When it comes to a stake-out in anime (police or otherwise), there are some essential tools required to get the job done right… A car with tinted windows, binoculars, a disguise, and listening devices might come to mind, but what cannot be left out under any circumstances, if you’re trying to be an authentic detective, is the ever important and ever present carton of milk and convenience store anpan!
Now, I cannot count the number of times I have seen anpan portrayed in anime or in Japanese dramas as the food of choice for detectives while on assignment. The close association between the two is akin to the North American stereotype of doughnut-eating cops! One cannot be shown without the other…
The association is so strong that even when the girls of the Light Music Club in K-On!! play detective and follow Sawako Sensei, Yui and Mugi are quick to bring out a carton of milk and anpan to get in to character. But, why anpan and milk? Well, sometimes you just need something to eat that’s not only easy to eat on the run, but also delicious, satisfying, and filling to boot!
Another instance of anpan accompanying detectives is found in episode 205 of Gintama where Yamazaki is tasked with staking out the sister of a suspect the Shinsengumi are tracking. His personal policy is to only have anpan and milk while on the job, but after over a month of eating only anpan and watching his target, he gradually goes completely crazy…. From throwing (or “sparking”, as the subtitles state) anpan into walls and the faces of the people he encounters, to hallucinating about seeing anpan everywhere, Yamazaki eventually ends up on the street in his boxers, a broken man…
Hmm, maybe that Gintama episode wasn’t the best way to sell the idea of making anpan! You’ll just have to take my word when I say anpan is delicious and will not make you go insane… though it is insanely delicious (sorry, I couldn’t resist).
About the recipe:
Anpan is a slightly sweet bread that’s similar to brioche, which is most commonly filled with anko, or sweet red bean paste. Sweet and filling, anpan makes for a great meal, whether it’s as a quick breakfast, a special afternoon snack, or a satisfying dessert. The protein in the red bean paste helps keep you full, while the fluffy bread tempers some of the sugary sweetness of the anko. Pair with a glass of milk or some hot tea or coffee, and enjoy!
This recipe is not too difficult to make, though there are plenty of steps… The first thing you must do is either procure or make the anko. If you decide to make it yourself (which I highly recommend!), you should do so well ahead of time – and I mean at least a day ahead, if not more. Happily, one recipe of anko will make more than you will need to make anpan. Simply freeze the unused leftovers and defrost it out whenever you feel like making a dessert that includes anko! You can find the recipe here!
Like many other recipes for anpan, this one uses yeast as the rising agent. If you’ve never worked with it before, using yeast can be a daunting prospect… For a long time I didn’t use yeast because I didn’t think I would be able to make it work! But, after finally taking the plunge, I have found that it’s really not nearly as scary as it may look. My advise to you, if you’re worried about using yeast, is to just read over the instructions carefully and then take a stab at it!
For the dough, ensure that it rises to the specified amount. Rising times may vary depending on the temperature and humidity of your home. I like to place my dough in the oven with the interior light on, which provides just a bit of warmth, while the oven ensures that the dough will be left undisturbed and in a protected environment. When resting the fully formed anpan, just make sure to remove them from the oven before preheating your oven!
Anpan is typically made in a slightly flat shape, with the anko inside indented. To make this shape, simply use the palm of your hand to gently flatten the dough-wrapped anko. Then, use a finger to make an indent in the top center of the dough. Do not omit this step because indenting the anpan before baking ensures that no air pocket forms between the filling and the bread.
About the ingredients:
Anko, or sweet red bean paste, is made by cooking azuki beans into a paste and sweetening it with sugar. Anko is available in a can in some Asian grocery stores, but homemade anko tastes much better! Find the recipe here!
Bread flour is a type of flour that contains more of the protein, gluten, than your typical all-purpose flour. When the gluten in the flour mixes with water, it makes the dough elastic, which in turn helps to trap the CO2 from the yeast allowing the dough to rise. Bread flour can be easily found in grocery stores and should not be substituted with all-purpose flour.
Active dry yeast is live yeast encased in a thick layer of dead cells, and which is in the form of small, dry granules. Generally, the yeast must be dissolved or rehydrated in liquid before use (as in this recipe!). When dissolving yeast, it is important not to use very hot water, as this can kill the yeast thereby rendering it incapable of producing the CO2 needed to rise the dough. Any liquid you put the yeast into should be close to body temperature. Active dry yeast is widely available in grocery stores, and can be stored for a long period of time at room temperature, in the fridge, or in the freezer.
Makes 12 anpan
- 3 cups bread flour
- 3 eggs
- 7 oz. (3/4 + 2 tbsp) warm milk
- 3 tbsp melted butter
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 18 oz (2 1/2 cups) anko, (find the recipe for anko here)
- Optional: sesame seeds (black or white) for garnishing
1. Divide anko into 12 equal pieces and, using the palms of your hands, roll each piece into balls. Cover and place in the fridge until needed.
2. Dissolve sugar and yeast in the warm milk. Beat 2 eggs, butter, salt, and milk mixture together until well combined, either by hand or using the paddle attachment on a standing mixer.
Add the flour, one cup at a time, to the wet ingredients, scraping down the bowl periodically to ensure the flour is incorporated.
3. If using a standing mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix until the dough comes together to form a ball. If working by hand, turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead by hand until it forms into a ball.
4. Continue kneading the dough on a floured work surface until supple and shiny.
Place in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place (such as in the oven with the light on) until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
5. Punch down the dough in the bowl, and place on a lightly floured work surface. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces. Form each piece into balls by tucking the top of the dough underneath to create a taut surface. Cover with a damp, lint-free towel, and let rest for 20 minutes.
6. To shape the anpan, gently flatten a ball of dough into a disk. Place a ball of anko into the center of the dough and then gently pull the sides of the dough up and around the anko, pinching it closed at the top, sealing it completely.
Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, seam side down, spacing the unbaked anpan about 2.5 inches apart. Using the palm of your hand, gently flatten the unbaked anpan slightly. Press down in the center of the bun with a finger to create an indent.
Place in a warm place for 50 minutes, or until doubled in size.
7. Just before baking, lightly beat the remaining egg in a bowl, and then gently brush onto the buns. Garnish with sesame seeds if desired.
Bake in a preheated oven at 350 F. for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Place the baked anpan on a wire rack to cool completely.
Serve with milk, tea, or coffee.
Source: Adapted from The Delectable Hodgepodge