Monday, August 24, 2015
melon bread ／メロンパン
Put your hands up for hands down the best bread I have ever made in my entire life.
For the uninitiated who must be burning with curiosity by now, melon bread, or as the Japanese call it, melon pan, is a type of sweet bun which defining characteristic is a topping of crunchy sugar cookie dough. The cookie dough cracks as the dough expands when it bakes, thus creating a heavily lined surface that somewhat resembles the texture of a melon. If you're confused, I admit that the ones I've baked are not fine enough examples to illustrate the bread's connection to its title.
I've been wanting to make this for a while (a not too unfamiliar line on this blog these days) because these consistently rank amongst the top of my favorite baked goods to eat, but I only just finally got down to baking these because I was inspired by a certain episode in the anime Yakitate Japan. It's a story about this young boy with an innate talent for bread-making and no less that of unbridled creativity. It's great fun to watch (read: borderline ridiculous) so if you have an hour or 23... But I digress.
I expected to the cookie dough to be the better of the two components knowing my incurable weakness for nearly anything buttery and crunchy but the excessive flour in the cookie dough and the fact that it wasn't rolled out thinly enough made the topping a massive letdown. The buns look like they survived an earthquake, frankly speaking. But apart from its unfortunate appearance the cookie topping tasted fine. Luckily the bread itself was unexpectedly delicious; I really was pleasantly surprised given how I've never genuinely truly wholeheartedly enjoyed the breads I made. Or if there was one that I mildly liked I don't remember a trace of it, which speaks volumes about my miserable past with bread-making.
But that changes today!
This bread is insanely soft and springy and chewy and moist with a hint of saltiness that balances so well with the sweet cookie dough. Hell-aaa delicious. Definitely the kind of bread that warrants multiple superlatives and a pat on the baker's back for a job well done.
This recipe is for keeps.
makes 6 (large) to 10 (smallish) buns
referenced from this recipe with modifications
For the bread dough:
200g bread flour
25g butter, softened
4g dry yeast mixed with 2 tbsp of warm water and set aside for around 5 minutes
1/2 egg + enough milk to make 100ml
For the cookie dough:
110g cake flour (decreased from 130g)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
15g coarse sugar, for rolling the cookie dough in
Make the bread dough: Combine the bread flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with a spoon. Add the egg and milk mixture and then the yeast-water mixture. With the mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix on low speed until the mixture forms a dough then increase speed to medium. Knead for around 10 minutes then add in the softened butter. Continue kneading for 10 to 15 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. When you pinch off a portion of dough and stretch it, it should be able to be stretched thin enough that it's translucent before breaking.
Shape the dough into a ball and leave to rise for about an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
Meanwhile, make the cookie dough: Beat the butter until smooth. Add in the sugar and beat until the sugar has been incorporated and mixture has lightened. Mix in the egg and vanilla extract. Stir in the flour until combined. Take the dough and place it on a large sheet of clingwrap, shape it into a log and wrap the clingwrap around it. Chill dough until the dough has finished the first round of proofing.
When the dough has risen to double its size, divide into 6 to 10 portions, depending on how large you want your buns to be. You'll deflate the dough as you work and that's okay. Shape each portion of dough into a ball and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicon baking mat.
Remove cookie dough from the fridge and divide into 6 to 10 portions, depending on how many rounds of bread dough you made. Take a piece of clingwrap and place each portion of cookie dough onto the top half of it. Fold the bottom half of the clingwrap over the cookie dough and flatten until it's large enough to wrap around the bread dough. Try to ensure that the cookie dough is not too thick or you'll have fissures in the surfaces of your finished buns like what you see above (uh-oh busted!). Place a portion of bread dough onto the middle of a cookie dough circle and gently wrap the cookie dough around the bread dough; dip the bread-and-cookie dough into a bowl of coarse sugar, cookie dough side down, until the cookie dough is coated with sugar granules. Return dough to baking sheet.
Leave the dough to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour until they have nearly doubled in size.
Bake at 160C for around 12 to 15 minutes depending on how large you made the buns. I baked mine for 15 minutes since they were on the larger side. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.