Melon Drama

If it’s named for a melon and looks like a melon, then obviously, it should taste like… Not a melon.

Such is the curious case of melon pan. Captivating the imaginations and cravings of Japanese bakers since the early 1900’s, right around the time that Western influences made bread the trendy starch of those in the know, it gave traditional rice flour a run for its money. Simple, sweet buns wrapped in a buttery cookie exterior, the name has more to do with its deeply grooved, crackled exterior than flavor. Said to evoke the appearance of the delicate skin of a muskmelon, covering the fruit like natural lace, it’s one of many theories, though it strikes me as the most plausible explanation.

Some are round, others are more like ovoid footballs. Most are plain, but some are filled with cream or jam. A few intrepid bakers try to make sense of the misnomer by adding artificial melon flavoring to the dough itself. For years, that was my impulse as well, but I could never fully connect the dots. Melon extract is not exactly the most common ingredient in the pantry, and even as a special order, few genuinely tasteful options exist.

What I’m proposing instead might seem like a stretch, but it’s the most sensible extension of the concept I’ve devised yet. The melon family, cucurbitaceae, is a classification that includes a diverse array of plants both sweet and savory, starting of course with melons like cantaloupe and honey dew, but also squashes such as pumpkins. That connection was the catalyst I needed to finally make a melon pan I could better justify.

Yield: Makes 8 Buns

Pumpkin Melon Pan

Pumpkin Melon Pan

Pumpkin spice sweet buns wrapped in a buttery cookie exterior are a fresh autumnal twist for Japanese melon pan.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 2 hours 3 seconds
Total Time 3 hours 3 seconds


Sweet Pumpkin Dough:

  • 2/3 Cup Plain Non-Dairy Milk
  • 1 (1/4-Ounce) Packet or 2 1/4 Teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
  • 1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar, Divided
  • 1/2 Cup Pumpkin Puree
  • 3 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Allspice
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 Cup Vegan Butter, Melted

Cookie Topping:

  • 1/4 Cup Vegan Butter
  • 2/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Pumpkin Puree
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract


  1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, mix together the milk, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar. Let stand for 6 - 7 minutes, or until the yeast has reawakened and become slightly frothy. Add the pumpkin puree and remaining sugar.
  2. Separately, whisk together the flour, spices, and salt to combine. Install the dough hook attachment for the mixer before slowly sifting in the dry mixture. Once dough starts to come together with a shaggy texture, increase the speed to medium and slowly drizzle in the melted butter. Mix for 8 - 10 minutes longer, until dough is smooth and elastic. It should be tacky but not sticky; add a tablespoon or two of extra flour if it's still too wet.
  3. Shape the dough into a round and place it in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 - 1 1/2 hours, or until approximately doubled in size.
  4. While the dough is rising, prepare the cookie topping. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Pause to add the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Beat briefly to incorporate, then add the pumpkin puree and vanilla. Mix just until combined to form a thick dough. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until ready to use; at least 30 minutes, but it can also be prepared up to three days in advance.
  5. Once risen, punch the dough down, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and cut it into 8 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet with at least 3 inches of space between each piece. Divide the cookie topping into 8 equal pieces and roll each one out on a lightly floured surface until thin and big enough to fully cover each ball. Place the rounds of cookie dough on top of each ball, pressing down lightly to adhere. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for 45 minutes, or until doubled in size.
  6. Once the dough is almost done rising, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Use a very sharp knife to score lines into the top in a grid or crosshatched pattern.
  7. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 452Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 32mgSodium: 368mgCarbohydrates: 77gFiber: 3gSugar: 27gProtein: 8g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.

3 thoughts on “Melon Drama

  1. What a coincidence, I made something similar too last weekend. Called Mexican coffee bun basically it came from the same roots as your recipe, the Conchas

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