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June 3, 2010

Pai Pau 排包

When I was about 12-ish, I had a slight obsession of reading books so much so, that I even brought along books on holidays. Our luggage was always overweight by the time we got back to Australia, as a result of the amount of shopping we’d do, so, much to my dismay, my mum would only let me bring two books. She never specified how thin the books had to be, and so I always brought my thickest books, which can get pretty thick when some of them were like three books in one….hehe

Pai Pau

Of course, I grew out of that phase (eventually) and nowadays, you’ll more likely catch me in the food section of a bookstore than the fiction section. And I never take books with me overseas anymore- I bring books back =] My cookbook collection is really small, compared to my collection of novels but I’m not quite sure what’s big, and what’s small- which makes me wonder, how big is your cookbook collection?? I have books which I buy, intending to try most of the recipes and some which I buy just because it’s cheap and the pictures pretty (and there’s a slight possibility I’ll try one of the recipes). And then there are my Chinese cookbooks- the ones which undoubtedly get used the most.

I love my Chinese cookbooks for a very simple reason- they have the recipes which appeal to me more than anything else. Because no matter how much I love to try new things, I’ve found that the food I like the best is definitely Asian. Perhaps it’s because I grew up eating asian food, but I prefer soft fluffy bread to crusty sourdough, I prefer soft and light sponge cakes to rich and buttery butter cakes, congee over porridge……the list goes on. The Chinese cookbooks I’ve seen are significantly different to the English ones I read- for one thing, they are almost all glossy, colourful and full of pictures (even if the photography isn’t any good…..) They also have a love of including step by step pictures.


Unfortunately, I don’t can’t read Chinese. But somehow, I manage to work my way through those recipes, either through the pictorial guides, the (terribly) translated English or pestering my mum to read them aloud to me at times. Yes- my mum reads me cookbooks =] Which is why I can now slightly manage to read words such as sugar, salt and flour.

On my (sort of recent) trip to Hong Kong (which I have yet to finish blogging about…..), I purchased a book on breads ‘Hong Kong Breads’ by Yau Yung Ling. I’ve taken an interest into bread making, ever since my first successful loaf and the realisation that the only reason my bread attempts failed was because of dead yeast. One of the first recipes I attempted was this Pai pau (排包- which literally translates to rows of bread), a common bread in Hong Kong, which is pretty much a basic asian bread dough which is shapped in rows which you pull apart to eat.

I love pull apart breads. I love how you can feel the incredible softness of bread as you rip it apart, before you take a bite and feel the fluffiness. I even like to pull my sandwiches apart- when I’m at school, I like to pull of each of the crusts, one side at a time, and eating them before starting on the centre. Which I why I knew I was going to try this bread. The bread dough used in this recipe has a slightly high butter content to the basic dough used in the rest of the book, giving it a bit of a better flavour.


It seems however, that I can never escape disasters in the kitchen and my first attempt at this resulted in an almost inedible loaf. I’d (once again) used yeast that had been left out for too long. I’ve since read that yeast can be stored in the freezer so hopefully, I won’t come across that problem again for another year or so……

The second attempt was a lot better, and yielded a very soft and fluffy bread. The only problem was I’d put the rows too close together during the proving, and so the rows all moulded into one after rising and baking, resulting in one loaf which wasn’t really pull-apart-able. Well, not neatly anyway. So we cut it up =]


It didn’t actually turn out as soft as it looked in the cookbook, and not quite as soft as asian bakery bread, but we loved it just the same!

And here’s a tip from the book:

Don’t knead with your head!!

Pai Pau (or, as named in the book, Egg and Butter bread)

Recipe from Hong Kong Breads by Yau Yung Ling

476g strong flour
112g caster sugar
7g yeast
56g butter
warm water
1 egg
1 egg yolk
56g milk
Some yellow food colouring-
egg yellow or lemon yellow (optional)
4g bread additive (I used bread improver)
some beaten egg for topping

Place all ingredients except butter into bread machine (according to the directions your bread machine manual!) Set to Dough function. Add in the butter after 8 ~ 10 mins into the kneading cycle. When the dough has finished kneading, remove dough from machine and put it in a bowl covered with cling wrap Leave to ferment for 30minutes.

Divide the fermented dough into 16 pieces.
Roll each piece into a long sausage like shape. It should be a bit longer than your palm- about the width of a loaf pan.

Place 8 pieces of rolled dough next to each other in a row, so that they form a rectangular shape. Leave small gaps in between them. Do the same with the other 8 pieces, unless you want a huge/long pai pau.

Leave to ferment for 45 minutes or until double in size.

Brush egg wash on top and bake at 200oC for 15 minutes or until
golden brown.

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  • MaryMoh

    Oh, I love to buy books too. I should open a book shop really 😛 I think my cookbooks are way too under utilised. I only love to look at the pictures before I sleep 😀 Love your bread. I love those that are very soft too. Hard ones, I love it with thick soup.

    June 3, 2010 at 3:39 PM Reply
  • Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)!

    Haha I was never really into books and have so many at home which I've started but never finished, cookbooks on the other hand I can keep flipping through over and over and not get bored always finding inspiration one way or another.

    Soft asian bread is yummy, especially the buttery variety though I love breads of all cultures!

