Melon Pan Recipe

Melon pan is an oddity (at least for most of us in the U.S.) in that it’s basically a sweet bun surrounded by a cookie crust. Despite what I’d initially heard about melon pan, the cookie dough actually isn’t flavored with melon, but rather vanilla and perhaps a little lemon zest. The first step is the cookie coating. You’ll need:

3 ounces (6 tablespoons) softened butter
3.25 ounces (scant half cup) sugar
7.5 ounces (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Superfine sugar for dusting

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the beater, beat the butter and sugar until light in color. Meanwhile, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in one bowl and the egg, egg white and extract (if you have it) in another. Add the egg mixture in two additions, beating well and scraping the bowl as needed. Once the egg is incorporated, slowly add in the flour and beat on low until it’s incorporated. Roll the dough into a log and place it in the refrigerator, covered, for at least half an hour. Meanwhile, prepare the buns. You’ll need:

10.5 ounces (scant 2 cups) bread flour
1/4 ounces (1 tablespoon) milk powder (dry milk)
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1.25 ounces (3 tablespoons) sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces (3/4 cup) lukewarm water
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter (bring to room temperature)

Place all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle (beater). Stir to combine, then add the water. Continue to stir until all the ingredients are moistened, then switch to the dough hook and knead on medium until a ball forms, about three minutes. Add the softened butter and knead until it’s incorporated.

Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and let rise about an hour until doubled (you’ll want to cover it with plastic wrap or towel to keep it from drying out). When the dough has risen, divide it into twelve equal portions and roll the pieces into balls. Cover them with a slightly moistened towel and let them sit about 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the cookie dough balls from refrigerator. One at a time, roll them out between two layers of plastic wrap, to a diameter of about three inches. When you finish one, remove the top layer of plastic, place a ball of dough in the center and enclose it in the cookie dough (you’ll want to leave a small hole at the top, which will actually be the bottom, to allow for expansion). Invert the ball onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and carefully remove the plastic wrap.

With a sharp knife, score the cookie dough in a criss-cross pattern (or any pattern you like, really). Let the balls proof for another 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375. When the balls have swelled slightly, sprinkle superfine sugar all over them. Insert the pan into the oven and bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

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57 Responses to Melon Pan Recipe

  1. Chana says:

    Have you checked out Wikipedia yet?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melonpan
    So many breads, so little time! Thanks for the opportunity to continue learning.

    • Robyn says:

      The anime Shakugan no Shana made me want to try melonpan. It was a bit difficult to get the cookie dough onto the rolls, but I did it. The cris-crosses I had to use a bamboo skewer for…They look good! I’m in the final rising process, and I can’t wait to bake and taste ‘em!

  2. Wendy says:

    While I don’t know much in the way of preparation, the Chinese version would be a pineapple bun, though there isn’t any pineapple extract in it. Sometimes, it’s filled with an egg custard which makes it all the better, really.

    Helpful YouTube video on this: Melonpan

  3. Emma says:

    Does this post signal the beginning of a series on Japanese breads? I sure hope so! (Admittedly, melon pan is not my favorite, but it is certainly an oddity worth exploring.)

    • joepastry says:

      I don’t know whether I’ll make more or not, but it sure will be fun to try. What other sorts of Japanese breads are you interested in?

      • Nancy AP says:

        How about Gouda Cheese Pan? It’s like French bread with three tunnels of cheese baked in it. Oh, it’s divine.

        • joepastry says:

          I’m told there are litetrally dozens of different varieties of “pan” in Japan these days. That sounds like one I’d like to try!

