Melonpan メロンパン has got to be one of the most intriguing confections in the world, with no connection to melons at all! And this popular Japanese children’s song summarises it rather well, I think. “Anpan with anko, karepan (curry buns) with kare but no melons in melonpan.” 残念! It probably counts as one of the quirkiest mysteries of culinary history.
Well, the crispy pâte sablée layer on top of the bun, if one extrapolates his imagination far enough, does bear a certain remote resemblance to the web-like motifs on the highly priced Japanese cultivated musk melons. Well, no offense but I think the Hongkongers fare better in naming a similarly crafted bread as “polo bun” 菠萝包, after the pineapple. Resembling melons or not, the aroma of freshly baked melonpans is certainly one of my most vivid memories of our trip to Tokyo 2 years back.
Giant lantern over Kaminarimon gate at the entrance of Sensoji.
花月堂 Kagetsudo located at the end of the main shopping street Nakamise-dōri 仲見世通り approaching Asakusa Kinryūzan Sensō-ji aka Asakusa Kannon Temple 浅草寺观音堂 reputably makes the best melonpan in all Japan and has been doing so for more than half a century now. One can smell the aroma of melonpans, that escapes from the kitchen even before reaching the shop. Having said that, one merely needs to follow his nose to find the place!
Nakimise-dori celebrating the koyo season
浅草花月堂 Asakusa Kagetsudo
the infamous melonpans at 170 Yen a pop! expensive but they are huge!
Melonpan display and the ojisan who makes them.
Honestly speaking, I’ve not had a melonpan since our visit to Kagetsudo. The ones by Sun Moulin, Isetan Scotts are quite good. But upon tasting those from Kagetsudo, I have no recollections or impressions of how other melonpans taste like. This bit of memory seems to have been overrun by Kagetsudo’s. Yeah, no shit!!! Perhaps its a good chance to make my own!
Ingredients (from here)
|bread flour||140g (more for dusting)|
|beaten egg (rm temp)||1 tbsp|
|warm water||70 ml|
|butter (rm temp)||15g|
|Cookie Dough (pâte sablée)|
|unsalted butter (rm temp)||25g|
|beaten egg (rm temp)||25g|
|cake flour/pastry flour||80g|
|baking powder||¼ tsp|
Cookie dough (pâte sablée)
Whisk butter until creamy.
Gradually add sugar and whisk to dissolve in butter until fluffy and pale.
Very gradually add beaten egg in small progressions and mix thoroughly.
Mix baking powder with pastry flour and sift twice.
Add dry mixture into wet mixture in 3 “instalments” and fold gently until just incorporated.
Roll dough into cylindrical shape and wrap with cling film.
Refrigerate for at least 1 h for dough to firm up and harden.
Add sugar salt, milk powder and yeast to bread flour and mix well.
Add beaten egg to warm water and mix thoroughly.
Add wet mixture to dry mixture gradually until evenly mixed.
Place on kneading surface and knead until less sticky.
Flatten dough and knead in soft butter.
Gather dough with scrapper and continue to knead and roll the dough for about 10 min until smooth and glossy.
Shape into bowl by gathering the sides and put in bowl covered with cling film.
Prove for 40 min for fermentation to take place until dough double in size.
Perform the finger test by dipping finger in cake flour and insert into risen dough.
Flatten the dough to punch out carbon dioxide and roll into cylinder.
Divide dough into 8 equal pieces
Gather dough into ball by gathering the cutting seam and tucking it underneath
Prove again covered for 20 min
Cut cookie dough mixture into 8 equal pieces
Roll each piece into a ball and flatten individual cookie dough pieces between cling film, using the scrapper into round discs.
Cover and return to fridge to firm up slightly
After proving reshape the dough pieces and cover surface with cookie dough. Tuck the ends underneath and pinch the dough to gather the ends.
Rotate the cookie dough surface over granulated sugar.
Make shallow incisions using scrapper to obtain a criss-cross diamond motif.
Line up on baking sheet and prove one more time for 40 min until about double the size.
Bake at 340F/170OC for 12 min until lightly brown on the surface.
bread dough after all the ingredients are incorporated
After proving for about 2 hours. The dough rose more than twice!
Performing the “finger test”
If the hole stays intact, the dough is ready.
The dough is divided into 8 portions and rolled into balls. Use an electronic balance to ensure that the dough pieces are equally divided. These are then left to prove briefly for 20 minutes.
bread dough covered with pâte sablée dough and rolled over sugar.
Needs a final proving of 40 min before baking.
freshly out of the oven
the buns were baked in 2 batches as my oven is too small to have everything baked all at once and produced two distinct hues. The first batch was a lighter creamy yellow coloration with browning concentrated near the centre of the bun. the second batch produced a more even browning overall. All the conditions were constant except for the “baking sheet” used. The first batch was baked on a dull grey silicon sheet while the second batch was baked on a silpat.
A look at the insides. Quite soft and fluffy!
bling bling with sugary studs!
The orginal recipe on youtube is for 5 buns but I divided the portions further to make 8 buns and they turned out reasonably sized at around 8 – 9 cm in diameter for each bun. The bread component turned out quite soft and fluffy while the pâte sablée crust was crackling and crisp! But I’d rolled on too much granulated sugar and the grainy texture was kinda imposing. Will use less or finer-grained caster sugar next time. One thing falling short is the aromatics. The fragrance from the bread-in-baking did not astound me as I’d expected. But I’d used unsalted Elle & Vire French butter which is by itself more flavourful than those from Australia or NZ. Can consider using the demi-sel version instead and perhaps increasing the butter and sugar content in the bread dough in hope for a more aromatic bread!
The melonpans I made are of course no where near to those from Kagetsudo but I guess it would suffice as a quick fix to those cravings and pangs for all the Japanese food we’d had! Boy o’ boy I miss Japan!