Japanese Milk Buns with Crisp Cookie Top (Melon pan)

by Hanelore Dumitrache

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Baby Yoda Japanese Milk Bun in small basket with hand on basket handle

The cutest Japanese milk buns ever

Let’s be honest, all Japanese treats and dishes in general are amazing! And I’m sure it’s not just me who thinks so. Japanese cuisine is one of the most distinctive and precise culinary arts out there, with wonderful edible creations. Everything from savoury dishes to baked goods is just perfection to me, and I frequently take inspiration from Japanese dishes. 

As a big fan of anime, especially Studio Ghibli, most of my cute creations are inspired by Japanese culture. And what’s cuter than Baby Yoda?! These sweet milk buns are so soft, delicious and special that you will have problems stopping yourself from eating them. 

This recipe is my interpretation of a traditional Japanese melon bread. Although I love taking inspiration from different cultures, I do not claim to be an expert in Japanese cuisine. There are amazing Japanese chefs and bakers out there incredible at their traditional recipes. I really like this video of a Japanese baker making traditional melon pan. Also check out this recipe here by Nami, a Japanese-American food blogger. 

How to make Japanese melon bread

Japanese milk buns (melon bread) are composed of two parts: the actual bun and the crispy cookie on top. 

The milk bun

Fluffy, light and delicious, the milk bun is like a sweet bread. This version also features a chocolate filling, making it the perfect treat to go with your afternoon tea. 

What makes these buns extremely soft and delicious are the fat content and milk. The buns are made with full fat milk, as well as a decent amount of butter. When kneading the dough, you need to remember to properly incorporate the ingredients at each stage. Leaving enough time for proofing the breads is also crucial to ensure a good rise. 

I like using my hands to incorporate the butter. This way you can feel the dough getting supple much easier than with a stand mixer. 

Dough with butter on top
Two hands kneading dough with butter
Hands holding dough

The crispy cookie top

This is what makes the melon bread go from a normal sweet bun to an amazing treat. The crispy cookie top is so unusual, yet it works so well. It adds a different texture to the Japanese milk bun, and adds more sweetness. 

Making the cookie top is simple, and follows the same process as most cookies: 

  1. Cream softened butter with sugar
  2. Add egg and mix
  3. Combine with flour and baking powder

After making the cookie dough, we can divide it and colour it in green and black as per the recipe. 

Assembling the Japanese milk buns

Hand holding plain dough
Chocolate in middle of dough
Closing dough around chocolate
Adding cookie on top of dough

Going from melon bread to Baby Yoda milk bun

Of course, the treats can be made plain, by adding the crispy cookie on top and scoring a hatch pattern. However, if you want to make them into Baby Yoda, follow the next steps: 

Plain bun
1. Plain bun
Black eyes added to bun
2. Add two circles for eyes
Nose added to dough
3. Add small nose in middle
White eye detail added to eyes
4. Add eye detail from white dough
Forehead wrinkles scored in dough
5. Score vertical wrinkles on forehead
Horizontal wrinkles scored on dough
6. Horizontal wrinkles an ear slit scored

Finally, cover the buns and let them proof in a warm place. In the meantime start making the ears from the leftover cookie dough. Roll the dough to 3-4mm thickness, then cut it out in the shape of obtuse triangles. 

Yoda ears cut out from cookie dough

Bake the ear cookies for 7-8 minutes or until they look light golden-brown on the edge. Let them cool completely before attaching them to the sides, inside the slits we made on the buns. Be careful, as the cookies are fairly fragile. 

Lastly, may the force be with you when you enjoy these Baby Yoda Japanese Milk Buns! 

Hand holding baby yoda Japanese milk bun with four buns in the background

Japanese Milk Buns with Crisp Cookie Top

Print
Serves: 10 Prep Time: Cooking Time:
Nutrition facts: 345 calories 11 fat
Rating: 5.0/5
( 1 voted )

Ingredients

Milk buns

200g bread flour
50g plain flour
½ tsp salt
30g sugar
5g instant dry yeast
1 large egg
50ml milk (warm)
50ml water (lukewarm)
40g unsalted butter (room temp)

Crispy cookie

80g unsalted butter (room temp)
130g sugar
1 large egg (room temp)
250g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder

Optional: 1 tsp matcha powder (add 10g extra butter)
Extra: green and black food colouring

METHOD

Milk buns

  1. First, we need to bloom the yeast. In a small bowl add the lukewarm water (roughly 30C) and sprinkle the yeast on top, mixing to dissolve. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes.

