Koppe Pan is oblong-shaped white bread similar to an American hot dog bun. It is light and soft, mild in flavor, and one of the very basic and versatile breads in Japan. Koppe Pan can be eaten as is, of course, but most of the time it is used for sandwiching some kind of sweet or savory filling.
Koppe Pan was originally created in Japan in the early 20th century. After dried yeast was invented, bread manufacturing on a large scale became easier, and people started making the original form of Koppe Pan. Especially right after World War II, Koppe Pan was common as one of the items in rations provided to people from the Japanese government. It still remains unknown why it is called Koppe Pan, but it may come from the French word “coupe” (cut) because Koppe Pan often is cut, sliced in the middle for fillings.
Most Japanese people know Koppe Pan the best from school lunch, in the 1950s through today. Before Steamed Rice was used in school lunch, Koppe Pan was the main carbohydrate of the meals. Everyone above a certain age has a nostalgic feeling towards Koppe Pan, but not always great memories. Koppe Pan at school lunch was fine but not always that tasty since it was not necessarily fresh or high quality.
Convenience stores always have Koppe Pan with fruit jams, creams, and margarin. This bagged, straight-from-factories kind of bread is surprisingly tasty. People don’t call this Koppe Pan, they actually call it a sandwich, but they are using Koppe Pan bread. Bakeries also make savory versions of sandwiches with Koppe Pan, such as Yakisoba Pan and Korokke Pan. There are so many variations of Koppe Pan, and they can be a cheap but good everyday snack or lunch.
A couple of years ago, Koppe Pan suddenly became hip and popular in Japan for some reason. A lot of trendy looking Koppe Pan speciality stores have opened. They have their new and original fillings, more meat and vegetables that are grilled and fried, and also fresh fruits and creams. They became like gourmet sandwich shops except they use Koppe Pan. If you are lucky to visit Japan, you should try some of these updated versions of Koppe Pan.
When you make it, there is a lot of folding when shaping the dough, but that will help the bread hold the oblong shape in the oven. The folding helps to remove as many big air bubbles as you can so that the bread dough doesn’t rise in an unexpected part of bread. Unless you are already a skilled baker, the shape may not come out right on the first try. That is totally fine. By the time the center of the bread is cut and filled with cream and other stuff, you will not notice it.
We used a Buttercream and apricot jam filling for our Koppe Pan, but anything you’d like to sandwich would be great for it. Be creative, and make your own Koppe Pan!
- 200ml milk, lukewarm
- 5g active dry yeast
- 30g sugar
- 240g bread flour
- 60g cake flour
- 5g salt
- 10g dry milk powder
- 30g butter, room temperature
- egg wash: 1 egg plus pinch of salt, mixed well
- Buttercream (optional)
- apricot jam (optional)
- Put lukewarm milk, yeast, and sugar in a stand mixer bowl, then whisk well. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
- Combine bread flour and cake flour, and add to the milk mixture. Add salt and milk powder, and start the mixer kneading with a dough hook at medium speed.
- When the dough is becoming a ball (after about 8 minutes), add soft butter and knead for another 4-5 minutes until the butter is completely incorporated. Cover with plastic, and leave in a warm place about 1 hour until the dough has doubled in size.
- Take the dough and push gently to deflate the gas from the dough. Put onto a cutting board, and cut into 6 equal pieces about 2.5oz (or 70g) each. Flatten and fold the dough three times, like a letter, and repeat 3 times. The folded dough should look like soft squares. Let them rest for 15 minutes covered.
- Place a dough square on a cutting board. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin to 7" x 4" (18 cm x 10 cm). From a long edge, fold about 1/3 of dough toward the middle and press. Form the other long edge, fold 1/3 of dough toward the middle and press. Then finally fold and press the long edges together to make a long log. Pinch and tuck in the ends. Repeat for the rest of the dough.
- Place shaped dough logs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving 2" (or 5cm) space between the dough. Brush egg wash (the mixture of egg with a pinch of salt) on the surface of the dough. Leave them to double in size, about 1 hour.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 400F(205C) for about 9-10 minutes until they brown.
- If you wish, make a slice in the middle of the bread, and sandwich apricot jam and buttercream.