          • JoshTheBaker says:

            I just wanted to say Pan means bread in japanese, so when you said “there is literally dozens of “pan” in Japan these days.” what actually said is there is literally dozens of breads in Japan these days. does not really make much sense…

  4. Jo-Z says:

    I live in Japan and love baking so I’m constantly scouring the baking aisles of grocery stores here. I’ve never seen melon extract here! I see plenty of melonpan around. Maybe it’s because not many people have good ovens here so they don’t bake too much or because it’s easier to just buy melonpan. In any case, I’ll be trying this with vanilla extract even though I’m over here! Thanks for the recipe :)

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Jo! It’s becoming clear that melon extract isn’t original to melon pan. I think I’m going to swap it for vanilla and add about a teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest.

    • Northern Virginia no Nihonjin says:

      Jo-Z,

      There are many many home bakers in Japan, they make wonderful bread with better oven than Americans, ;)

      You can get melon extract at supermarket or you can find it at specially store like http://www.cuoca.com Their selection is better than KingArthurflour.com! I buy this http://www.cuoca.com/item/18315.html whenever I go back to Japan so I can make Melon pan at home. I can’t find any place in Northern Virginia to offer Melon pan so I make it at home.

  5. tracy says:

    Where’d you get the melon pan recipe? Did it come in English? Were there other Japanese pastry recipes? tx, tracy ps People at work seemed to like your paris-brest.

  6. April says:

    Ooohhh!! I had to look at the Wikilink Chana posted to understand what kind of bun this was. I agree with Wendy – it’s very similar to the pineapple bun the Chinese make. But the pineapple bun has a glossy egg-wash finish on the actual bun before the crust is sprinkled on top: http://www.homemadechinese.com/2009/10/pineapple-buns.html And the bun is called a pineapple bun because it’s supposed to look like a pineapple. I suppose that’s why the melon pan was given its name as it looks like a melon (although I’d argue that to REALLY look like a melon, the scores on the bun would have to be WAY tinier…). Anyway.

    I used to get both melon and pineapple buns when I was younger back home, and from what I remember, the melon bun is less sweet than the pineapple bun; it’s got a more mellow, subtle sweet taste in comparison to its Chinese counterpart. I’ve also see melon pans filled with red bean paste, or black sesame paste as well. Yum-O!

    I look forward to seeing this made! :)

  7. Rob says:

    The recipe looks pretty similar to the one I have used in the past. I did the same thing with the cookie recipe and just swapped in vanilla extract and it came out fine.

  8. Emma says:

    Hmmm… perhaps curry pan? Another oddity, but I think it could really take hold in the States.

    PS: Regarding the melon extract issue, I suspect the name comes more from the shape of the finished bread, not the flavor.

  9. joepastry says:

    No problem!

  10. Ellen says:

    I’m definitely going to make this. It looks interesting and like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I’ll wait for your tutorial before I do though – those are so helpful!

  11. Melinda says:

    This looks very much like the most common Mexican pan dulce, baked fresh every day in Mexican panaderias. Even the recipe is similar. What is the difference?

    • joepastry says:

      Yes, they do look very similar. I think the main difference is that the coating is thicker. Pan dulce topping is like a crumble, and this is actually a thick(ish) cookie layer that’s wrapped all the way around. Ultimately, the difference may mostly be one of technique.

  12. tracy says:

    thanks

  13. Maria says:

    Melon pan wasn’t my favorite when I was little living in Japan, but I always got camabert bread or an pan.:D
    I don’t know if you’ve seen this or not, but here’s a link to a video of a Japanese lady baking Melon pan. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5z0e-GKJA10&feature=channel_video_title

    • joepastry says:

      “Cooking with Dog.” What’s not to love about that?? But how do they get the poodle to stay so still? Maybe it’s one of those new Japanese robots I keep hearing so much about. There are some great tips in that video, Maria. Thanks!

  14. Uber Mendez says:

    Just to make an observation regarding “pan dulce”. The term applies, here in Mexico, to every kind of sweet breads. The most elaborated pastries a referred as “repostería”. “Pan” is generally used for the savory or non sweet bread (like French rolls: Birote, bolillo, telera, etc.). Melon Pan looks similar to one specific type of “pan dulce” named “conchita” or “concha”, it translates as little shell or just shell, because the bakers score the cookie-like surface with the shape of a sea shell. Also, the cover is softer, much softer, than a cookie. I think is usually made with confectioners sugar, flour, salt, shortening, and vanilla or chocolate. Thank you Joe for your blog, I am an avid reader and follower.

