Soft, fluffy pillows of bread hugged by a crunchy, sweet cookie top. A classic Japanese bakery bread made undetectably vegan.
What is Melon Pan?
Japanese melon pan (メロンパン) was my favorite sweet bread as a kid. Whenever we went to a Japanese bakery I would always go for the melon pan. It’s basically sweet bread covered in a cookie! What could be better?? Don’t be fooled by its name though — it doesn’t actually have melon in it (a fact I was not aware of until last year when I first started making my own). It’s called melon pan simply because the cookie on top of the bread is cut in such a way that it makes the bread look like a melon. Misleading huh, like why didn’t they just add a little bit of melon flavor in the bread too?
So if there’s not actually melon in it, what is melon pan made from? Well, it can actually be made quite easily from just 9 plant-based ingredients:
- Bread Flour* or All Purpose Flour ⟶ Bread flour is recommended for best results.
- Granulated Sugar
- Instant Yeast* ⟶ you can also use active dry yeast, but increase the amount by ⅛ tsp and add the yeast to warmed soy milk first, letting it sit for a few minutes until foamy
- Soy Milk ⟶ you can sub another plant-based milk, but I prefer soy milk since it’s higher in protein and fat
- Oil or Vegan Butter⟶ use a neutral liquid oil such as melted refined coconut oil* or vegetable oil
- Ground Chia* or Flax Seeds* ⟶ act as an egg replacement to hold the cookie dough together
- Baking Powder
- Matcha Powder ⟶ optional for a greener color
That being said, you can add some pureed melon or melon juice into the dough if you want (just cut back on some of the milk) but they are equally delicious without. You could also add some chocolate chips into the batter — now that would really be good. I always forget to add them, but if you love chocolate I highly recommend folding some chocolate chips into the dough. Honestly there are lots of variations you can make, so I’ll probably have future posts dedicated to different flavors of this melon pan. Also note, I added 1/4 tsp of matcha powder to the cookie dough, but this is purely for color and you can’t even taste it. So if you don’t have matcha, just omit it.
Vegan Melon Pan That Anyone Can Make!
I know there are a lot of steps to make this and it may look daunting, but it’s really not that much work. The longest part of it is just letting the dough proof, but everything else is very straightforward. I realize a video may be more helpful than the instructions I have written, so hopefully I’ll get a video up soon, but until then you can watch Peaceful Cuisine on youtube — there’s a great melon pan video that actually inspired me to make my own!
Helpful Baking Tools
- Silicone Pastry Mat ⟶ for kneading and rolling out the dough
- Silicone Baking Mat ⟶ you can also use parchment paper
- Cooling Rack
- Dough Cutter
More Tasty Breakfast Treats!
- Chocolate Marble Bread
- Healthy Chocolate Banana Bread
- Oatmeal Cookie Granola
- Blueberry Muffins
- Carrot Banana Oat Muffins
- Sesame Banana Muffins
I hope you love this Vegan Melon Pan as much as I do! If you do make it, don’t forget to tag me in your photos on instagram @ellielikes.cooking, leave a comment/rating below, and let me know how you liked it! I love seeing your tasty recreations 🙂 Happy baking ♡
Recipe updated September 17, 2021 to cut back on sugar and oil.
Japanese Melon Pan (Vegan)
- MAKE FLAX EGG: Mix together ground flax/chia and soy milk. Set aside to gel.
- PREPARE BREAD DOUGH: In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, salt, and instant yeast. Stir in milk and oil (if using) till combined, then turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface.
- KNEAD: Knead (with your hands or a stand mixer) until the dough comes together and become slightly elastic (about 5 minutes). If using butter, stretch the dough out into a small log and place small cubes of butter on top (or add directly to stand mixer). Roll up the dough and continue kneading. It will be very greasy at first, but just continue kneading and the dough will absorb the butter and become smooth.
- When ready, the dough should be smooth and just slightly sticky, but it shouldn't stick to your hands. (You can use the Windowpane Test to see if enough gluten has developed. You can also test the elasticity by poking the dough — it should bounce back.) This should take about 15-20 minutes of kneading by hand, or about 10 minutes in a stand mixer. If using a stand mixer, check the dough often since it is possible to over-mix the dough.
- PROOF: Roll your dough into a ball and place in a large greased bowl. Place a tea towel or plastic wrap over the bowl and let the dough rest until doubled in size. I place mine in the oven on the "proof" setting, but if yours does not have this setting you can simply just turn the light on. You can also leave it out at room temperature, but your rise may take longer. The warmer the environment, the faster it will rise. (Don't rush it though. Flavors deepen as the dough proofs.)
- PREPARE COOKIE DOUGH: While your dough is rising, prepare your cookie dough. Cream together coconut oil and sugar, then beat in flax mixture until well combined. Sift in flour, baking powder, and matcha powder. Mix until a uniform dough forms. Form dough into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge. Take the cookie dough out of the fridge about 10-15 minutes before you assemble the melon pan. This will give it time to come to room temperature and soften. You want your cookie dough to be rollable but not completely loose.
- CHECK BREAD DOUGH: My dough usually takes about 1 ½ – 2 hours to proof on the kitchen counter. To test if it is done, poke a hole in the center of the dough with your finger. If the hole doesn't close back up, it's ready.
- PUNCH DOWN: Punch down your dough and flip onto a non-stick surface. Divide the bread dough into 8 pieces and roll each into a ball.
- ASSEMBLE MELON PAN: Divide the cookie dough into 8 pieces. Roll each out into a flat disk shape. Place one bread dough ball in the center of one disk. Wrap the cookie dough around the bread dough so that it covers most of the surface. Repeat with remaining dough.
- CREATE MELON PATTERN: To make the "melon" pattern on the breads, make 3 shallow cuts across the top of the cookie dough, then make 3 more cuts in the opposite direction to create the melon pattern. At this point you can also roll the cookie top in some sugar (preferably coarse sugar) for a crunchier top.
- 2ND PROOF: Place the buns on a lined baking sheet and loosely cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel. Place in a warm environment and let rise for about 20 minutes. It should increase in size during this second proof.
- PREHEAT & BAKE: While the dough is proofing, preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the cookie crust is firm and the bottoms are lightly browned. The bread should feel slightly firm but still soft inside. Transfer to a cooling rack and let the buns cool completely.
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