Pineapple Bun (Bo Lo Bao 菠蘿包)

Pineapple Buns

For years I had no idea why this bun was named “Pineapple Bun” 菠蘿包 as it contains no pineapple.  Instead, the name comes from its appearance where the sugary/buttery crust resembles a pineapple.  The traditional crust of the bun is made of lard, but this recipe (original recipe from Christine Ho) substitutes lard with butter for a slightly healthier version.  Everyone knows what is a Bo Lo Bao in Hong Kong.  It is very popular, and commonly found in bakeries, just like muffins and bagels in the States.  We eat it for breakfast (plain), lunch (with meat filling) or dessert (with custard or shredded coconut filling).  The plain one is still one of my favorite bakery items! If you ever get a chance to visit Hong Kong, pineapple buns are a must try item so make sure you grab one at the bakery.

Ingredients for Bread:

350 gm
70 gm
4 gm
56 gm
10 gm
6 gm
120 gm
125 ml
30 gm
Bread flour (高筋粉)
Caster sugar (幼砂糖)
Salt (鹽)
Whisked egg  (全蛋汁)
Milk powder  (奶粉)
Instant dry yeast  (即發乾酵母)
Tangzhong  (湯種) (recipe here)
Milk  (牛奶)
Unsalted Butter, softened  (無鹽牛油)

Ingredients for Topping:

188 gm
83 gm
60 gm
11 gm

1½ Tbsp
1½ tsp
¼ tsp
Cake flour  (低筋粉)
Caster sugar    (幼砂糖)
Butter, softened    (無鹽牛油)
Milk powder    (奶粉)
Egg yolk  (蛋黃)
Evaporated milk    (淡奶)
Condensed milk    (煉奶)
Edible ammonia powder  (食用臭粉) – Optional (see notes)


To make topping:

  1. Cream softened butter with an electric mixer over medium speed until smooth. Add sugar and continue to beat until fluffy.
  2. Add milk powder, egg yolk, evaporated milk, condensed milk, baking powder, combine well.  Sift in flour and ammonia powder (optional) and incorporate well. The mixture is quite moist and sticky. Use a piece of cling wrap to roll into several small logs. Chill for 30 to 40 minutes. When it becomes harder, it’s ready to use and shape it.

*  Keep the extra egg yolk and egg white for egg wash.

To make buns:

  1. Place all ingredients inside the pan in the breadmaker, the wet ingredients first, then followed by the dry ingredients: tangzhong (recipe here), milk, whisked egg, sugar, salt, milk powder and flour.  Fill the yeast dispenser with dry yeast (usually it is on the top of the breadmaker).
  2. Select the “dough” mode (refer to the manual of your breadmaker to select the dough program).  When all ingredients are combined, add butter.  The kneading process in the breadmaker is usually about 30 minutes, and the proofing time is about an hour (depending on the machine).
  3. When the first round of proofing is finished, transfer the dough to a clean floured surface and deflate the dough (Picture 1).
  4. Divide into 12 equal portions and roll each portion into a ball (Picture 2).  Place dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Let them complete the 2nd round of proofing until nearly doubled (if weather is too cold, you can proof at 90◦F in an oven with a pot of boiling water for 30 to 50 minutes.  The water will keep the humidity at certain level).
  5. When the dough portions are doubled in size, preheat oven to 410°F.  Remove topping paste from fridge, cut into 12 equal portions and roll in balls.  Roll each portion into a flat disc (Picture 3).
  6. Place the topping paste on top of dough.  Repeat this step with the remainder (Picture 4).
  7. Brush the top with whisked egg yolk and bake in a preheated oven for 5 minutes (Pictures 5 and 6).  Reduce the temperature to 350°F and bake for another 10 minutes.

Pineapple buns


  • If you don’t have condensed milk, increase the total sugar amount to 140g.
  • Ammonia powder can be substituted with 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda.
  • Ammonia powder is quite hard to work with and not easy to find.  If use too little, you’d be disappointed with the patterns appear on the topping (no crackling patterns).  If use too much, your buns will smell weird.  So, this ingredient can be omitted.  Instead, you can use a sharp knife to make criss crosses, like a checkboard across the top of the topping.
  • If you do not have a breadmaker, you can knead the dough with your hands.  Make a well in the center of the flour, whisk and combine all wet ingredients, then add into the well of the dry ingredients. When all ingredients are combined, knead in the softened butter.  The dough is quite sticky and messy at this stage.  Keep kneading until the dough is smooth, not sticky and elastic. Shape dough into a ball.  Place in a greased bowl and cover with a wet towel or cling wrap. Let it proof till it’s doubled in size, about 40 minutes.

Bo Lo Bao