My Lunch Can Beat Up Your Lunch!

Bento Recipes: An Pan


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This page is the blow-by-blow of my adventures making an pan for the first time. I have never made anything breadlike from scratch ever in my whole life, so I knew that this was going to be a learning experience. Little did I know how much I had to learn! I've written this as a set of directions, because if I write it in the past tense, describing my travails in the first person, I'll be forced to relive them and probably break down crying.

What you'll need (makes 3 dozen!):

    1 package of dried, active yeast
    1/4 cup of warm water
    1 cup of boiling water
    3 tablespoons of shortening
    1 cup of sugar
    3/4 teaspoon of salt
    2 eggs
    4 1/2 cups of flour
    1 egg yolk or melted butter (optional - bun coating)
    Toasted sesame seeds (see above)
    2.5 cups of anko, canned is easiest
    Wax paper or some other surface for working the dough
    A free afternoon

Look at the list and read the recipe over. Make note of anything you need - some more flour, as you're almost out, and eggs, and yeast, and shortening. And mixing bowls, because otherwise you'd be mixing things in cooking pots. Go out to the grocery store and buy the stuff, then skip merrily home, gleefully anticipating some hours of work and a yummy reward.

Mix the yeast with the warm water in a cup. In a large mixing bowl combine the boiling water, shortening, sugar, and salt. Mix well to melt the shortening. Keep mixing because the last few lumps don't seem to wanna mix. Mush them up. That gets them to mix. Mostly.

Let it cool to lukewarm. Then pour in the yeast mixture. Beat the two eggs and mix 'em in. Then add flour. Start with the package you already had, which has 2 cups left. Put that in and mix. Then get the package you just bought... where is it? You set all the things you were going to use on the counter before putting the other stuff away! What happened to the flour you know you bought? Did you leave it in the cart, or leave the bag in the store? It's not here! Get annoyed with yourself for being such a dingbat and run out and buy another package of flour.

Get back home and measure off the rest of the flour, hoping that the 20 minute wait won't screw things up. Mix. Mix. It doesn't get as smooth as you think it should, but what do you know about dough that doesn't come in a stick and isn't for chocolate chip cookies? Decide that it's as good as it's gonna get and dump it onto the floured wax paper. Do the massagey stuff that you assume is the way to knead bread. The goo sticks to your fingers, making your hands get bigger and bigger very rapidly. Scrape off the excess dough, mush it back into the main mass, and wash your hands in the sink. As you're turning away from the sink and drying your hands with a paper towel, knock over the flour bag. It will hit the floor like a small bomb and toss more flour around than it could possibly contain.


Leave the bag and all the flour where it is, except for the stuff you know you will track all over the kitchen. Go back to the dough. Knead it until it starts looking like dough ought to. More or less. It's a bit fissured, but what the hey. Grease the largest of the bowls and put the dough inside. Discover that you can roll the dough around inside by moving the bowl in complex patterns. Congratulate yourself on your cleverness. Then put the bowl down with a cookie sheet on top so it can rise.

That leaves the next 60 to 90 minutes free. Use the first part in cleaning up the spilled flour. Find out that a Dustbuster ain't nowhere near equal to the task.  Broom, pan, paper towels. Flour has gluelike properties when moistened, and it exhibits them now. Cuss some more. When you're done with that, eat a Snicker's bar because you're bloody frustrated. Then change out of the floury clothes and play Dance Dance Revolution, workout mode, to burn off those 240 calories, which you did not need.

After an hour check the dough. It hasn't doubled its size. Play more DDR while waiting. At 90 minutes decide it's big enough. Wash up and then punch the dough down.  It feels good to smack that stuff around! Then roll it back into a ball and wait for 10 more minutes. Use the time to grease one cookie sheet. Three dozen rolls will take more than one sheet, but you can bake them in shifts, no problem.

Glance into the cabinet and see, right next to some cereal and other boxed food... you guessed it, the missing bag of flour. It was here all along, and if you'd just looked up there you wouldn't have had to run out to the grocery store! Feeling like a double dumbhead, you blame it on invisible elves, the same ones that hide your keys.

