This is an unpopular statement, but I don’t want to live in a world without bread. I don’t care if carbs are evil, that they cause bloating, they bring on crazy mood swings, or make my chin hairs grow in cascading curls – just don’t bother waking me up if I can’t have toast.
Top: Recipe for Shokupan via Dreams of Dashi
But I try to at least make healthy bread choices and stick to whole grains, with one exception: I can’t live without my shokupan, Japanese milk bread.
So what is shokupan? Also called Hotel Bread, it resembles regular white bread, but one bite and you’ll realize it’s worlds away from that loaf of Wonder Bread sitting in the back of your pantry. The slices are thick – ¾” to an inch – and the texture is incredibly soft, pillowy and light. It’s like biting into a cloud.
A delicious, creamy, feathery cloud that’s wrapped in another cloud.
The ingredients are unremarkable, the usual combination of white flour, yeast, butter, eggs and milk. But somehow, even with it sliced thick, the bread is so much more airy than a regular white loaf. I’m pretty certain it’s some sort of voodoo that results in this impossibly delectable, bewitching bread.
Photo: Yukari Li, Dreams of Dashi
I always buy my bread when I make my monthly trek to the Japanese grocery store but if you don’t have a Japanese grocer in your town, Yukari Li at Dreams of Dashi takes you through the whole process of baking your own lucious loaves of shokupan at home.
Visit her site and learn how the secret to perfect shokupan is the tangzhong roux, a pudding-like roux made from flour and water. Her directions are clear and concise. And she even offers a quicker, easier recipe for sokupan, for those of us who are a little baking-challenged.
*raising my hand.*
So how do you eat it?
Photo © Marsha Takeda-Morrison
I prefer mine simply toasted and spread with (real) butter, but it’s great with a little bit of jam or preserves.
I also love to take that toasted slice and brush the unbuttered side lightly with a slice of lemon for a hint of citrus flavor, and sometimes I mix a little thyme into the butter. I know I’m getting a little too passionate about toast, but we all have our weird hobbies.
(I’m talking to you and your biscuit collection, Brenda.)
Shokupan also makes the best French Toast you’ll ever have in your life and I’m only slightly exaggerating. Plus, with the crusts cut off, it makes amazing sandwiches.
A traditional Japanese sandwich would be a trio filled with potato salad, egg salad and ham and cheese (above), then each one overstuffed with crispy green leaf lettuce.
The good news is, when sold in stores, shokupan always comes in small loaves — no more than five or six slices — so it’s easy to keep those carbs under control. That is, if you want to. Or, if you’re like me and just live for wonderful, tasty, to-die-for toast.