I’ve been craving bread. Sweet and impeccably soft Japanese bread in particular. Not quite sure what started this recent desire for pillowy soft buns, but with a severe lack of Japanese bakeries on the Gold Coast, I’ve been forced to get into the kitchen and bake whenever the craving strikes. I guess that’s not such a bad thing.
Anpan are essentially delicious Japanese bread rolls filled with sweet, moist, melt-in-your-mouth anko (red bean paste), and honestly, they taste much better when baked at home. Nothing beats warm, fluffy, fresh-out-of-the-oven anpan! That satisfaction when you bite into one and find that gooey, sticky, sweet red bean centre… so indescribably good.
If you’ve never had anko before, it’s a rather dense paste made by boiling and mashing earthy red beans (also known as azuki beans). The paste is then sweetened with sugar. It is a very popular ingredient featured widely in asian desserts. For this anpan, I used tsubuan, which is a chunky version of the paste, and goes quite well with the soft bread. If you prefer a smoother paste, koshian is the way to go. Both of these can be either made at home or bought from most asian supermarkets.
Just look at how cute the little anpan are, especially with those itty bitty sesame seeds sitting pretty on top! I’ve found that these buns make a great breakfast, accompanied by nice hot coffee or smooth hōjicha to cut through the sweetness of the anko.
Anpan あんパン (Japanese Sweet Red Bean Buns)
soft bread buns filled with sweet red bean paste | yield: 8 small buns
1 1/2 cups bread flour (high protein flour)
3 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon milk powder
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons egg, beaten
100ml water, warm
2 tablespoons butter, softened
for the filling & topping:
350g anko (red bean paste/azuki bean paste)
Egg mixed with a bit of water, for egg wash
Sesame seeds, for sprinkling
- In a large bowl, combine bread flour, sugar, milk powder and yeast. Mix well, set aside.
- In a separate bowl, combine egg and warm water. Mix thoroughly, then gradually mix into dry ingredients.
- Knead until everything comes together and becomes less sticky (about 5 minutes), then knead the softened butter into the dough.
- Continue to knead the dough for another 15 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.
- Form dough into a ball and place in a large bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to proof for 1 hour, or until double in size.
- Punch down dough and divide into 8 equal pieces. Shape each piece into even-sized balls and place them on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Cover loosely and leave to proof for another 20 minutes. Meanwhile, roll the anko into small, even balls (about the size of a golf ball).
- When the dough has risen, flatten each piece into rounds roughly larger than your palm. Place a ball of anko in the centre of each round, and wrap the dough around it. Make sure the buns are sealed well, then lightly roll each bun into a ball and place on baking tray seam side down.
- Proof for a further 40 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 170ºC. While waiting, brush the tops of each bun with egg wash and sprinkle with some sesame seeds.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the buns are a nice golden colour.
- Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Best eaten warm.