Japanese bread is known for its light and fluffy texture, this is because the ingredients used are slightly different to that of bread you might be used to.
While I’ve been in Japan I have never tried the bread as unless you find a vegan bakery the bread will probably not be vegan. Over the last few years ( whilst most of us have been unable to travel ) some new vegan bakeries have been popping up in Tokyo which I can’t wait to try when we can safely travel again.
I decided I wanted to try making Japanese milk bread for myself at home and yes it does take a bit of effort but the rewards are great. This recipe has produced the milkiest buttery soft bread. I have used the same bread recipe in all three breads, adding anko inside the anpan and adding a cookie layer to the melon pan.
There is nothing like the smell of fresh bread but this Japanese Shokupan I made filled the kitchen with a sweet buttery smell. Shokupan 食パン Japanese milk bread is sometimes called Hokkaido milk bread.
This bread is so soft and fluffy and has a mochi-like texture this is due to using something called the Yudane method which originated in Japan. This is done by mixing bread flour and hot boiling water. Also I used heated bonsoy milk and vegan butter from Naturli.
Lets make Japanese milk bread !
Gather your ingredients:
400grm bread flour ( this is better for a high protein to develop the gluten) you can try using Gluten free flour but I am unsure how your bread will turn out. I used doves farm organic bread flour. You will also need another 4 tablespoons later on when making the bread, so put this in a separate bowl with a tablespoon to hand for later.
Pour into a measuring jug 200ml of Bonsoy ( I recommend this soymilk as it has a higher soybean content ) Japanese soy milk is normally better quality but try to get the best soy milk you can.
Then take out x2 tablespoons of the soymilk and put this in a bowl for later to use as a glaze, you will also need to add x1 teaspoon of maple syrup to the x2 tablespoon soy milk mix to combine and set aside.
Now heat up the remaining milk in the microwave for 45 seconds, then add the yeast to activate, mix and leave for ten minutes.
60grm of Vegan butter ( I used Naturli ) Room temperature
1/2 a teaspoon of salt ( I used Himalayan pink salt)
3 tablespoons of granulated unrefined sugar.
2 teaspoons of instant yeast (I used doves farm)
You will need two mixing bowls a loaf tin and wire rack
When you have your dry ingredients ready empty 400grms of flour into one of the mixing bowls. Add to this your salt and sugar. Mix to combine.
Boil a kettle of water and start to add 8 tablespoons of boiling water to your flour mixture using a cutting method this should make what’s called a shaggy dough.
Now that your yeast has been activated ( it should float to the top of the milk like this if not it’s old yeast.)
Give the milk and yeast a stir and start to combine it into your shaggy dough. Start to combine it to form a sticky dough ball.
At this point take one of the extra tablespoons of flour and put this in your second clean bowl. Put your dough into the bowl and start to knead until it comes together. Take out the dough and put it on a work surface and flatten it out, slice up your butter and put in the middle of your dough and fold the dough over the butter.
Now have your 3 tablespoons of flour to hand with a spoon next to your bowl.
Transfer the dough back into your bowl and start to knead it. THIS IS MESSY for a short while. As you start to knead and the butter starts to ooze out gradually add your flour as you knead. I’ve found from making this bread that this really helps. When your bread starts to come together into a lovely soft dough, take it out the bowl and start to vigorously knead it on a surface for at least ten minutes ( this will give you a work out lol ).
When your dough is nice and elastic form it into a ball and pop it in a clean bowl covered with a clean tea towel and place somewhere warm for at least an hour for the dough to double in size but this will depend on how warm the place is.
The best place I’ve found was a nice sunny windowsill under a radiator with the heating on. You could use a warm airing cupboard or place your bowl on the oven door with the oven on if you haven’t got anywhere else.
It’s at this point if your making melon pan you can make your cookie topping see melon pan recipe further down the page.
When your dough is ready remove it from the bowl and give it another knead for five minutes. Then form into a ball and cut in two.
(if making anpan or melon pan follow those recipes from now on)
Flatten each section out into a rectangle and fold the sides in on itself then flatten out with a rolling pin to a long shape and roll it up ( see pictures below ).
