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Summer time, and the strawberries are in season! The corn is high in the field right next to me, and there’s cotton growing in the field over. It can’t be helped: I live in a highly agricultural center. As a result, I’m SURROUNDED by produce. I half expect that classic B-list horror film, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, to become a reality. So, I’ve decided to go crazy with my favorite fruit of all time: the Strawberry.
In this show, Tanaka-kun is Always Listless, Tanaka needs to help his friend Oota out after he sustains an injury. So, Tanaka decides to go get lunch for the both of them. Oota specifically requests a sweet-bread; a new flavor if possible. Tanaka sets out on his quest! But here’s the single, glorious catch: Tanaka-kun is ALWAYS listless, so he needs to eat to keep his strength up. RIP Oota’s sweet bread. RIP Tanaka’s lunch. Both items, devoured in a single, sloth-like motion. Tanaka-kun returns with just a sandwich for Oota.
The solution? Tanaka’s friend charmingly offers Oota her strawberry melon pan as a replacement. It’s a sweet moment when delinquent Echizen forces the bread upon him, made only sweeter by the delicious looking melon pan dangling from her fingertips. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to make it. I saw multiple peach flavored sweet breads when I was in Japan a few weeks ago, but strawberry??? This was too good of a food opportunity (a fooportunity, if you will) to pass up.
The challenge was this: I couldn’t find a strawberry melon pan recipe anywhere. Melon pan is a Japanese invention: A sweet, yeasty bread with a cookie crust on top, formed to look like cut melon. I admittedly didn’t look that hard, but I decided to challenge myself anyway to see if I could invent a recipe to use for this article. Melon pan recipes are pretty easy to come by, so I decided to combine a strawberry bread recipe with a typical melon pan recipe to see what would happen. The result was glorious!
The bread we are aiming to recreate:
Makes 8 big buns
For the buns:
-3/4 lb. ripe strawberries
-3 cups bread flour
-1/4 cup sugar
-2 ½ tsp active dry yeast
-1/4 cup warm milk
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-2 tbsp. egg, whisked
-2 tbsp. softened butter
For the cookie topping:
-4 tbsp. softened butter
-1/4 pound ripe strawberries
-1/2 cup powdered sugar
-1/2 tsp salt
-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
-2 tbsp. egg, whisked,
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-Egg wash for the top
Make the Strawberry Melon Pan!
To start, heat up ¼ cup milk slightly. It needs to be warm, but if it’s too hot for your fingers, it’s way too hot for the yeast. Remember, yeast is alive and you have to nurture it! Not boil it alive. It should be between 100 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit. I test the temperature of my milk by dropping a bit of my underside of my wrist. If it burns, I let it cool off. If it feels warm but doesn’t hurt, the milk is ready! Move on. Stick your yeast into the cup of warm milk, along with a sprinkle of sugar to give the yeast more food. Stir everything together, and let sit for a good ten minutes or so.
Move onto the strawbs. Chop them up very finely, stick them in a bowl, and sprinkle vigorously with sugar. I first just sliced them, but then had to go back to chop them more finely. Let them sit with the sugar. They will get nice and juicy.
Turn back to your yeast! If it is all foamy on top, you are good to go!
If, at this point, your yeast is not foamy on top, you have made a mistake somewhere along the line 😦 I’m sorry. Yeast is a finicky thing. Try again! You cannot proceed until your yeast is foamy on top after sitting in the milk and sugar. The foamy yeast means that it has come back to life and is making the gas you need to help your bread rise.
If your yeast is ready, proceed! Put your flour, salt, sugar, vanilla, ¾ of chopped strawberries, and yeast into a bowl, and mix thoroughly. Again, strawberries should be very finely chopped so they blend well with the dough.
Mix it all up well. Take your egg, and whisk it in a small bowl. Pour 2 tbsp. of egg into the dough mixture, and stir through.
Then, put in the softened butter, and work through the dough.
When you can no longer easily see your chunk of butter, it’s ready for some kneading. At this point, dough should be pretty sticky and soft.
