“If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.” – Robert Browning
I had never heard of a Melonpan before. Neither heard of it before or seen it anywhere. It does seem an odd name for a bread but because the appearance of the bread resembles a melon such as cantaloupe (our Indian Kharbuja) hence the name Melonpan.
This bread is a type of sweet bun, traditionally from Japan but is also highly popular in Taiwan, China and Latin America. These sweet soft rolls are covered in a crispy cookie dough and scored on top in a cross-hatch pattern to resemble the look of a melon skin. The unique combination of the bread dough with the sweet cookie on the top lends the bread an interesting texture apart from it tasting really good. Each dough is left for second proofing after the pastry layer is wrapped around it. The inner bread dough will rise and cause the outer pastry layer to crack all over the surface. The name came about as the appearance of the cracked surface resembles a rock melon. In addition, for a basic or standard Japanese melon pan, melon extract is commonly used to add fragrance
The bread dough for these buns is mostly left plain, though some people add chocolate chips,(like I did), while others fill the buns with cream cheese, custard/ pastry cream or even chopped chocolate. You can go whichever way you choose, plain or with some filling or flavor. You can also use your choice of flavoring for the cookie dough like chocolate, green tea, pineapple, etc if you like.
I was first introduced to this beautiful bread when Aparna from our bread baking group "We knead to bake" announced that this would be the bread all of us would be baking for the month. At first, reading through the recipe, I was a bit intimidated by it as it sounded a bit complicated with the many steps involved.and believe me this is when I have been baking bread for a number of years. The video link provided by Aparna was quite helpful to clear away some of my doubts and I set out to make this wonderful bread.
It was fun to do this bread. I could never imagine a bread to be baked with cookie dough on top making me extremely curious to know what the end result would taste like. The pastry dough was really soft and more manageable to work with after chilling it in the fridge for some time. The sugar sprinkled on the top of the pastry dough lend a lovely golden hue and an amazing crispness to the bread. I found that the the bread layer was extremely light and soft and along with the crunchy cookie shell on top, it tasted heavenly especially when it was warm and fresh out of the oven. Without a doubt it was a big hit in my house and I will certainly be making this bread quite a bit in the future.
Both the doughs are made with egg as this gives the bread a better texture. If you don’t eat eggs, you can leave them out, but substitute for it in the bread dough with a tablespoon of yogurt or milk.
This recipe makes 8 burger bun sized (the ones we get in India) Melon Pan. You can bake a half batch or even make smaller Pan by dividing both doughs into 10 or 12 instead of 8.
Please see this video before you start making the bread. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5z0e-GKJA10
Recipe adapted from A Bread A Day
For bread dough:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra as required)
2 tbsp milk powder
1 tsp instant yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup cold water
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp sugar
25gm butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup chocolate chips
For cookie dough:
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
A large pinch of salt
60 gm butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup castor sugar (increase to 1/3 cup for sweeter dough)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Castor sugar for dusting (granulated sugar will do too)
Please watch the video, before you start on this bread so you have a good idea on how to shape the Melon Pan. Whisk together the flour, powdered milk, yeast, and salt in the bowl (or the bowl of your machine if using one).
In a smaller bowl, beat the egg and cold water together with a fork till well blended. Add this to the flour mixture in the bowl.
Knead (on low speed in the machine) till it all come together as a dough and then (on medium speed) until you have a somewhat stiff dough. Add the sugar and knead well.
Now add the butter and knead (first at slow speed and then on medium) until the butter is completely incorporated into the dough and the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
Shape the dough into a round, and place it in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let it rise till double in volume (about an hour or so).
During this time make the cookie dough.
In a bowl, cream the soft butter and sugar till fluffy.
Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat till combined.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and add this to the bowl. Also add the lemon zest.
Beat together until just combined.
Shape the dough into a cylinder (this will make the dough easy to divide and flatten out later), and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate the dough until required.
Now go back to the bread dough.
Once it has doubled in volume, place it on a lightly floured work surface. Lightly grease your baking sheet or line it with parchment. Deflate the dough gently and divide it into 8 equal portions.
Shape each portion into a smooth ball like for bread rolls. Work with one portion and keep the others covered so they don’t dry out.
Unwrap the cookie dough. It should be reasonably firm now and easy to work with. Slice the cylinder of cookie dough into 8 equal portions. Use two pieces of plastic sheets or cling film to flatten the cookie dough.
Place one slice/ round of cookie dough on a piece of plastic sheet/ cling film. Cover with another piece, and using a flat bottomed pan, press down on the dough to flatten it, until it is reasonably thin but not very much so.
Carefully take on ball of bread dough (it will have puffed up a little so don’t deflate it). Add in the chocolate chips.and roll it into a ball.
Place the circle of cookie dough on top of it.
Gently press the cookie dough edge to the bread dough ball so that it covers the top and sides of the ball, but leaves the bottom open.
Gently, holding the covered bread dough by the underside, press it into some castor sugar. Then using a scraper, or the blunt side of a knife, mark the top of the cookie dough side of the bread roll with a cross hatch/ diamond pattern. The pattern should be deep enough (otherwise it will disappear when the bread rises and bakes) without cutting through the cookie dough layer into the bread.
Place this on the greased or parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat this with the remaining cookie dough and bread dough balls. Let them rise for an hour.
Bake them at 180C (350F) for about 25 minutes, until the tops of the Melon Pan just start turning brown. If you let them brown too much, the underside of the bread will burn. Transfer to a wire rack to cool thoroughly.