During my childhood, my parents bought baked Chinese goods from ‘Ho’s bakery’ in Manchester’s China Town. Ho’s is a long standing institution that has brought Hong Kong bakery to the Chinese migrants who wanted a little taste of what they were missing from home.
‘Chinese’ and ‘English’ oven baked breads are very different. Chinese bread is usually very light and soft in texture, usually on the sweet side and often enveloping finely chopped cooked meat or delicate sweet fillings. Kind of like a ready made sandwich. English breads need to be sturdier so they can be sliced to hold a decent amount of filling or torn to be dipped into a hearty soup without it disintegrating.
Chinese buns are usually eaten warm for breakfast. In Hong Kong, small bakeries can be found everywhere offering quick and tasty breakfasts for people rushing to work in the non-stop crowded city. In England this Chinese bread was a tasty Sunday treat that my dad would pick up on his way home from replenishing stock for the restaurant after a busy Saturday of trading.
I tried baking bread for the first time at the age of 24, in a small village called Ololosokwan in Northern Tanzania. I was on my ‘gap year’ trying, and failing, to save the world with no access to fresh produce for weeks at a time. Luckily I wasn’t alone! In the next house was an Irish man who was working at the local school and had asked his son to email him a basic bread recipe. Before this it had never occurred to me to do anything apart from grab a loaf of bread off the supermarket shelf. We didn’t have that luxury in Ololosokwan! The bread wasn’t amazing as we didn’t actually have the right flour, but it was was bread none the less. And more importantly, it was a reminder of home!
I didn’t try and make bread again for a few years and when I did I always got tired of the whole kneading process so my ‘bread’ was usually disappointing. I have had some successes, but mostly very dense and unappetising results. One day I looked up how to make Chinese style bread and found a recipe online. It was truly inspired and the results have been amazing!
For my first blog, I am recreating a delicious typical Chinese delight called a ‘pineapple bun’ or ‘菠蘿包’ in Cantonese. They contain no pineapple, but end up looking a little like the outside of one and have a similar texture to brioche. They are divine! I’ve made these buns by hand before but it is very time consuming and messy as the dough is very wet and difficult to work with, hence the reason I don’t make them very often! This time I have used a bread maker to do the hard work for me.
This recipe shows you how to make the basic Chinese white bread that it used for most recipes, and as you can see it doesn’t only use the traditional ‘fast action’ yeast that is usually found in western bread recipes. The Tangzhong Method, or ‘湯種’, is the secret to the pillowy soft buns sold in bakeries such as Ho’s to this day! Thank you Christine, you are amazing! http://en.christinesrecipes.com/2010/03/japanese-style-bacon-and-cheese-bread.html
For the crunchy topping: http://www.pigpigscorner.com/2011/01/pineapple-bun-bo-luo-bao-by-christines.html
If you’ve never had one, please try it! It’s perfect with a cup of strong English tea!