Japanese honeydew bread looks like a melon pan but unlike a melon pan, it actually tastes like melon! Filled with homemade honeydew custard and baked until golden brown with a crunchy honeydew crust.
Japanese Honeydew Bread
- 2 cups ripe honeydew chunks (320 grams)
- ¼ cup granulated sugar (50 grams)
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast (4 grams)
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- ½ cup warm milk, between 100-110 degrees F (125 ml)
- 1 ¾ cups bread flour (260 grams)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (25 grams)
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened at room temperature (28 grams)
- 1 large egg
- 1 ½ cups honeydew juice (about 2 ¼ cups, 360 grams, honeydew chunks)
- 4 large eggs
- ½ cup granulated sugar (100 grams)
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch (18 grams)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup honeydew syrup (80 grams)
- 5 tablespoons softened butter (70 grams)
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar (67 grams)
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons honeydew syrup (40 grams)
- 1 ½ cups cake flour (180 grams)
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 drop green food coloring, optional
- Make honeydew syrup. Puree 2 cups honeydew until smooth. Combine with sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat in a medium saucepot. Continue to cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely.
- Prepare dough. Combine active dry yeast with 1 teaspoon sugar and warm milk. Let sit for 10 minutes or until yeast has been activated and mixture is foamy. Mix together yeast mixture with bread flour, salt, sugar, softened butter, and egg until dough comes together. Knead dough for 7-8 minutes or until smooth. Transfer dough to a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm area for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
- Meanwhile, make honeydew custard. Puree about 2 ¼ cups honeydew to make 1 ½ cups honeydew juice. Whisk together juice with eggs, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, and ¼ cup honeydew syrup. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat in a medium saucepot, whisking continuously. Continue to simmer until thickened, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a clean bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on top of the custard and let cool completely.
- Punch down dough and divide it into 8 even pieces. Shape each piece into a round ball and roll it out into a 6-inch circle. Fill the center of the dough with 3-4 tablespoons honeydew custard (add more custard if you can!) and gather up the edges to seal in the custard. Place seam side down on a lined baking sheet and continue with remaining dough. Loosely wrap the honeydew bread and let rise in a warm area for 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, make bread topping. Cream together softened butter with sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add egg and beat until combined. Add 2 tablespoons honeydew syrup, cake flour, baking powder, and green food coloring if using. Mix well until food coloring is well distributed. Shape dough into a log and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or until firm.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Remove bread topping from fridge and slice into 8 pieces. Flatten each piece until it's big enough to cover top of the bread. Lay bread topping on top of rolls and score the top, making a crisscross pattern. Bake honeydew bread for 10-12 minutes or until the bottoms of the bread are browned. Let cool completely. Serve.
Watch how to make this:
The first time I visited Japan, I made it my goal to eat as many appetizing dishes as I could. I had an entire list to tackle and only two weeks. Needless to say, I wasn't able to try everything I wanted but I did discover many new favorites including Japanese honeydew bread. This bread was nothing like I'd had before. They looked like melon pan but unlike melon pan, they actually tasted like a melon. Coated in a sugar topping, the soft pastry is filled with a honeydew custard. It was amazing. Years later, here I am still thinking about that bread. And so, here is my version of the Japanese bread, honeydew bread in all its glory!
- Active dry yeast: When using active dry yeast, you need to activate it first by combining it with warm milk and a pinch of sugar. If using instant yeast, you can skip this step. However, make sure that you are still using warm milk for the dough.
- Milk: To create soft bread, we're going to incorporate milk, egg, and butter into the dough. These ingredients all contribute to the soft texture while adding richness.
- Bread flour: This specific flour has a higher protein content giving the bread a stronger gluten structure and as a result, better rise. It also yields fluffier bread as opposed to all-purpose flour.
- Honeydew melon: This type of melon has a sweet and mild flavor with a refreshing taste. You can also substitute honeydew with cantaloupe if you prefer.
