I made melon pan 3 weeks ago, (when I was seriously craving it) and at the time I remembered clearly what my reason for wanting to eat it so badly was, where the idea had come from; I meant to write this post then, but I didn’t. So, of course, when I finally managed to sit down and write, the reason behind this recipe had disappeared.
A bit like dreams, ideas that are not written down just tend to vanish. Maybe they go to the realm where all ideas come from. Maybe they don’t leave, maybe we lose the ability to connect or see them. Also, are ideas made out of the same stuff as dreams, and if so, do they all disappear together to the same spot? Is there, perhaps, a wonderful land where unused ideas and forgotten dreams live together? Is that the place where poets go to get inspired?
Who knows… but in any case, melon pan was baked and so this post is now being written, just in case I forget about the post altogether 🙂
If you don’t know what melon pan is, let me say first that it doesn’t involve baking with melon in any way, it is called “melon” bread because its shape resembles a type of melon. It is a sweet bun from Japan (but it can be found with different names in Taiwan, Hong Kong and other Asian countries), and its made by wrapping a small ball of enriched dough in a cookie dough. The bread is soft and tender and the cookie forms a crunchy crust on top. Sounds good, right?
Ingredients (for 10 breads):
60 gs. unsalted butter at room temperature
100 gs granulated sugar
1 large egg beaten
200 gs cake flour (If you don’t have cake flour, make it by mixing plain flour with cornstarch. 1 cup and 2 tbsp plain flour + 2 tbsp cornstarch makes 1 CUP cake flour)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder.
225 gs bread flour
25 gs cake flour
40 g. granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 large egg
50 ml whole milk
50 ml water
35 g unsalted butter cut into small cubes and at room temperature.
1 teaspoon instant dry yeast.
To me, the easier order was: Make cookie dough, place it in fridge, while it chills, move on with making the enriched dough. While the enriched dough rises work with the cookie dough again. However, you can equally start by making the enriched dough and while it proofs move on to making the cookie dough. It is up to you!
1.- In a bowl place the 60 gs of butter and mix with a spatula until it becomes creamy then add 100 gs sugar and mix until the sugar is completely incorporated.
2.- Add the egg a bit at a time, until you incorporate the whole egg. The mixture will look like this:
3.- Now, sift 200 gs of cake flour and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder into the mixture and using the spatula mix everything together until you have a dough. Do not overwork it, you do not need to knead it to much, just bring everything together into a ball.
4.- Wrap the dough in cling film and shape it like a log, so that it will be easier to cut it into 10 pieces later on. Place in the fridge until needed.
1.- In a bowl place 225 g bread flour, 25 g cake flour, 40 g granulated sugar, and 1 tsp salt. Mix with a spatula.
2.- Make a well in the middle and add 1 tsp instant dry yeast, 1 beaten egg, 50 ml warm milk and 50 ml warm water. Gently mix all these wet ingredients together with a spatula and then start adding the flour from the sides of the well until there is nothing left and you have a workable dough.
3.- Knead the dough in a floured surface for 10 minutes, or until you have a soft dough that doesn’t stick to your fingers.
4.- Press and stretch the dough about 20 cm, and place the remaining 35 g of butter, cut into cubes, on top of the dough. Roll up the dough tucking the butter in, and then continue the kneading process. The dough will get a bit messy, but don’t worry too much, just keep kneading, soon all the butter will be assimilated by the dough and it will stop looking like a greasy mess.
5.- At this point you can start doing some therapeutic kneading ( I call it therapeutic, but I doubt that’s the name the professionals are taught at Baking School) by banging the dough onto the work surface and then folding it over away from you. This helps develop gluten (elasticity). Bang the dough, turn it 90 degrees, and punch it, using the lower part of your palm. Repeat. Do this until your dough is smooth and soft, and it has stopped sticking to your hands and/or being greasy.
6.- Place the dough in a bowl, cover with cling film or a plastic bag and let it rest until it has doubled in size. This usually takes 1 hour, but if the weather is hot, it might take 30-40 minutes.
While the dough proofs and grows and becomes beautiful:
1.- Take the cookie dough out of the fridge and weight it. It should be somewhere around the 400 gs. You need the exact weight so that you can cut the log into 10 pieces of the same weight. Cut them and then weight them to make sure they are all the same.
2.- Make balls with the palms of your hands and place them in a tray, cover with cling film and let them rest in the fridge until needed.
Onto the bread dough:
1.- Once the dough has doubled in size, dust your index finger with flour and put it in the centre of the dough, making a hole. If the hole doesn’t close back when you remove your finger, then the dough is ready for the next step.
2.- Remove the dough from the bowl and transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Press the dough with your hands to deflate.
3.- Knead the dough for a few minutes and then shape into a ball. Weight the dough (it should be approximately 460 gs).
4.- Divide the dough into 10 balls of the same size. Use a scale to make sure that they are all the same. They should be 1/10 of the total weight of the dough.
5.- Place the dough balls in a tray lined with baking paper and let them rest for 20 minutes, covered.
6.- After 20 minutes, remove the cookie dough from the fridge. Cut a square of cling film to help you with the next step (the less you touch the cookie dough with your hands the better).
7.- Place a cookie dough ball on the cling film and with a small rolling pin (or even a glass) flatten the ball like this:
8.- Hold the flattened dough in the palm of your hand (cling film included) and place a bread dough ball inside. Then gently close the cookie dough around the bread dough, you will soon realise that the cling film is really helpful in this step:
9.- Now, take that ball and dip it in a bowl with granulated sugar:
10.- Then using a dough scraper or knife, gently score the biscuit dough into a crisscross pattern ( 3-4 lines on each side should suffice). Repeat with the remaining dough. Then place in a tray lined with baking paper.
11.- Cover the melon pan so they don’t dry and let them rise for 30 minutes.
12.- Preheat the oven at 180 degrees and cook for 15-20 minutes. Mine cooked in 20 minutes, but the recipe I was following said 15, so keep an eye on them. To make sure they are baked you can pierce them with a skewer, if it comes out clean, they are ready. They do bake really fast for a bread!
I know this recipe is a bit long, but the melon pan that result from it are delicious! They are lovely warm or cold. We even had them the next they and the bread inside was still soft and moist. They can be reheated in the oven too! and they are nicer warm, I think.
I had melon pan- flavoured sugar, so that added an extra nice taste. If you’d like your melon pan flavoured, why not try adding cocoa powder or matcha (both flavours I’ve seen in bakeries in Asia) or just vanilla essence or even orange peel… the sky is the limit really if you are not too precious about sticking to the original recipe. Hope you try this recipe and enjoy it!!