One of the first recipes I ever posted on this site was Chinese Cocktail Buns, or gai mei baos. These soft, fluffy buns with a buttery coconut filling were a favorite from my childhood and definitely the first item I reach for in any Chinese bakery.
It’s hard to improve on a classic, but for a long time I’ve thought that my ideal Chinese bun would have the luscious filling of a gai mei bao and the sweet cookie topping of another favorite, pineapple buns (or bo lo baos). (These buns don’t actually contain pineapple — they’re named such because of the crackly topping that vaguely resembles a pineapple.) I finally had a chance to test this theory by making these hybrid pineapple coconut buns, and let me tell you — Best. Idea. Ever. I honestly could eat these for breakfast every day! They were just divine slightly warm from the oven, but lasted very well for several days, just needing a few seconds in the microwave to restore the soft texture.
A few notes:
- As written, making these pineapple coconut buns is a two day project. I prepare the levain for the bread in the morning, mix the dough in the afternoon, and shape/fill/bake the buns the next day. If you don’t have a sourdough starter or want to make this a shorter project, you can use the dough in the original Chinese Coconut Cocktail Buns post — just divide into 12 pieces and shape/fill/bake as directed below.
- I highly recommend using caster (or superfine) sugar for both the filling and topping for the best consistency. I make my own by just grinding regular granulated sugar in the food processor for about a minute.
Pineapple Coconut Buns
Makes 12 buns
For the sourdough milk bread:
For the levain:
- 18g starter
- 31g milk
- 57g bread flour
Mix together and let ripen at room temperature until mature (6-12 hours, depending on environment).
- 284g bread/AP flour
- 46g sugar
- 52g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 21g milk powder
- 53g egg
- 6g salt
- 104g milk
- 88g cream
- All of the levain
For the coconut filling:
- 180g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- 80g caster sugar
- 50g cake flour
- 60g milk powder
- 90g unsweetened desiccated coconut
For the pineapple topping:
- 125g cake flour
- 55g caster sugar
- 40g lard or shortening, at room temperature
- 7 g milk power
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 Tbsp cream (plus more, if needed)
- 1 tsp condensed milk (optional; use extra cream instead)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 egg yolk, beaten
- Simple syrup
For the sourdough milk bread:
- Mix together all final dough ingredients except the salt and butter until just combined. Cover and autolyse (rest) for 30-60 minutes.
- Add salt, and knead dough until gluten is moderately developed (about 5 minutes on medium speed, using the dough hook on a stand mixer). The dough will start out sticky and rough but should gradually come together and feel quite smooth and stretchy. Add butter in two batches, mixing the first completely before adding the second. Continue kneading at medium speed until the gluten is very well developed and the dough passes the windowpane test as demonstrated here. The dough should be smooth and supple (and quite lovely to handle!). This will take quite some time, especially if done by hand. Consider it your arm workout for the day!
- Transfer to a clean and lightly oiled bowl, cover, and bulk rise at room temp for 2 hours. The dough will be noticeably expanded, but not doubled. Fold, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 8 hours, or overnight.
- The next day, take the dough out and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Divide into 12 equal portions and shape into loose rounds. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and rest for 1 hour.
- While the dough is resting, prepare the filling and topping. To make the filling, cream together the butter and sugar until combined. Add the cake flour, milk powder, and coconut and mix to combine. I like to chill my filling for 20-30 minutes to make it easier to handle.
- To make the topping, combine the flour, sugar, milk powder, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Add the lard or shortening and rub it into the dry ingredients. Whisk together the egg yolk, cream, vanilla, and condensed milk and pour over the dry ingredients. Stir to combine, then knead until a dough forms. If the mixture is too dry to hold together, add cream a tsp at a time until everything is hydrated. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature.
- When the dough has rested, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Take the filling mixture and divide it into 12 equal portions (I like to roll it into rounds, then flatten slightly). Take a piece of dough and roll it into a circle, making the edges a little thinner than the middle. Place a portion of filling in the center, then fold the edges up and over the filling and pinch tightly to seal. Place seam side down on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining dough.
- Cover the buns with lightly oiled plastic wrap and proof at room temperature until about doubled in size, about 5-7 hours. When the buns are nearly ready, preheat the oven to 400F.
- Just before baking, top the buns. Divide the topping dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece between your hands to form a ball. Working one at a time, flatten a piece with your hand. Using a rolling pin, roll into a thin round big enough to cover a bun. (I find covering the dough with a piece of plastic wrap while rolling makes this easy to do.) Brush the top of the bun with a bit of water, then carefully place the topping round on top, using a small offset spatula. Repeat with remaining buns.
- Brush the top of each bun with the beaten egg yolk. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375F and continue baking until the tops are golden brown and buns sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 10-15 more minutes. As soon as the buns come out of the oven, brush with simple syrup. Leftover buns store well for a few days in an airtight container. Microwave for 15-20 seconds to soften.