YIPES!!! I just realized that I may have made a big typo. I think I accidentally misconverted 4 Tbsp of milk powder to 120 grams of milk powder in the dough section. 100000s of apologies to whomever may have made it and polished off their year’s supply of milk powder.
I noticed this excessive amount of milk powder when I was making this recipe today for the first time since this post. I thought it was really strange but thought maybe I had a really good reason for it that I had since forgotten…unfortunately, I found out the hard way, after I had made my dough with the said 120 grams of milk powder. I started doing some research and was horrified to find the original volume measurements in my very first draft (thanks, WordPress, for saving that!) that read 4 TBSP of milk powder, which is more like 23 grams. YIKES! 🙁 🙁
I’ve verified that 4 TBSP (23 grams) of milk powder is indeed the correct amount….NOT 120 grams. Soooo sorry 🙁 Please find the corrected version below.
First off, here’s a quick Chinese learning guide:
niu nai = 牛奶= milk
nai fen = 奶粉= milk powder (dry milk)
mian bao = 麵包 = bread (also called ‘bao’ for short, especially by lots of Cantonese folk (sigh, what has Mr. ABC Chef done to me!)
nai su = 奶酥 = you’ll find out soon enough. Factoid about 酥（su)- the closest translation I can think of is flaky layers, or little crumbly bits of butter pastry? Black Sesame Pastry is a perfect example of something “su su”
When I came to the east coast for college, I think one of the things I missed the most (besides amazing California sunshine and weather) was Nai Su Mian Bao, which I would describe to deprived friends as soft bread with a milky creamy filling. It’s not like the whipped cream that Mr. ABC Chef loves in his Canto-style split buns with cream down the center, but this special filling is concocted of milk powder, butter and sugar (and some egg for binding). The milk powder gives it a concentrated creamy taste, and the butter and sugar (and egg) help the filling to melt in your mouth slowly. What’s not to like?
Aside: Before you say, “Hey wait! This has already been done- Christina Tosi’s Crack Pie has milk powder, butter, and sugar, too,” I’ll point out that Nai Su mian bao existed eons before Christina Tosi even knew how to bake. The innovative, irresistability of milk powder + sugar + butter was discovered first by the Taiwanese, so please give them credit where it’s due :D.
Cantonese-style bakeries sell a similar version of nai su mian bao, called gai wei bao, or cock tail bun / chicken tail bun. BUT! The filling almost always has a large percentage of dried coconut, which distracts from the pure milky goodness, in my opinion. Sadly, I am only within driving distance to Cantonese-style bakeries around here, so I lament the loss of buying nai su mian bao. If you are within driving distance of a Taiwanese-style bakery and are looking for some nai su mian bao, make sure you don’t confuse 奶油 and 奶酥 !
Anyway, nai su mian bao has Taiwanese origins (they are all over Taiwan!), and is regularly sold at Taiwanese-style bakeries in California like Cathay Bakery, JJ Bakery, and even the local 99 Ranch Market bakery section. JJ Bakery makes the best one, in my opinion, because the dough is always stuffed with lots more filling than its competitors. In recent batches, like the ones my dad brought over during his trip, it seems they have scaled back a wee bit. It’s okay. Still great! When choosing nai su mian bao when I was home in CA on vacation or breaks, I would always pick up the breads and test to see which ones were heaviest- those were the ones that made it home. We all do that, right? 😉
Nai su filling can be used in several variations- I’ve even seen it paired with stuff like sweetened taro paste or with raisins studded throughout , and the bread that encases the nai su can also have different topping choices. There is the “plain” type, which usually has some flecks of finely shredded coconut on top, that has only a very mild coconut taste. Some places also sell the puff pastry variety- a fat layer of puff pastry buckling over the top of the bread! There is also the one that has bolo, or pineapple topping- a crackly topping, named for its pineapple-skinned appearance. At some places, it almost tastes faintly of pineapple, but maybe it’s just my imagination. I think my mom also really liked bo lo nai su, and when I was younger, I had gotten the idea that the appearance of the bolo meant that the inside had nai su. I remember biting into a bolo mian bao, taking more bites to find the creamy filling, then being sorely disappointed when I never tasted the prize of nai su. How can anyone eat this type of sweet bread with no filling?! After that incident, my mom taught me to ask and look for 奶酥 (nai su), not just 菠蘿 (bolo) :D. Whew!
That being said, here is nai su mian bao covered with the Taiwanese version of bolo, which is not as crackly, crumbly, or as orangey-yellow (thanks to a lack of food-dye-containing custard powder) as the Cantonese version, but good in its own way. You should expect the bolo to be kind of sweet, kind of crunchy, and quite delicious.
