Tucked quietly away on a stretch of Vancouver’s South Hill neighbourhood, Baker and Table Café and Bakery attracts patrons from across the city with an array of hard-to-find Japanese baked goods and desserts. Nagoya-born, Vancouver-based pastry chef Hitomi Syvertsen excels in French-inflected Japanese pastry-making—matcha tiramisu, yuzu-mochi marshmallows, and butterscotch-hued cubes of pillow-y “hotel bread” all tempt, but perhaps none so much as Syvertsen’s beloved mochi melon pan.
For the uninitiated, melon pan requires some introduction. Much like a Hong Kong pineapple bun, a Mexican concha, or even some cream puffs, melon pan is a soft, sweet, bread baked with a disk of buttery cookie dough on top, making for a nice textural contrast between centre and crust. The “pan” part of the name is thought to be derived from the Portuguese word pão, meaning “bread” (the first Europeans to arrive in Japan circa 1543 were Portuguese). The “melon” refers not to flavour, but appearance—the fist-sized buns have netted striations resembling those of a cantaloupe’s rind.
At Baker and Table, melon pans in flavours like matcha red bean and dark chocolate are stuffed with a chewy core of mochi and/or Belgium Callebaut chocolate. Heated up, this centre becomes a the halfway point between bun and molten lava cake, oozing sauce and mochi out from under its cookie topping and fluffy dough. The melon pans are also available sliced and stuffed with ice cream. They are a treat well worth the journey from downtown.
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