- Cornstarch: The thickening agent helps the honeydew custard reach the right consistency.
- Cake flour: The texture of cake flour is very fine and powdery with a low protein content, making it the perfect flour to make the bread topping.
- Green food coloring: Although optional, green food coloring helps make the bread look more like honeydew. Since the fruit turns yellow when cooked, the food coloring helps achieve the correct appearance.
How to Make Japanese Honeydew Bread
Step 1: Cook Honeydew Syrup
Let's dive right in shall we? Before we can even start making the bread, we have to make the main flavor component, the honeydew syrup. If you can find honeydew syrup that doesn't taste artificial, by all means, go for it. I was unable to find any so I went the natural route and decided to make it myself.
All you have to do is puree 2 cups of fresh honeydew in a blender and simmer it with a bit of sugar until it is reduced by half. If your honeydew is already very sweet, you can reduce the amount of sugar or omit it altogether.
About 20 minutes later, the honeydew syrup should be slightly thickened, darker, and more concentrated in flavor. We're going to use this syrup for both the custard and the bread topping.
Step 2: Make the Dough
Now it's time to make the dough. First, activate the yeast with a bit of sugar in warm milk. Then, add the remaining ingredients including the bread flour, salt, sugar, softened butter, and egg. Knead the dough until smooth; the dough will be soft but that just means the actual bread will be too! I use the stand mixer to prepare the dough but you can knead it by hand if you prefer.
Proof the dough for about 1 hour or until it has doubled in size. If it's a particularly hot day, this may take less than 1 hour.
Step 3: Prepare Honeydew Custard
Meanwhile, make the honeydew custard, which will fill the bread. Puree about 2 ¼ cups of honeydew to yield 1 ½ cups of fresh juice. Then, combine the juice with eggs, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, and ¼ cup of the honeydew syrup we prepared.
Simmer the mixture over medium heat, whisking continuously to prevent the egg from curdling. Once the custard starts to thicken, take it off the heat and pour it into a clean bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on top of the custard to prevent the skin from forming and let it cool completely.
Step 4: Fill the Bread
Once the dough is ready, punch it down and divide it into 8 equal portions. Roll out each portion into a 6-inch circle and fill the center with the custard. If you're able to successfully stuff more custard in the rolls, kudos to you! I found it a little tricky to close the seams when I put too much filling.
Place the rolls seam side facing down on a baking sheet and lightly cover the rolls. Proof the bread once more for another hour.
While the bread is rising, make the bread topping. To make the topping, cream together butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Add an egg followed by honeydew syrup, cake flour, baking powder, and 1 drop of green food coloring. The food coloring is optional but it adds a lovely green tint. No matter what I tried, I couldn't get it the same green with just natural honeydew juice so food coloring it is!
Step 5: Bake
Are you still with me? Good because we're almost at the finish line. Cut the chilled bread topping into 8 portions and roll each into a circle big enough to cover the bread. If your kitchen is hot, you want to work quickly because the topping can get sticky when warm. Score the tops in a crisscross pattern using a sharp knife. If you want to get clean lines, wipe the knife clean after every cut.
Bake the rolls for 10-12 minutes or until the bottoms are browned.
Phew, that was a lot of work! But I can happily say that these honeydew bread were very similar to the ones I had in Japan. The bread is incredibly soft and the custard has the perfect amount of sweetness with a hint of honeydew. Now to try this with canteloupe...
Can I use frozen honeydew instead of fresh?
Yes, you can use frozen instead of fresh. Since frozen fruits tend to be less sweet, you may need to adjust the amount of sugar in both the syrup and custard.
Can I make the honeydew custard ahead of time?
Absolutely. To save on time, you can make both the honeydew syrup and custard the day before.
Can I freeze this bread?
Yes, let the honeydew bread cool completely and wrap it in plastic wrap or in an airtight container. Freeze for up to 3 months.
For more sweet bread inspiration check out braided lemon bread!