  15. tracy says:

    I wasn’t going to make these but they look good! Just to make sure, it says two eggs, but in the instructions it says egg and egg white. I leave out one yolk? tx, tracy

    • joepastry says:

      Oh, right thanks for that. I added the extra yolk in the interest of extra browning. I’ll make that correction!

  16. Joanne Sawyer says:

    I teach English as a 2nd language to Japanese wives, whose husbands are transferred here for 1 to 3 years working for Toyota. They have taught me to make melonpan, and usually we make it with some mini or regular chocolate chip inside. They use a small Zojirushi bread machine, so I have always made the dough in the bread machine. Loved the dog in the video!

    Joanne

  17. Millie says:

    I just tried this recipie and it turned out great. My whole family loved them too thank you for the recipie :]

    • joepastry says:

      I’m so glad the worked for you. My girls can’t get enough of them. Thanks for letting me know!

      - Joe

  18. Breanna says:

    This is the first website I’ve found I can understand the recipe. I love Japanese stuff. I found out about melon bread from watching a little to much anime. It looked good in cartoons so I looked it up. My mother and me will comense baking immediatly.

    • joepastry says:

      Let me know how it goes, Breanna! And thanks for the very kind words!

      - Joe

      PS – You’ll love melon bread. Very understated but very, very good.

  19. Liz says:

    What is the purpose of dry milk in the recipe? I’ve seen it in other melon bread recipes too. Can it be omitted or substituted?

    • joepastry says:

      Hi Liz!

      It’s mostly there to tenderize. It’s non-flour mass that has no gluten so it makes the bread fluffy and toothsome. You can find it at most grocery stores in the baking aisle (powdered milk). I highly recommend it.

      - Joe

  20. Rachel says:

    I have made melon pan before and it is wonderful. I cheated and used the bread machine to make the dough. Doing that made this recipe super easy.

    • joepastry says:

      I like bread machines! It ain’t cheating if you make it yourself. That’s my policy!

      Cheers,

      - Joe

  21. HibikisMagicLover1351 says:

    Am I the only one here that was brought here by a Japanese manga called Hibiki’s Magic? There’s a chapter in that story about a ghost trapped at a crossroads who tried to make people happy by making Melon Pan. That chapter was so sad and made me cry, so I searched around for a recipe to honor the girl’s memory, so to speak. Thanks for posting, I’ll definitely be making this soon! :D

  22. Anna says:

    Hello, So im finally glad to find a recepie that has the measuring converted into cups! I was looking at the reviews, and so far it looks like only one person has tried making this, im thinking of making it as well but I dont want to get disappointed cus Im not much of a sweet tooth person so im happy when my baked stuff comes out not to sweet, but just right, ive tried making other japanese baked goods and the last one I tried was creme pan and it was extremely sweet, but I will try this one out in hopes that its not as sweet! thanks for the recepie!

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Anna! It’s sweet but not terribly so. Most of the sweetness is in the crust. Let me know what you think!

      - Joe

  23. arana says:

    I came to this post after following your amazing recipe of opera cake, mine is in the fridge, waiting for the final cuts, by now the cake “joconde” tastes perfect! i have to wait to see the final result.

    Im from mexico, and im so glad that you post this recipe in english so i can try it, i was so curious after seeing this funny anime episode:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOhYFepsctE

    thanks for sharing your baking knowledge! :)

    • joepastry says:

      Let me know what you think, Arana. I’m always looking for ways to improve my recipes.

      Cheers and thanks!