Lightly flour your hands and the wax paper with some of the flour from the open sack that actually didn't spill out. Pull out a walnut-sized glob of dough. Roll it into a ball and flatten it into a circle on the waxed paper. Put a tablespoon of anko in the center and pull the dough over it, pinching the edges shut. The edges don't stay shut too securely.  Pinch again, then try to make the resulting square round by gently rolling it between your hands. The result is a rounded square. Whatever. Put it on the cookie sheet, seam side down, so the top will look all pretty. Repeat, repeat, repeat, periodically shaking more flour onto the waxed paper. After a while get bored with the same shape and size and start doing little variations.

When the first cookie sheet is covered by 12 of these things, look in dismay at the dough in the bowl. How many does this recipe make? Why didn't you make a half batch? You will start feeling tired. Thinking it's just tedium setting in, so press onward. Brush the egg yolk over the backs of the things on the sheet, then dribble sesame seeds over them. Set 'em aside. Pull out another sheet of waxed paper to put more buns on. Roll, flatten, fill, pinch, repeat.

Realize that you not only feel tired, you feel queasy. Get some ginger ale, which is great for upset stomachs, and sip that. Wash hands again, then continue with the dough. And after a little longer realize that you feel weak and are having cold flashes and your hearing is getting weird - all symptoms of a near-fainting spell you recently experienced. Quickly wash your hands, hoping you can finish before keeling over. Get in bed and put your legs up on thick pillows to get the blood to flow to your heart, like the doctor told you to. Nap a little. Get up when you feel better, about a half hour later, you think but aren't sure.

You really won't want to go back to the kitchen now, but you are not abandoning this recipe halfway! Not after all you've been through! Go back down, feeling icky but at least not about to faint, and continue rolling. Notice that the dough has risen significacantly while you were away. Any more and you'd have to peel it off the ceiling. Make the rest of the rolls, and brush them all with egg yolk, and sprinkle them all with sesame seeds.

Almost done! Feeling better now, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. The first batch has had, you estimate, 45 minutes to rise, counting your nappytime. After putting the mixing bowls and other stuff you no longer need in the dishwasher, stick the first cookie sheet in the oven to bake for 15 minutes. Wash hands again, then sit down and read from a good book.

The book is a little too good, because you open the oven 20 minutes later instead of 15, and the rolls are dark brown. Arrgh! And a few have anko bubbling out of split seams. Take them out, transfer the buns with a spatula to a dinner plate to cool, and scrape off the anko that spilled. Then put the next batch onto the cookie sheet. Which is not as easy as you'd imagined, because some of that yolk glaze has trickled down, wet the dough where it came in contact with waxed paper, and formed a firm bond.  Pull them off, trying not to split any more seams than the many that have already popped open. Some come with only a little quiet persuasion.  Some take more work, and end up messier. Pinch them closed as best you can, wondering how dough can stick so firmly to waxed paper but refuse to adhere to itself, and shove 'em in the oven. Taste one of the burned-looking ones, and nearly faint with surprise when it actually tastes close to the way it should! Burn your mouth on the hot anko filling while you're at it.

15 minutes later to the dot, take the next sheet out. Lots of split seams in this batch, and the glazing has gotten kinda weird where you mushed it up while trying to close the seams. But the color is better, golden tan instead of brown. Good enough. Move half of these to the same plate that houses the first batch, then get out another dinner plate. Wonder how in the world you're going to eat all these. Plan to take some to the office on Monday and bring some for your RHPS cast that night.

Put the last batch on the cookie sheet. This time it's even worse, because those things are glued on firmly! Buy by now you're tired and you don't care if they're all pretty.  Yank 'em off and mush 'em closed as best you can, which means lots of gaping seams. Forget it! You decide to call the ones that come out looking weird 'Igors," meaning they're ugly and misshapen-looking, but otherwise functional.

Wait 15 minutes. Pass the time by reading and sampling some of the smaller rolls of various colors and degrees of seamsplittedness. They are all good, which gives you relief so immense you almost don't mind burning your mouth again.

Take out the final batch. Man, a lot of these are just plain ugly. Whatever. To the plate with them. Shut off the dang oven, put the dang sheet in the dang dishwasher, and get out of the dang kitchen. It's four and a half hours after you originally started, and you've had enough.

There. All that really happened. And despite everything that happened, the an pan still came out well. Quite tasty, in fact. So, learn from my mistakes, and be comforted that if I can fail to wreck this recipe despite all my attempts, surely anyone else can cook it!