If you’re like me, you love exploring different cultures through their food. Recently, I discovered a delightful Japanese sweet called Melon Pan (メロンパン). At first, I was puzzled by the name. Does it have anything to do with melons? Or is it shaped like a melon? It turns out that Melon Pan has neither of these characteristics. So, what is Melon Pan? Simply put, it is a sweet bun that is popular in Japan, particularly in Tokyo, where it originated.
History of Melon Pan: From Portugal to Japan
The history of Melon Pan is fascinating. Like many other Japanese foods, it has a foreign origin. The Portuguese introduced bread-making to Japan in the 16th century, and this was the start of a long journey that eventually led to the creation of Melon Pan. The first breads that were introduced to Japan were small, hard buns that were known as “kampachi.” However, these buns were not popular among the Japanese because they were too hard to chew. Over time, the Japanese developed their own version of bread, which was softer and fluffier. This bread was known as “anpan” and was filled with sweet red bean paste.
Anpan was a huge success in Japan, but it wasn’t until the 20th century that Melon Pan was created. The exact origin of Melon Pan is unclear, but it is believed that it was first created in Tokyo in the 1900s. The name “Melon Pan” was given to the bun because its appearance resembles that of a cantaloupe or a honeydew melon. Melon Pan quickly became popular in Tokyo and eventually spread throughout Japan.
What Does Melon Pan Taste Like?
Now that we’ve answered the question “what is Melon Pan,” let’s move on to its taste. Melon Pan is a sweet bun that has a light, fluffy texture. It is slightly crunchy on the outside, thanks to a layer of cookie dough that is baked on top of the bun. The cookie dough is usually scored to create a crisscross pattern, which gives the bun its distinct appearance. The cookie dough is not too sweet, which allows the sweetness of the bread to come through. Some Melon Pan buns are flavored with melon extract, which gives them a subtle melon flavor. However, most Melon Pan buns are plain, and their sweetness comes from a sugary glaze that is brushed on top of the cookie dough.
How to Make Melon Pan: A Recipe
If you’re like me, you love to try making new recipes at home. Making Melon Pan is not difficult, but it does require a bit of time and patience. Here’s a simple recipe that you can try:
For the bread dough:
- 3 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 tablespoon of instant yeast
- 1/2 cup of milk
- 1/2 cup of warm water
- 1 egg
- 4 tablespoons of butter, at room temperature
For the cookie dough:
- 1/2 cup of butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup of sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and instant yeast.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, warm water, and egg.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until a dough forms.
- Add the butter to the dough and knead it for about 10 minutes, until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until it doubles in size.
- While the dough is rising, make the cookie dough. In a separate mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the egg, then sift in the flour and baking powder. Mix until a smooth dough forms.
- Divide the cookie dough into 8 equal portions and flatten each portion into a disc. Wrap the discs in plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
- After the bread dough has risen, divide it into 8 equal portions and shape each portion into a ball.
- Flatten each ball slightly and place a disc of cookie dough on top. Wrap the bread dough around the cookie dough, making sure that the cookie dough is completely covered.
- Score the cookie dough with a sharp knife to create a crisscross pattern.
- Place the buns on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cover with a damp towel, and let them rise for another 30 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- Brush the buns with beaten egg and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the buns are golden brown.
- Let the buns cool on a wire rack before serving.
Conclusion: Melon Pan, a Sweet Delight
What is Melon Pan? It’s a delicious Japanese sweet that has a unique appearance and flavor. Its history is a testament to Japan’s love for foreign foods and its ability to adapt and create something new. Making Melon Pan at home is a fun and rewarding experience that will transport you to the streets of Tokyo. So go ahead, give this recipe a try and indulge in the sweet delight of Melon Pan!