When I visited Japan last year, I could not pass by a bakery without walking in. The aroma of freshly baked goods was just too enticing to ignore. Although each bakery had their own set of unique pastries, one bread commonly found among them was the melon pan. Melon pan is a bread that looks like a melon but deceivingly, does not taste like melon. It can also be found in Taiwanese, Chinese and Latin American bakeries (heard of conchas?) Keeping this in mind, I decided to make my own version of melon pan, fusing it with a classic American dessert, the strawberry shortcake. Here are strawberry shortcake melon pans with macerated strawberries and rosewater whipped cream for the win!
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
Like all bread, this recipe can be a bit challenging. Not only do you have to prepare the dough, but you also have to make the strawberry cookie dough topping, macerated strawberries, and whipped cream. Don’t worry, once you’re finished baking, you’ll be glad you took on the challenge!
First, prepare the dough for the melon pan. Activate the yeast by combining it with warm water and sugar. Once the mixture begins to foam, add both flours, salt, and dry milk powder. By using a combination of bread flour and cake flour, you will end up with a lighter, chewier bread.
Knead the dough until it starts to come together. Add the softened butter and continue to knead until dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer the dough to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm area and let proof for one hour or until doubled in size.
While your dough is proofing, prepare the cookie dough topping. Cook the strawberries with sugar until they have broken down. You want the fruit to become almost a syrup. Let cool slightly before adding the remaining ingredients.
Since the cookie dough topping is very soft, you want to chill it for at least30 minutes before using. If you’re short on time, pop it in the freezer for half the time. In order to make your life easier, shape the dough topping into a log before chilling. That way, you can cut the dough into round discs with ease when ready to use.
To test if your dough is ready, poke it! The indentation of your finger should leave an imprint, signifying that the dough is ready.
Now comes the fun part! Shape the dough into 8 small balls, about 2.5 ounces each. Space them out on a lined baking sheet as they spread when they proof.
Take the chilled cookie dough out of the fridge and cut into 8 equal pieces.
This part can be a bit messy. Because our hands are so warm, it quickly softens the cookie dough topping, makes it a little tricky to work with. I found that by placing the 8 discs of dough in between layers of plastic wrap, it makes it easier to handle. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on your counter. Place the 8 cut pieces of cookie dough topping on top. Lay another sheet of plastic wrap on top. Use your palms and flatten the discs wide enough to cover the portioned bread dough.
Now carefully lay the cookie dough topping on top of the portioned dough balls. Use a sharp knife and score lines in a crisscross pattern on top.
Let the dough rise another 30 minutes. While you’re waiting, prepare the macerated strawberries. Macerated strawberries just mean you’re marinating the fresh berries with sugar and a little citrus (or Grand Marnier or even balsamic vinegar), allowing the fruit to release its natural juices. Let me tell you, this is one heavenly way to enjoy strawberries! Let the mixture sit for 30 minutes. Any longer and the berries will become too soft and mushy.
Prepare the rosewater whipped cream by whipping together heavy cream with powdered sugar and rosewater. A little rosewater goes a long way so go easy on the syrup!
Bake the melon pan for 10-12 minutes at 400 degrees F. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.
Now the bread is good on its own but why not make it great by turning into a strawberry shortcake?
Once the bread is cooled, slice in half. Top the bottom half with macerated strawberries, rosewater whipped cream and the top bun. Finally, dig in!
Whew! That was a lot of work but I can happily sit here and dig into my strawberry shortcake melon pan because of it. The combination of sweet macerated strawberries with rosewater whipped cream on a melon pan is just too good. One thing I did notice was the moisture of the berries and whipped cream does make the bread more dense once assembled. However, it actually works in favor of the dessert since it’s able to better hold up to the berries and whipped cream. Will I make this recipe again? Definitely. Will it be soon? Perhaps sometime next year 🙂
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