Melt a little coconut oil or neutral oil and brush generously the inside of your loaf pan. Place each roll either side like this.
Then again cover with a tea towel and put back in your warm place until they have puffed up . Around half – one hour.
Preheat your oven moderate temperature around 180 degrees C or 350 degrees F .
When this is ready give your bowl of milk and maple syrup a mix and brush it over the top of your bread dough.
This will give the dough a lovely glaze and slightly crusty texture on the top. Place in the oven and bake for around 30-35 minutes I normally check in on it around 25 minutes to see how it looks. Take it out the oven and allow to cool a little before tipping it out on a wire rack to cool.
As a tip I often make this bread late afternoon and allow it to cool over night completely covering it over before I go to bed. It’s much easier to cut and you have a fresh slice of shokupan for breakfast the next day.
Shokupan is also a great sandwich bread often used for classic Japanese sandwiches like fruit sando フルーツサンド katsu sando カツサンド and Tamago Sando たまごサンド (egg sandwich).
Also delicious toasted with vegan butter and fresh jam or why not try one of my favourites Ogura Toast 小倉トースト toast with red bean jam a cafe specialty of Nagoya.
The perfect start to the day.
If you would like to make anpan which is bread filled with anko ( red bean paste. You can buy either chunky bean paste (tsubuan) or smooth (Koshian) from Asian grocery stores. I sometimes easily make my own ahead of time the day before by using my quick method. Just use one drained and rinsed tin of azuki beans added to a pan with water and 200grm of granulated sugar. I just let them boil down and mash them.
Afterwards transfer to a container and chill in the fridge to harden.
Make the bread as above but instead of cutting the dough into two cut it into 6-8 pieces depending on how big you want your rolls. Roll each piece into a ball and flatten out. Put a small ball of anko inside and fold the dough back over.
Place the rolls on a baking sheet with parchment paper, cover with a clean towel and proof your dough so they have puffed up in size then glaze the tops with your soy milk/maple glaze before popping them in the oven. Rolls take a little less time around 20-25 minutes.
A classic Japanese Soft, fluffy sweet bread covered in a thin layer of crisp cookie crust.
There are many theories why this bread is called Melon Pan . Maybe it’s because it looks like a cut cantaloupe melon but traditionally there is no melon inside.
Nowadays some bakeries have started to put melon purée in side or chocolate chips. Some even use matcha to give you that melon appearance.
Again make your bread as above like you would make shokupan anpan. Then while the rolls are proofing for the first time make your cookie crust.
one tin of chickpeas. Drain the chickpeas and keep the liquid ( you can use the chickpeas for another meal ) you will need x3 tablespoons of chick pea liquid known as aquafaba. This will be your egg replacement. I like to use this over say flax seeds, fruit purée or banana as it has little taste.
60grm of vegan butter
8 tablespoons of unrefined granulated sugar plus another tablespoon in a separate bowl to dip the dough balls in.
150grm of plain all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.
Cream together the sugar and butter then mix in the x3 tablespoons of chick pea water. Sift in your flour and baking powder and mix into a dough. Roll into a ball. Place in the fridge for 30 mins so it’s easier to roll. When your bread has proofed for the first time and you have kneaded it again make it into rolls by cutting a ball of dough into 6-8 pieces. I sometimes weigh the balls to make sure they are even sizes. Roll the pieces into balls and place on a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cut your cookie dough into equal portions for your bread rolls. Roll into balls and flatten out. Take each flattened cookie portion in your hand and put a dough ball inside.
Fold the cookie over the dough ball, dip the cookie portion into granulated sugar.
Then with a knife make a criss cross pattern in the dough, do this with all the remaining dough balls.
Then proof your cookie dough balls for your second proof so they puff up in size. Bake in your preheated moderate oven like the anpan.
Cool on a wire rack.
I know that making any of these breads can take a bit of time to do. I would recommend that you fit in making them while your doing other things at home, because you have to leave the breads a few times to proof for a few hours this gives you time to get on with other jobs around the house.
Hope you try making these delicious breads for yourself for a little taste of Japan at home.