If you don’t have time to make all the fancy toppings and breads, you should definitely at least make the nai su filling. Then, get some thickly-sliced bread, cut a large grid pattern through 1/2 the height of the bread, then spread the nai su on. Toast until the nai su turns golden brown, then tear off squares of toasty nai su, and enjoy with some hot tea or coffee 🙂
Clearly I love eating nai su mian bao, judging from the text-heaviness of this post. I hope you will love it, too, after giving it a try!
Bolo Nai Su Mian Bao- EDITED 1/21/2017
Pineapple Milk Butter Bun
Makes 16 sensible servings
For the tangzhong (湯種)
24 grams flour
120 grams water
For the bread dough
8.5 grams (2 tsp) active dry yeast
120 grams water, 100F or slightly cooler
456 grams flour
75 grams sugar
1/4 tsp salt
23 grams nonfat or full fat milk powder
45 grams egg
57 grams butter, softened
For the bolo topping
150 grams flour
75 grams powdered sugar
70 grams butter, softened
1 medium or large egg
For the nai su filling
160 grams nonfat milk powder
128 grams butter, softened
112 grams powdered sugar
32 grams egg, whisked (Remaining part of the egg reserved for egg wash)
1) Make the tangzhong by whisking the flour and water together. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until a semi-translucent paste forms and the temperature reaches 65C (149F). Alternatively, microwave in 2 or 3 10 second bursts, stirring between nukes, until you have a translucent paste at the desired temperature. Cool to room temperature.
2) In a bowl, dissolve the yeast and water together. In a stand mixer bowl, mix together flour, sugar, salt, and milk powder. Then, add the yeast/water combination，the cooled tangzhong, and egg, and mix for a few minutes until the egg is incorporated and you don’t see anymore streaks of egg.
3) Then, while the mixer is still running on a low speed, add ~1 Tbsp chunk of butter at a time, mixing between additions. The dough will seem quite sticky and wet, but you knead to keep kneading 😀 Continue kneading for another 5 or more minutes. Don’t worry if the butter seems to be flopping around- it will come together eventually! The dough is ready when it becomes smooth and passes the windowpane test. This means, that if you take out a small chunk of dough and use your fingers to flatten and slowly stretch the dough, you should be able to stretch it thin enough to see light shining through it without breaking.
4) Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and let it rise for 1-1.5 hours (shorter in the summer time), or until the dough has roughly doubled in size.
5) While you wait for the dough to rise, mix up your bolo topping in one bowl, and then the nai su filling in another bowl. Divide each dough into 16 equal portions and store in the fridge in the meantime.
6) When the bread dough has risen, divide it into 16 portions. Then, take each chunk of dough and slightly stretch the perimeters of the dough and tuck those edges underneath the dough, to reveal a nice smooth top to the dough.
7) For each piece of dough, put the dough on a slightly oiled surface, with the tucked edges facing up. With a slightly oiled rolling pin, roll the dough out to a roughly 4-inch diameter circle.
8) Place one portion of nai su filling in the middle of the rolled-out dough, then wrap, trying to only pinch the very edges of the dough to create a tight!! seal. Try not to bunch the dough up too thickly, otherwise someone eating it will get a mouthful of dough.
9) After the nai su is snugly wrapped up, place the seams down on a baking sheet, and cup the dough to try and round it out. Repeat steps 7-9 for all the 16 portions of bread dough and nai su, leaving 2-3 inches between each dough round (8 per sheet is what I did).
10) Cover the dough lightly with plastic wrap, and let them rise for 1 to 1.5 hours longer, until the dough does NOT spring back when gently touched. In the last 20 minutes of rising, pre-heat the oven to 375F.
11) Take out the bolo topping from the fridge, then flatten or roll them out as thinly as possible without ripping. Gently place one bolo dough on each dough round.
12) Beat the remaining egg with a few drops of water, then use a pastry brush to apply egg washes to the tops of the bolo dough.
13) Bake for 15-17 minutes at 375F, or until the sides and tops are nicely golden.
-If you want to use full fat milk powder for the nai su instead, use only 50 grams of butter in the nai su filling. If you wish, you can scale everything up so that it reaches around the same weight (432 g) total as using the non-fat version..
-If you make nai su toast, wrap them individually in plastic wrap, then store in the freezer, so you can have nai su for the week(s) ahead.
-Should there be any, leftovers can be frozen in a ziptop bag (make sure you suck out the air before sealing the bag to delay freezer burn)