      - Joe

  24. Raven says:

    I just made these today they turned out great ^.^ it took me almost five hours since it was the first time for me to make them im tired 0.ebut it was worth the wait!:) ps I love how the sugar looks on the bread cx

  25. Nicholas says:

    I have been wanting to try and make this for a while but never could find a good recipe for melon pan, i was curious if you could make a video and show how you would make it. I am not that good at reading and following but if i watch i will remember more quickly.

    • joepastry says:

      Hi Nicholas!

      I wish I could say I do videos, but I don’t. Maybe someday. In the meantime there are certainly some good melon pan videos on YouTube.

      Cheers,

      - Joe

      • Nicholas says:

        Thank you anyway i made melon pan and it was delicious always wanted it now thanks to you i can make it when ever.

  26. William says:

    Aloha,
    The last Youtube link is Yakitate Japan!! It is a shonen cooking/baking battle style manga with a lot of gags and puns. One of my ultimate favorite manga, I like manga better than anime since it give you times to look at the graphics and read the side notes so you can actually get the puns. But any way it is all about Ja-pan. The national bread of Japan, i.e. like French or Italian bread. The main character has over 60 types of JaPan, I believe, by the end of the series. All though most of the ones before 55 are not explained or made in the story line since they were earlier creations.

    There are a couple of actual recipes if you read the manga. One for microwave bread and another for the bread machine. All the rest describe the ingredients or processes but not the quantities. I want to to start a manga cafe/bakery with all the different bread made in this series. My favorite bread from that series is the eel endurance bread he makes for Formula one drivers. It has ground pearl and black soy beans and maybe eel too. Its been a while since I read it so I can’t remember the exact ingredients, but it is wrapped in a coil to look like an eel. (wikipedia only list the breads from the anime)

    As for the Melon in Melon bread, which is one of the confused puns, that episode shows him using a melon flavored drink to make the paste for gluing the separately cooked cookie crust to the bread. So over priced melon oil is not necessary.

    I’ve been experimenting with molasseses bread and sourdough bread at the bakery I work at to get a sweet and salty bread using a similar technique of wrapping the sourdough around the molasses bread. If it is baked at the higher sourdough temperature the sugars are more caramelized which makes it taste sweeter but it loses the stronger molasses taste and gains the sourdough’s crusty chewiness. If it is baked at the lower temperature of the Molasses or even lower with the Hawaiian sweet bread you end up with a more similar texture to the melon bread, the sour is still really soft, and you retain the stronger molasses taste which I prefer. So I wish I could get both crustiness with stronger molasses taste but alas.

  27. William says:

    Oops I didn’t look closely enough at the list on Wikipedia list of Azuma’s, the main character in Yakitate Japan!!, breads. The eel bread is #51 variant. there is also nori, seaweed, in it. The sushi style melon bread is #58.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yakitate!!_Japan#List_of_Ja-pan

    And here is my favorite manga reading site link to the manga.
    http://www.mangatraders.com/manga/series/61

  28. jep says:

    Melon Pan Bread reminds me the anime series shakugan no shana… shana loves this bread!!!! So, i tried to bake this one, cause many have said that this bread is delicious and lovely!! And it was true!!! :D !! This bread will make you smile’ :) by the way thanks to this web!!!!… This is very helpful ;) !! ~ XD :D

  29. Devon says:

    I will hopefully be making this in the near future. I have been interested in these Japanese pastries and breads ever since i was kid. There is another pastry that I would love to try to make in the future called Chocolate Cornets (or Choco Cornets) they are basically a sweet bread that the dough is wrapped around to what I believe to be is a cream horn mold? (which I can never seem to find in kitchen/baking stores) and is then baked,and there is a chocolate like custard that is inserted into the bread through the opening when the bread is cooled…it kind of looks like a long spiral seashell? but none the less I can’t wait to make both of these pastries !:D

    • joepastry says:

      I have seen those, Devon but never made them. For cream horn molds, just jump on Amazon. You can find them for less than five bucks I’ll bet. Let me know how the melon pan turns out!

      - Joe

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