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Japanese Melon Pan (Vegan)

Soft, fluffy pillows of bread hugged by a crunchy, sweet cookie top. A classic Japanese bakery bread made undetectably vegan.
Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Resting Time1 hr 20 mins
Total Time2 hrs 5 mins
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: Japanese
Servings: 8

Ingredients

Bread

  • 2 cups (240g) bread flour or all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp (24g) granulated sugar*
  • ½ tsp (3g) salt
  • 1 tsp (3g) instant yeast*
  • ½ cup + 2 tbsp (150ml) soy milk
  • 2 tbsp (28g) melted coconut oil or vegan butter

Cookie Topping

  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds or chia seeds*
  • 3 tbsp soy milk room temperature
  • ¼ cup (56g) refined coconut oil* softened
  • 6 tbsp (72g) sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups (150g) all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp (2g) baking powder
  • ½ tsp matcha powder* optional

Instructions

  • 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 and pumpkin puree until well combined. Sift in flour, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice. 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. 

Notes

MATCHA POWDER: This is purely for color and adds no flavor to the bread, so feel free to omit.