Prepare a work surface for the dough. I got a cutting board and sprinkled generously with flour. You will want to have the flour handy as you will likely need to work it into the dough more so that it stops being sticky.
Tip dough out, and start kneading, for about 10 minutes. You want to knead, pressing down with the heels of your hands, and then folding the dough in half and turning it partly around on the surface. This step helps to develop the gluten in the flour, which is critical for getting a nice, spongy bread texture. This dough will be done when it’s smooth and much less sticky. (You will likely have to keep kneading in flour- but not too much! The goal is just to get it to stop sticking to your hands as much as possible. It will still be a bit sticky by the time it’s ready.)
Once it’s done, grease a bowl with butter, and place your dough inside to let rise.
Cover the bowl with damp paper towels, stick the bowl in a warm space, and let rise about an hour, or until doubled in size. (Pro-tip: If you don’t have a warm space to stick this dough in, heat your oven to about 100 degrees and stick it in. Or, if it doesn’t go that low, let it preheat the whole way to 350 degrees, and then put the bowl in and leave the oven door partly open. Rotate bowl a bit every so often so that the heat is evenly distributed.)
While the dough is rising, let’s make the cookie crust!
In a bowl, cream your butter so that it’s nice and spread out.
Then, add powdered sugar and mix together.
Then, add in flour and salt and mix together.
Add in vanilla and egg.
Stir through, and then add in the rest of your minced strawberries.
Gather together the dough, and form it into a log in some plastic wrap.
Place in the freezer to get nice and hard.
Once an hour has passed for the bread dough, check it! Mine was looking good.
Now the fun part: Punch all the air out! Really, with your fists, go full OnePunch Man and just punch all the air out of the dough. Then split it into 8 equal pieces.
Roll into 8 balls, and place on baking sheets. Preferably, line your sheets with parchment paper. If you don’t have that, grease well with butter and then sprinkle flour over the top.
Place some damp paper towels over the top and stick back in the warm space to rise again. Take out your cookie dough- it should have been resting for at least 15 minutes. It should be cold by this point, and you do need it to be thoroughly chilled to move on. If it’s not ready, just sit back and give it the time it needs.
When ready, flour a work surface again and dump your cookie dough out.
Roll out thinly, and find a bowl or something that has a round enough circumference to act as a cookie cutter. Cut out 8 round, thin, dough circles.
Then, take the dough out of the warm place. Set oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover each bun with a circle of dough.
With the back of a knife, lightly score the dough into horizontal and vertical lines, so that it looks like a cut melon.
With the rest of your beaten egg, add a splash of water. Brush the tops of the cookie and bun with the egg mixture. I used my fingers because I didn’t have a pastry brush, and it worked pretty well. This will give them some shine when they’re done.
Stick your buns in the oven (hehe) and cook until golden on top, about 30 minutes.
And now it’s done! 😀 😀 😀
These buns disappeared within a day in my house, my entire family gobbled them up. They’re not super sweet, but they have a light strawberry flavor and the contrast between the crunchy cookie surface and the soft, yeasty bread is amazing! It is a long process, but not hard at all. Making bread just takes time, so if you have a free afternoon, this is the perfect thing to do. I think it took me 3-4 hours in total.
There are a few crucial things you need- bread flour being one of them. Please don’t skip this! These buns need the extra gluten in the flour to have a nice, elastic interior. Without the right flour, they will not be as big and fluffy. The second thing you really need is soft butter. I know how easy it is to wait until the last minute to take the butter out, but in this case it does need to be really soft, both for the bread and the cookie dough. With these things in mind, you will do well with this recipe 🙂
I hope you enjoyed this post! To check out more anime food recipes, visit my blog for more anime and manga themed food. If you have any questions or comments, leave them below! I recently got a twitter, so you can follow me at @yumpenguinsnack if you would like. Have a great time of the day you are reading this!!
In case you missed it, check out our last dish: ochazuke from Bungo Stray Dogs! What other famous anime dishes would you like to see Emily make on COOKING WITH ANIME?