One of Japan’s favorite simple sweet treats has more variety than you might expect.

Melon bread is a simple staple of Japanese bakeries and convenience stores. It actually doesn’t contain any melon, being a half-spherical bun with a buttery, slightly crisp, lightly sweetened cookie-like crust (the “melon bread” name seems to come from the bumpy bread’s visual similarities to a melon rind).

It’d be hard to find a convenience store in Japan that doesn’t sell melon bread, but it’d also be hard to find one, right now, with more varieties on offer than Family Mart. The chain currently has four different types of melon bread in its Famimaru Bakery private-brand lineup, and so we realized it was our journalistic duty to investigate by eating them all.

Though these are sold under Family Mart’s store brand, they’re actually produced by a pair of partner baking companies.

Starting with the Famima The Melon Bread (US$0.95), pictured above and made by Pasco Shikishima Bread, this is an orthodox-style melon bread, with similar looks to the standard melon bread found in bakeries across Japan.

The remaining three varieties are all produced by Yamazaki Bread, with the first of that trio being the above-seen Butter Croissant Melon Bread (145 yen), with coarse sugar granules sprinkled on its crust and, according to the promise on its wrapper, a croissant core, as opposed to the denser bread of regular melon bread.

Things get decidedly decadent with the Chocolate Melon Bread-Milk Whipped Cream (168 yen). This is the most expensive of the entire bunch, but if you’re going to convince people that the higher price for a product is justified, covering it in chocolate is a pretty smart strategy, as is filling the center with whipped cream, like this variant does.

And finally, the Whipped Cream Melon Bread (145 yen) has more cream than it can even enclose, plus an avantgarde (for melon bread) shape that resembles, without actually being, koppepan.

But enough gazing in admiration at this baked bounty! It was time to eat them, with this important task/excuse to stuff oneself with melon bread going to our Japanese-language reporter Seiji Nakazawa.

The The Melon Bread, as expected, is everything you’d expect from a baseline melon bread: sweet but not too sweet, and filling but not too filling. However, that means it also has a characteristic that Seiji isn’t all that crazy about. The bread core of melon bread isn’t dry itself, but because of its thickness, it can sometimes leave Seiji’s mouth feeling a little unpleasantly dry. To be clear, this isn’t an issue that everyone has with melon bread, but for Seiji, that phenomenon occurred again here.

Seiji didn’t have this problem with the Butter Croissant Melon Bread, though. With an airier, more buttery center, and more butter than usual in the outer layer too, this one was moister and even better than the The Melon Bread, in Seiji’s eyes/mouth.

Moving on to the Chocolate Melon Bread-Milk Whipped Cream, here Seiji feels like we’re leaving behind the kashipan, or “sweet breads,” genre of Japanese baked goods and moving into full-on desserts. Not that he’s complaining, mind you. As soon as he opened the wrapper for this one, the aroma of chocolate came floating out to wrap him in an enticing embrace, and all that it promised came to be as Seiji went in for bite after bite of rich, sweet chocolate and whipped cream that made him feel like he was enjoying the luxury of eating a piece of cake with his hands.

And last, the Whipped Cream Melon Bread turned out to have its ingredients listed in order of their prominence within the flavor profile. It’s very much the whipped cream that takes center stage here, with the bread playing much more of a supporting role. Asked who he’d recommend this to, Seiji says it’s a perfect choice for anyone who considers themselves a “whipped cream berserker.”

Personally, Seiji’s favorites of the four were the Butter Croissant Melon Bread, for when he’s in the mood for a less-intense kashipan snack, and the Chocolate Melon Bread-Milk Whipped Cream for when he’s throwing all pretense to the wind and submitting to the commands from his sweet tooth sensibilities. Really, though, there’s not a bad melon bread in the bunch, so whichever flavor faction you belong to, there’s a melon bread waiting for you.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he has fond memories of buying an entire tray of melon bread from the Anderson bakery in Iwakuni.

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