    June 3, 2010 at 10:54 PM Reply
  • SteelCityFlan

    This looks super deliciously yummy. Mmmm! Look how light and fluffy and tempting 😀

    Also, I don't know what kind of yeast you use, but I've had much better luck with the kind that comes in a glass jar than the one in envelopes, even when the ones on the envelopes aren't past their expiration date…the glass jars will also keep in the fridge (and in the freezer, as you mentioned) and that is such a blessing.

    Good job on this bread; it looks great even if it doesn't pull apart so easily 🙂 And nice translation from the book. Heh.

    June 4, 2010 at 2:27 AM Reply
  • Anh

    Oh my! The bread looks beautiful and perfect. Years back, a friend of mine posted the recipe but I kind of lost it! Thanks for this!

    Anyway, for the yeast, I store mine in the fridge for a long time. I use lowan brand in the supermarket. No complain. (you may want to test your yeast to see if it's 'alive' before making any bread though)

    June 4, 2010 at 3:32 AM Reply
  • OohLookBel

    I've always had a love/hate thing with Chinese-style bread – love it in Hong Kong (with carnation milk in tea), hate it in Australia because it's too soft. I have to say that yours looks pretty good!

    June 4, 2010 at 6:48 AM Reply
  • Poggy

    whatss bread improver?

    It looks so yummy i want to try making it =D!

    June 4, 2010 at 9:27 AM Reply
  • Adriana from Bittersweet Baker

    Hi Von!

    I love soft breads, so I'm going to have to try this recipe soon.

    I also I pretty small collection of cookbooks because I find almost all of my recipes from food blogs. On the internet there are reviews, and usually more pictures than in cookbooks!


    June 5, 2010 at 1:46 PM Reply
  • tigerfish

    It's bad that I don't read much when I was much younger and even now when I am old…:(

    Keep up those good habits of reading, sweetie!

    June 5, 2010 at 4:45 PM Reply

    It looks so soft and flavorful! I'm slso impressed you made a bread recipe without being able to read the recipe! That is a great looking bread!

    June 5, 2010 at 6:55 PM Reply
  • grace

    my bookshelves are beginning to cave in due to the massive weight of books being housed upon them–it's not pretty, yet i can't stop collecting. 🙂
    LOVELY bread, von–it looks pillow soft and perfect for some jam.

    June 5, 2010 at 8:00 PM Reply
  • Maria

    I have so many cook books I'm running out of shelf space! I used to be like you and read fiction, but now all I read is cook books 🙂
    Haha and I must remember that to keep that tip in mind! 😀

    June 6, 2010 at 7:21 PM Reply
  • Big Boys Oven

    lovely bread you have baked there, simple and yet tasty! 🙂

    June 7, 2010 at 1:25 AM Reply
  • sweetlife

    I love your bread and the pic is wonderful..i could read all's my almost stress buster, my cookbook library grows every week..ahh


    June 8, 2010 at 3:02 AM Reply
  • shaz

    Ha ha ha, my daughter is like that with books. We have to specify only two or three books and she picks the thickest "three-in-ones" she can find! I actually don't have many cookbooks, but the ones I do have are the massive compendium kinds (like mother like daughter I guess). I do howerver, have a weakness for food mags and buy two each month…

    Glad to see you are having much success with the breads, I love these sorts of sweet soft breads too. The loaf looks very tempting! Keep them coming.

    June 8, 2010 at 12:18 PM Reply
  • Yvonne

    Hi MaryMoh!
    Haha, I'd come to your bookstore =] Thanks! I like hard bread with soup too!

    Hi Angie!
    Me too! I have so many fiction books which I planned to read but now I'm not interested in! And I can read my cookbooks over and over again without getting bored =]

    Hi SteelCityFlan!
    Thanks! We can't get yeast in glass jars here…..but the ones in envelopes work fine for me- except this time I just accidently left it out for two months so it died…..

    Hi Anh!
    Thanks! The first yeast I bought was Lowan brand too. Except I left it for half a year in a box and then it died…..I might have to try it again- it's so much cheaper than packaged yeast!

    Hi Bel!
    Yeah, the bread in Hong Kong is so much better than the bread here….!Thanks!

    Hi Poggy!
    Thanks! Bread improver is a flour like thing which you add to your bread. Apparently it gives it a better structure (or something like that) and helps it last longer. You don't have to use it…
    I actually don't find too much of a difference when I use it and when I don't. oh, and it smells too =[

    Hi Adriana!
    That's true- most of the recipes I use are from blogs……I like how they have a lot of nice pictures and usually a lot of tips too! Thanks!

    Hi Tigerfish!

    Hi A spicy perspective!

    Hi grace!
    Wow, that's a lot! But yeah, I know that feeling…haha. Thanks!
    Hi Maria!
    Yeah, I read so much more cookbooks than fiction. I only have about a small shelf of cookbooks- I'd happily lend you my shelf space =P
    Hi Big Boys Oven!

    Hi Sweetlife!
    Thanks! Wow, you must have a lot of cookbooks! Do you use them a lot?
    Hi Shaz!
    Thanks! I'm starting to get into food mags too, but there's so many out there I never know which ones to read!

    June 10, 2010 at 10:49 AM Reply
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