  2. Now need to combine the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, combine the two different types of flour, sugar and salt. Whisk to combine well.

  3. Add the yeasty water, warm milk and egg. Combine with a spatula until the dough starts sticking together.

  4. Knead the dough by hand for 5 minutes until it becomes more supple and elastic. If using a stand mixer, mix until the dough detaches from the sides of the bowl.

  5. Once the dough feels more elastic, add the butter chopped up in the middle of the dough. Fold the dough over the butter and start kneading and stretching the dough to incorporate the butter. This can be done either by hand or in a stand mixer.

  6. Continue kneading and working the dough until it becomes very smooth and easy to work with. It will be stick, but please resist the temptation of adding extra flour.

  7. Once the dough feels smooth, bang it several times on the table. Try stretching a small piece of dough between your fingers to test the ‘windowpane effect’. If the dough becomes stretchy and see-through, it is ready. However, if the dough still feels brittle, keep kneading.

  8. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large bowl. Cover with cling film and let proof for 2 hours in a warm place or until doubled in size.

Crispy cookie

  1. Cream the butter at room temperature with the sugar in a large bowl until smooth.

  2. Add the egg and mix well with a spatula to combine. You can add ¼ tsp vanilla extract if desired.

  3. Separately, combine the flour with baking powder. Add the dry ingredients over the eggy mixture. Combine well with a spatula until a dough forms.

  4. Use your hands to bring the dough together and shape it into a ball.

  5. The cookie dough will weigh approximately 510g. Take one 50g piece (about the size of a ping pong ball) and colour it black using food colour. Take one 10g piece (smaller than a coin) and leave it without colour. The rest of the dough will be coloured green, either using green food colouring or matcha powder. *

  6. Take away 50g (ping pong ball) of the green dough for Baby Yoda’s ears. Divide the rest of green dough into 10 small pieces (around 40g each) and shape them into round balls. Cover with cling film to prevent drying out whilst preparing the bun dough.

  7. Roll out the 50g of green dough saved in the previous step to 3mm thickness. Cut out the ears using a scalpel. The ears would be in the shape of an obtuse triangle. Bake at 180C for 7 minutes. Let ears cool before using.

Assembling the Japanese milk buns

  1. Once the milk bun dough has doubled in size, press it with your palms to deflate some of the air. Divide the dough into 10 pieces.

  2. Flatten one piece of bun dough in your palm into the shape of a disk.

  3. Add 2 squares of chocolate in the middle of the dough, then seal the edges around it. Shape into a round ball between your palms. **

  4. Take one of the green balls of cookie dough and roll it out to 2-3mm thickness. Wrap it over the dough filled with chocolate and press down the edges to flatten them. ***

  5. Roll out the black cookie dough and cut out 2 small circles (roughly 2cm diameter). Attach them on top of the green cookie to form the eyes of Baby Yoda.

  6. Take a small piece of green cookie dough and place as the nose. Two small pieces of white dough will be attached on the outer sides of the black circles, to form the sparkle in the eye (please refer to process pictures).

  7. Lastly, score a hatch pattern on Baby Yoda’s forehead to form the wrinkles. Cut two slits on each side where the ears will go.

  8. Japanese milk buns with some cling film and let them proof in a warm place for 45 minutes.

  9. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 13-14 minutes.

  10. Let the milk buns cool down on a wire rack, then carefully attach the cookie ears. Enjoy whilst still warm!

Notes

* If using matcha powder to colour the cookie, the dough can become too dry. If this happens, add 10g more butter or 1/2 tsp of milk. ** The chocolate is optional, and traditionally these milk buns do not have any fillings. I like to use milk chocolate. *** If you don’t want to shape the buns like Yoda, you can stop after this step. Simply score the top of the cookie in a hatch pattern – similar to a pineapple.

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