Golden brown loaves, baked into a crisp square shape are sliced thickly to reveal an impossibly fluffy, white center. Called shokupan, which translates literally as “food bread”, this bread is a favorite Japanese breakfast item. Seen in the mouths of running anime school girls, shokupan is most often enjoyed simply-- as toast. Shokupan is so popular in Japan that entire cafes are dedicated to serving it as toast, often topped with just melted butter, and occasionally an egg.
Bread has a fairly long history in Japan, first arriving in the 17th century with Dutch and Portuguese trading ships. However, during the Edo Period, and the isolationist politics that came with it, bread fell out of popular favor as foreign influences on Japanese culture became subject to suspicion. What brought bread back into the public consciousness of Japan was, interestingly enough, food rationing during the American occupation of Japan after World War II. Bread made from wheat flour and powdered milk was commonly served in schools during that era, and was a staple food of an entire generation of schoolchildren. This, combined with the popularity of fluffy white loaf bread among American GI’s lead to a type of bread, now known as shokupan, becoming a mainstream part of the Japanese diet.
Shokupan is made using a special technique called the Yudane Method. The Yudane method involves first making a roux by mixing boiling water with bread flour. The temperature of the water causes the proteins in the flour to gelatinize, leading to higher moisture retention in the loaf while it is baking. This relatively high moisture content is what gives shokupan its signature texture-- light, fluffy, and yet ever so slightly chewy. Toasted until it is crispy on the outside, and topped simply with butter, kinako, or honey, shokupan makes for an absolutely sublime breakfast toast. Breakfast aficionados, bread fiends, and those who like food for the texture are all sure to love shokupan as toast.
Here at Maido, we get fresh shokupan, made artisanally at an Asian owned bakery in rural New Jersey, delivered every Tuesday and Friday. We typically carry three varieties-- classic white milk bread, 7 grain, and raisin (this one is ideal for French toast). Cut extra thick for breakfast toast, or in a thinner slice ideal for sandwiches, our shokupan is made with quality ingredients and no preservatives. The bread usually lasts for about a week after purchase, but can be frozen if you would like to keep it longer. Discounted loaves from the previous week are available (if you’re lucky!) early Tuesday mornings and are marked with a 20% off sticker. Be sure to check for shokupan in our bread section, located right on the border between our grocery store and restaurant, on your next trip to Maido!