Adding matcha to the mix is a great way to enjoy the usual melon pan. This recipe makes a crunchy shell that reveals a super soft matcha bread inside!
Whenever the topic of melon pan is brought up, someone inevitably asks me what part of this bread makes it melon. The reactions are often funny when I answer that it’s only the design on top that makes it reminiscent of a cantaloupe; although I’m pretty sure somewhere in Japan they’re already making melon-flavored melon pan. One of my favorite variations is for sure this Matcha Melon Pan.
Melon pan, in case you’re new to it, is an enriched sweet dough topped with a cookie dough layer that bakes up into a crisp shell. It’s like a fluffier and less flaky sibling of Hong Kong’s Pineapple Bun, which coincidentally also contains no pineapple whatsoever. (Who names these things? Lol.)
In Japan, many bakeries churn out melon pan all day long. Whenever I’m walking down the street and get a whiff of a freshly baked batch being taken out of the oven, it’s nearly impossible to resist grabbing one to go. The original flavor is the most common, but sometimes you see chocolate chip dotted ones as well.
During a recent trip, I bought a dark chocolate melon pan filled with a dark chocolate cream from Royce Chocolate World in New Chitose Airport. It was glorious! Still, I think I am more biased towards Matcha Melon Pan because they are less sweet and give off less of an indulgent feel. If there is such a thing as “breakfast-appropriate”, these are it. Actually these Matha Melon Pan are so dang perfect I had to disrupt my series of travel posts to write about them! I was lucky to come across these on Fix Feast Flair. Truly.
This recipe makes a tacky, soft, slightly wet dough. You can add more flour during the kneading process, but keep a light hand. Don’t forget to do a windowpane test to see if the gluten has formed despite the tacky and “damp” dough. Adding too much flour that results in a dry dough will not produce soft and fluffy bread. I guarantee you. I kneaded this by hand, which can be a little challenging because it was SO STICKY, but it was totally worth it. (You can of course use a machine.)
The cookie topping was also a little bit challenging to deal with because it was super fragile. It’s very soft even after a spell in the fridge so you have to be gentle with it else it will rip. Also make sure you use flour when you roll it out. I used my bench scraper to transfer my rolled-out cookie toppings onto my dough rounds, as you will see in my process photos below. Once you get this part done, the topping won’t rip even as the dough undergoes its second rise.
Remember to gently press the topping onto the bread just to make sure it doesn’t slip off as it bakes. It will actually sort of “melt” onto the dough as it bakes, turning into a thin crispy cookie layer that seals the bread inside. Before popping these in the oven, carve out the melon designs on top. I used a toothpick. It’s not very polished but it looks… charming?
I did a terrible job dividing the dough into 8 evenly without a scale, but you tend to forget about all those technicalities as soon as you get your first bite. It has an undeniable matcha taste and scent, with delicious milky undertones. It lends itself really well to coffee or tea. I love it best warm, because the cookie shell seems crunchier and the inside seems fluffier. My goodness. I really love these!
Matcha Melon Pan
For the dough
- ⅔ cup whole milk, heated to 110°F (44°C)
- 2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 Tablespoons dry milk powder
- 2 Tablespoons unsweetened matcha powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs, lightly whisked
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
For the cookie topping
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- ⅓ cup confectioner's sugar
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon unsweetened matcha powder
- ¾ teaspoons salt
- 1 large egg white
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Make the dough
- 1. In a large bowl using a wooden spoon, mix together milk, yeast, sugar, flour, milk powder, matcha powder, and salt. Add in the eggs and butter, then mix until a shaggy dough forms.
- 2. Give the dough a little knead with your hands inside the bowl until it just comes together, then take out the dough and place on your lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough until smooth but still a little damp and tacky, about 8 minutes. If you find the dough a little too wet, add more flour in 1 tablespoon increments then knead for about 3 minutes more until smooth and elastic. You can check for elasticity using the windowpane test. (You can also use a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook to knead the dough. It will take less time.)
- 3. Form your dough into a round and place inside a lightly greased bowl. Turn the dough to coat and then cover with a damp towel of plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place to 1 to 1.5 hours, or until doubled in size.
While the dough is rising, make the cookie topping
- 4. In a medium bowl, cream butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. (You can also use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed.)
- 6. Add in flour, matcha powder, and salt. Add egg white and vanilla extract and beat until a dough is formed. (If using a stand mixer, use low speed for this step.) Wrap the cookie topping in plastic wrap and chill in fridge until ready to use.
- 7. Once the dough has doubled in size, turn out and cut into 8 equal pieces. Shape into balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet at least 3 inches apart.
- 8. Divide the chilled cookie topping into 8 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the cookie topping until thin and large enough to cover each ball of dough. The cookie topping will be rather fragile so proceed with a gentle hand.
- 9. With the help of a flat spatula or your bench scraper, lift the cookie topping and carefully place down on the center of a dough ball. Pat down lightly down to the sides to help the topping adhere. Cover and let rise for another 45 minutes, or until doubled in size. At least 20 minutes before the end of the dough's second rise, preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
- 10. Before baking, use the side of a toothpick to carve out your desired melon pan pattern on the cookie topping. Be careful not to apply too much pressure. Bake the melon pan for 20 to 25 minutes, or until tops are lightly golden brown. These are best eaten fresh and warm.