I don’t think I can quite distinguish the point the point in my life where I became obsessed with Japan and East Asian cultures, but, you know, that happened. It probably started about the time I watched my first anime (SNK, which I just finished season two of and am now dying with need for season three), but I can definitely blame anime for introducing me to my new favourite type of bread – melon pan. It was Orange, the first anime I ever watched with subtitles, in its very first episode when one of the characters was sharing out bread from her family bakery when I read the words “melon bread”. This intrigued me. Was this a fruit bread? I later found out that the delicacy was named for its appearance, not its contents, but the idea of this legendary bread had already fully encompassed me. I knew I wanted to make melon pan, and I was on a mission to find out more about it.

What I unearthed in the depths of the internet (okay, it was Wikipedia which was the first link to come up) is that melon pan is a sweet bun coated in cookie dough. That’s right. A combination of two of the most heavenly foods on earth, bread and biscuit. Beyond that, I couldn’t restrain myself, and I had to make it.

The recipe that I followed was from Just One Cookbook, which I adapted so that it was free from animal products. I printed out the recipe, and you can see it’s loved – scribbles all over it with adaptations that I’ve found worked better or ingredient changes to become dairy-free and stains from butter and flour as I’ve flipped the page with messy hands. When I’ve made it before, I’ve used egg, but my recent transition to veganism rather than just vegetarianism made me want to try cutting it out. Now, I might be biased, but I could’ve sworn that this batch tasted better than any of the ones before. Just sayin’.

This recipe is quite time consuming, so is probably best for a weekend recipe, and obviously it helps if you have bread making experience already, although you’ll be able to manage just fine without. I personally hand-kneaded the dough – if you want to know how to use an electric mixer, I’d suggest following the original recipe (linked at the bottom of the page) but with the vegan ingredients.

So, now that my waffling is over, here is my vegan melon pan recipe:

Vegan Melon Pan

A Japanese sweet bread that everyone needs in their lives. Like, right now


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Bread Dough

  • 225g (1 3/4 cup) bread flour,
  • 25g (1/4 cup) plain flour, plus extra for sprinkling,
  • 3g (1 tsp) salt,
  • 40g (3 Tbsp) granulated sugar,
  • 4g (1 1/4 tsp) instant dry yeast,
  • 1 tbsp flax seeds, ground and mixed with 3 tbsp water until gelatinous,
  • 50ml (3 1/2 Tbsp) soya milk or other dairy-free milk,
  • 50ml (3 1/2 Tbsp)water,
  • 35g (2 1/2 Tbsp) dairy-free butter alternative (I used sunflower spread),

Biscuit Dough

  • 60g (4 Tbsp) dairy-free butter alternative (I used sunflower spread),
  • 100g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar, plus extra for topping,
  • 1 tbsp flax seeds, ground and mixed with 3 tbsp water until gelatinous,
  • 200g (1 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp) plain flour
  • 2g baking powder

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the bread flour, plain flour, sugar and salt. Add the yeast and flax seed mixture to the bowl.
  2. Warm the water and milk in the microwave (should be about 30°C/86°F) and add to the dry ingredients. Mix it in using a wooden spoon, then use clean hands to collect it all together.
  3. Transfer the dough from the bowl to a lightly-floured work surface and knead by pushing the dough flat with the heel of your palm and folding it repetitively. This should take about 5 minutes.
  4. Stretch the dough to about 25cm (10 inches) long, and put lumps of dairy-free butter on top. Fold it into the dough – this step does get quite messy, so make sure to have lots of extra flour on-hand.
  5. Keep kneading as the dough becomes smooth and easy to work with – 10 minutes ought to be sufficient for the gluten in the dough to be sufficiently developed.
  6. Shape the dough into a ball and place it back in the mixing bowl. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place (airing cupboards are ideal) to rise until it has doubled in size, which will take up to 2 hours.
  7. When the bread dough is about the right size, begin to make the biscuit dough by mixing the dairy-free butter with the sugar until they are well blended.
  8. Slowly add the flax seed mixture, mixing between additions, and sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl, folding into the mixture with a wooden spoon.
  9. Collect the dough and shape it into a ball. Divide it evenly into 10 pieces -you may wish to weigh it accurately, but this is up to you. Roll the pieces into balls and place on a lined baking tray (which you’ll use for baking later) and leave in the fridge while you complete the next steps to harden a little.
  10. Dust your index finger with flour and put it in the centre of the bread dough – if it doesn’t close, the dough is ready to use. Place on a lightly-floured work surface and press all of the gas out with your hands, and knead a little, shaping into a ball.
  11. Evenly divide the dough into 10 equally-sized pieces and shape into balls. Leave them covered with a tea towel on the work surface to rest, for 10 to 15 minutes.
  12. Remove the biscuit dough from the fridge, and roll each ball into 10cm (4 inch) rounds using a rolling pin.
  13. Take a ball of the main dough and flatten, folding in thirds and shaping into a ball. Place the biscuit round in one hand and place the ball of dough on top of it, seam up. Pull the biscuit dough around the bread dough and place on the prepared baking tray. Repeat with remaining bread dough and biscuit rounds, keeping them evenly spaced on the tray.
  14. Dust the buns lightly with sugar and cover again with the tea towel, leaving in a warm place to rise for about 45 minutes.
  15. A little before they’ve fully risen, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Bake the buns for roughly 15 minutes, turning part way through if they’re not browning evenly.
  16. Once baked, allow the bread to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Now you can enjoy it!

These buns are best eaten the day they are made but are still good 1-2 days after baking if kept in an airtight container.

Here is the original recipe from Just One Cookbook.