe! I made these yesterday and they’re fantastic! Two of my kids said they liked them better than the store bought bakery ones! Wish I could post a picture to show you.