For me, coming home from College has always been a big transition every summer. As much as I miss home whenever I’m away at school, adjusting to being back has always been a process in itself. You spend almost 8-9 months away from home, changing and growing the whole time only to come home to a place that remembers you as you were 8 months ago. You spend your entire time up in College immersed in what is happening there, slowly coming to understand yourself better with the independence you have from being away from home. Then you come back home, and your family doesn’t know how much you have changed as a person. They treat you the same as before, and it’s like fighting an uphill battle through mud trying to convince them and explain to them how you’ve changed.
As if learning to understand yourself isn’t a journey on it’s own. Having family nagging you about this and that and trying to explain to them your current state (as if it’s a final stage you’ve reached when in reality it’s only still in process) is enough to make me reach my limits with patience. And believe me, I like to think I’m a fairly patient person. Which is why I am grateful that I can release all that pent up frustration by smacking a ball of bread dough a good number of times to calm me down. I don’t think I’ve ever fully appreciated the therapeutic aspect of baking until now.
At least my pent up frustration coincides with my current search for the perfect pineapple bun (菠萝包) recipe, so there’s plenty of dough to be punched and smacked to my hearts content (side-not: please know that I am normally not a violent person…I promise).
On the topic of pineapple buns, I made my first attempt a week after I got home. I have to thank ladyandpups.com and her beautiful blog site for the recipe. My own result, however, came out sub-par. The crust was delicious, but the bread (although flavorful) was a bit too tough. I still haven’t nailed the art of bread making, even with the aid of my stand mixer.
The second time around I decided to mix and match recipes. I kept the crust from the first recipe I tried, but I switched the bread dough with one of my favorite cinnamon roll doughs. I found this dough recipe on allrecipes.com. My theory is that this bread dough always turns out really nice and fluffy because I use our bread machine to make it. The bread machine definitely mixes dough better than I do on my own despite the fact that it is indeed as old as I am.
Fun fact: this bread machine was used to make bread by my grandparents back when I was just born.
If I really want to make a story out of it, I would say that baking bread can be used as an illustration of life. It’s important to knead the dough a lot in order to build the gluten structure, the same way it’s important to let out your frustration and not keep it bottled up. So let’s say that kneading dough is symbolic to venting out your frustrations. After you knead dough, though, you can’t just bake the bread. If you do, you’ll end up with a dense chunk of cooked dough. To make good fluffy bread, you have to let the dough rise. In the same sense, it’s important to let out your frustrations but you also have to give yourself time after that to just sit and take a breath. A good loaf of bread needs a lot of kneading but it also needs the rise. Both parts work together to make the bread. In the same way, as much as I wanted to hold on to my frustrations, calming down and taking a breather did a lot of good for me.
I am now internally cringing at that cheesy analogy. But moving on from that, you should definitely try this recipe if you can. It is one of those annoying recipes that’s hard to make if you don’t have all the necessary ingredients/equipments, but it’s a fun adventure to explore if you want. My next goal is to try out custard filled pineapple buns…that should be fun.
Test #1 on my quest for the perfect pineapple bun recipe
- 60 grams unsalted butter (softened)
- 1 large egg yolk
- 15 grams heavy cream (1 tbsp)
- 110 grams cake flour (3/4 cup + 1 tbsp)
- 90 grams powdered sugar (1/2 cup + 2 tbsp)
- 15 grams custard powder (2 tbsp)
- 1 gram baking soda (1/4 tsp)
- 1 gram baking powder (1/4 tsp)
- 1 cup milk (warm (110 degrees F))
- 2 eggs (room temperature)
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter (melted)
- 4 1/2 cup bread flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 1/2 tsp bread machine yeast
- 1 large egg
- 1 tbsp heavy cream
- 1 tbsp water
For the "Pineapple" Crust:
With a hand held mixer, cream the unsalted butter until pale and fluffy (3 min). Add in the egg yolk and cream. Whip until thick and velvety (1-2 min). Add in the cake flour, powder sugar, custard powder, baking soda, and baking powder, and mix with a spatula until everything comes together into a dough. Wrap with a plastic sandwich bag or plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (1 hour).
For the dough:
Place ingredients in the pan of the bread machine in the order listed above. Select the dough cycle and press start
Once the dough cycle has finished, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Cover and let the dough sit for 10 minutes.
Use a scale to measure the weight of the dough, then split it evenly into 12 sections.
Assembling the Pineapple Bun:
take one section of dough and shape it into a spherical ball. Place it on a tray lined with parchment paper, and repeat for the other 11 sections of dough.
Once all the sections are shaped, place the tray in a warm place and let it rise for 30 minutes.
Take the crust out of the fridge and split it evenly into 12 pieces. Then roll each piece into a ball.
Once the dough has risen for 30 min, mix together all the egg wash ingredients in a small cup. Then take a brush and brush on a layer of egg wash on all the buns.
Take a section of crust and roll it out between two pieces of parchment paper until it’s a flat disc. Place the crust over a bun and shaping it to mould to the dough. Make sure the crust doesn’t cover the roll of dough completely. Repeat for the other 11 sections of crust.
Egg wash the 12 buns twice then place in a warm place and let it rise until doubled in size. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Once the oven has preheated and the dough has doubled in size, bake the bread for 20 minutes until golden brown.
You can make this without a bread machine by mixing everything by hand in a bowl and then kneading the dough by hand…but I would not recommend that bc it take a looooong time and a lotta arm work.