Have you ever wondered at the fact that Japan seems to really like square things?
Now that my graduate course is drawing to a close (my final research presentation is this Saturday- wish me luck!!!) I've turned my thoughts to contempation of new puzzles of life, such as: Why do the Japanese seem to really enjoy square things??? Why? Why? WHY? Square watermelons, square dogs, square bread. I mean, the list goes on.
Now, in ACCA: 13 Territory Inspection Department, this square bread makes starring appearances in quite a few episodes. In fact, bread in general seems to be quite a hit in that show, amirite? As well as a lot of other delicious looking food. Like that fondue... sadly, I could make this since my fondue pot is in storage in my childhood home, 3 hours away. An honest to goodness tragedy. One day, when I'm reuinited with my fondue pot, I'll have to show you all how to make it. Anyway, while we could spend all day theorizing about the symbolism and overall importance of each new bread appearance, I think it's better to spend our time just making the bread, and then eating it, and then wondering why we don't make bread more often because it's so dang easy.
Shokupan is the square bread of choice in Japan- shokupan is made from a soft, pillowy, smooth dough imbued with dried milk (good luck finding that in your local supermarket in any reasonable amount. The first place I tried, I asked if they had powdered milk and the girl was all, "You mean evaporated milk? No, we don't have that." Cue a mental eye roll and a 15 minute drive to the next closest supermarket, where I found it, but had to buy a huge box for like 2 tsps of powder that I needed for the recipe.) However, powdered milk challenges aside, the results are entirely worth the ingredient struggle. The bread is not only square (!!!) but is soft, a little sweet, and somehow just a little richer than your typical sandwich bread. It's perfect for dessert-like toppings, such as honey, nutella, or jam, and also tasted great with a savory pea hummus I made. Incidentally, this is the kind of bread they use for brick toast, so if you love that, this is a fun way to try making it at home.
Check out the video below for a visual on instructions. Ingredients and picture instructions are listed just below.
Recipe taken from here. Ingredient measurements below shifted slightly to accomodate US measurements, which I hand-weighed out.
- 1 package dry yeast
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 cups lukewarm water
- 4 1/2 cups bread flour
- 2 tbs dried milk
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 tbs softened butter
*You will also need to purchase a shokupan. I got mine here.
1. Combine water, sugar, and yeast. Stir together and set aside for 5-10 minutes.
2. When foamy, pour into a stand mixer bowl along with powdered milk, flour, and salt. Knead with dough hook for 7-8 minutes.
3. Then, add in softened butter. Knead for another 7-8 minutes until smooth and tacky to touch.
4. Shape dough into a ball in the bowl, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside for 1 hour someplace warm or until doubled in size.
5. Prepare shokupan pan- butter all sides thoroughly, including lid. Preheat oven to 400 Fahrenheit.
6. When dough is ready, flour a work surface and turn dough out onto the surface. Pat gently to get some of the air out. Divide into 4 pieces.
7. Shape each piece into a smooth ball with rough edges tucked underneath.
8. Place balls side by side in the pan, and put the lid on. Set the pan aside for 1 last rise, about 45 minutes or until dough is 3/4 of the way up the pan.
9. Bake for 40-45 minutes with the lid on, or until golden brown with a hard crust to the touch.
10. Allow to cool, about 30 minutes to an hour.
11. And now it's done!!