Pandan Melon Pan

Melon pan is probably one of the most iconic Japanese pastries out there. Soft fluffy bread enrobed in a crunchy, cookie-like shell, these breads are just all kinds of textural fun to eat! If you have ever had Mexican conchas or Chinese/Taiwanese pineapple buns, these are quite similar to those. The name “melon pan” refers to two things: the melon part is less based on the breads themselves being melon-flavored(though some recipes do in fact call for melon extract!), and more so the breads themselves resembling a melon. This is usually achieved by enrobing balls of bread dough in a thin round of cookie dough, and cross-hatch scoring them prior to baking! My recipe follows that process as well. iconic Japanese pastries out there. Soft fluffy bread enrobed in a crunchy, cookie-like shell, these breads are just all kinds of textural fun to eat! If you have ever had Mexican conchas or Chinese/Taiwanese pineapple buns, these are quite similar to those. The “pan”(pronounced like pa-hn) is the Japanese word for bread, being derived from the French word “pain”(also pronounced pa-hn) – I will admit that this recipe could be a pain(the English word) if you are not familiar with yeast-leavened doughs or if you do not have the patience for them). Though I assure you, so long as you follow my recipe(and use not-expired yeast or heat up the yeast to above room temperature prior to baking it), that you will end up with these little buggers!

For the bread dough, I went with milk bread as the base. Milk bread uses a tangzhong(cooked flour and milk mixture) in the dough itself, resulting in a softer, pillow-y dough. Personally, I think all bread doughs should use tangzhong, since that just makes them super fluffy and light! The cookie dough I used is a craquelin, which is a sugary, buttery cookie dough that is usually used on cream puffs to give them a lacy, crunchy exterior. I found that it is super easy to work with, and is easier to portion out for this recipe! Since I wanted to give my melon pan a fun color, I went with using pandan to dye them green. For those unfamiliar, pandan is a leaf that is used a lot in South East Asian desserts. Not quite Japanese, but more like Malaysian and Filipino. Pandan has a very distinct pine-like flavor, although it is quite aromatic and pairs beautifully with sugar. I found that using the pandan powder naturally gave both the bread and craquelin a pleasant green color, but it also added a nice flavor to the final product as well! I did use a little green spirulina powder just to amp up the green color, though matcha works just as well in this recipe! I went with pandan because I felt like saying “pandan melon pan” was a tongue-twister that would put an immediate smile on anyone’s face.

Makes 16 buns:
2 1/2 cups flour, in 2 parts
1 cup milk
1 stick unsalted butter, kept cold
2 eggs
1 packet active dry yeast
1 tsp granulated sugar
1/4 cup lukewarm water
2 tbsp pandan powder
1 tsp green spirulina powder

In a pot, mix together one part of the flour with one part milk on medium-high heat for 5 minutes. The mixture should resemble a thick, pasty dough. This is called a tangzhong. Take off heat and stir in the butter until that is fully melted into the dough. Then mix into that your two eggs. Allow the tangzhong to cool down to room temperature. In a large bowl, mix the yeast with sugar and water and allow that to sit for about 10 minutes at room temperature. To the bowl that has the yeast and water, add in the tangzhong, the remaining flour, and the pandan and spirulina powders. Knead for 10 minutes until the dough is elastic and no longer sticks to any surface. You can also knead the dough with a dough hook attachment in a stand mixer for 5 minutes on high. Allow the dough to sit, covered, for an hour at room temperature. Then transfer it into the refrigerator and chill down for another hour. Portion out your dough into 16 even pieces and roll each one out until smooth. Place 8 pieces of dough on each tray, spacing them out to be at least 3 inches apart.

For the topping:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
2 tbsp pandan powder
1 tsp green spirulina powder

In a food processor, combine the ingredients until they just come together. Refrigerate for 10 minutes. Roll out on a floured surface to about 1/16th an inch thickness. Cut out 3-inch disks of the dough and place in the freezer. Transfer the frozen dough disks on top of the portioned and spaced dough balls. Allow the dough balls to rest for 1 hour with the topping at room temperature. Then score the tops of the topping with either a bench scraper or a knife. Bake the dough balls at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes. The final bun should be crunchy from the topping, but also springy and light on the inside.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s