Weekly Japanese Pop Culture Thread (September 2, 2020)

Welcome to The Avocado’s weekly discussion of Japanese pop culture! Today I have another cooking adventure to share with everyone. I’ve been wanting to attempt baking shokupan (Japanese milk bread) for a while now, but bread is pretty intimidating to me. There’s nothing quite as disappointing as working all day on a loaf of bread, only to have it turn out terrible. But when I was working on the purin, I found this really great website, Chopstick Chronicles, that has lots of great Japanese recipes, including shokupan AND egg salad, which was one of my favorite things to eat while in Japan. I ate so many konbini sandwiches. Even when I wasn’t that hungry, I’d probably buy one and eat some of it as a snack. I used the last few coins I had at the airport to buy one, so it was the last thing I ate in Japan. In other words, I really love these delicious sandwiches, but I found it difficult to replicate the specifically wonderful flavor and texture of the ones I had in Japan at home. I learned that the bread was probably a big part of it, as was using Japanese mayo (Kewpie) for the egg salad. But no one sells milk bread where I live, so I needed to make my own. It took two attempts to get it right, but I am very happy and proud to report that I can successfully bake shokupan using this recipe!

The first attempt wasn’t bad at all. Honestly, I think I might be lucky and somehow have a natural ability to make bread? Who knows, maybe I’m just good at following recipes (that’s almost certainly what it is). Either way, the first loaves turned out pretty good! They didn’t rise quite as much as they should have–I made a small but costly mistake at one point because I read the recipe wrong, which resulted in me rolling out the dough earlier than I was supposed to. I think this left the dough a little overworked, so it wasn’t as fluffy as it should have been. I’m also not convinced my mixer was kneading the dough properly because I just left it on in a different room with the door closed without checking on it. As you can see in the pictures below, these loaves were a little small but still tasted great. 

First Attempt: Acceptable Shokupan

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While I was able to make delicious egg salad sandwiches using these loaves, I wasn’t satisfied. I knew I could make them better. So I waited a week and tried again. This time I checked the dough when it was in the mixer, scraping the bottom a couple times to be sure it was kneading properly. I didn’t overwork the dough this time, and I was more confident when rolling the loaves. The dough has a much nicer texture and was easier to work with. I cannot explain to you how happy I was when I saw these beautiful loaves of milk bread come out of the oven. 

Second Attempt: Perfect Shokupan

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While it takes several hours to complete, the process is super easy and really only requires that you are home (which, uh, not really a problem right now), so I’ll be baking shokupan on a regular basis from now on. And that means…egg salad sandwiches whenever I want!

And, as always…

What have you been watching/reading/playing/eating/listening to lately?

Happy Wednesday! 🙂