I was in love as soon as I saw these adorable little bear buns. I’m very fond of Japanese cuteness, and I love baking – what an ideal combination!
I am very lucky to have a brother who knows Japanese, and he kindly translated the recipe for me. The main recipe follows a standard bread format, but be aware that the bears are very fiddly to make. I have not heard of a chocolate or seaweed pen before, so I used piped icing for the eyes and nose. But as you can see, my little bear buns fall well short of the original author’s! (Whom the rest of the photos remain the property of.)
Kuma-chan pan (Cute bear buns)
- Bread flour: 200g
- Sugar: 10g
- Salt: 3g
- Water: 60g
- Milk: 60g
- Butter: 10g
- Dry yeast: 2 teaspoons
Heat milk until almost boiling and let cool (this encourages the gluten in the bread).
- In a bowl, combine the bread flour and salt. Add the water (heated to about 32° C if you’re making this in winter), cooled milk, sugar, and dry yeast. Mix thoroughly. When it resembles one ball, place on a flat surface and knead until a smooth texture is achieved.
- When smooth, knead in the butter [which has been melted, then cooled to room temperature] bit-by-bit. Place the dough into a round bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and leave in a warm place. Wait until the dough has risen to approximately twice its initial size. This is the first stage in letting the dough rise.
- It should look something like this after the first rising.
- Place the dough on a benchtop or chopping board and prepare the bears’ ears by cutting 20 1g pieces and rolling them into small balls. Cut the remaining dough into 10 equal portions and roll into balls. Place all pieces between a pair of damp cloths (e.g. wrung-out teatowels) for 15-20 minutes (use a timer).
- Squeeze each ball a bit to force out any gas pockets, and then re-roll into spheres. Take each large ball and firmly press two ears onto it. Place a damp cloth over them to prevent any drying-out.
- Gently placing all 10 assembled bears into damp “bread mats”, then put them in a warm place for the second rising stage. Make sure all the bears are oriented upwards (to not disturb their ears). Place a damp cloth over everything. Wait until the bears have roughly doubled again in size.
[I'm not sure what bread mats are, so I followed step 7 below.]
- If you don’t have any “bread mats”, take some oven trays and place them on the benchtop. Placing the bears on the trays, spray with a water atomiser. Take some drinking glasses and fill them with water, then place them in various locations around the tray. Cover the whole lot with plastic wrap, gently dropping the wrap on from above. Wait until the bears have roughly doubled again in size.
- For lightly browned bread, preheat your oven to 220 degrees, then bake the bears for 15-20 minutes at 190 degrees.
For a white finish, preheat to 190 degrees, bake at 160 degrees for 10 minutes, then drop the temperature to 130 degrees for a further 5-10 minutes. If they start to brown, immediately place an upside-down enamel bowl over them, or cover with aluminium foil. Keep an eye on the bears while baking, because oven temperatures vary and are not always accurate or comparable.
Now you can decorate your bears with edible seaweed or a chocolate pen to draw the face!
- This recipe was written while using “Haruyutaka” flour. Depending on protein level and seasonal variation, the moisture content of your flour may vary slightly, so please be aware of this.
[I used standard British Strong Bread flour and it worked well.]