These adorable Japanese pumpkin bread rolls are made from kabocha squash and sweet potato paste wrapped with soft and fluffy Japanese milk bread. They’re shaped like a little pumpkin making them a perfect snack for the autumn season or a platter food for a Halloween party.
Kabocha Japanese pumpkin
Kabocha pumpkin is the best type of pumpkin because of its chestnut like flavor and ability to keep a firm and moist texture without becoming soggy or watery like other pumpkins. In Japan, all pumpkins are referred to as kabocha; however, outside of Japan, “kabocha” refers specifically to this Japanese variety of winter squash. Sometimes in Australia, there are pumpkins called “Japanese pumpkin” but in my experience, it is not exactly kabocha. Kent pumpkin may also look like kabocha but again, it is not the same. It’s best to always get pumpkins clearly labelled as “kabocha pumpkin” or “kabocha squash”.
It is easily identifiable by its darker deep green skin and orangey coloured flesh. This versatile vegetable has many uses in Japanese cuisine and is most often served as a side dish. The way it is usually used is to slice it in small pieces then boil and simmer it in a pot with soy sauce, sake, and mirin. This delicious simmered kabocha is my favorite way to use the vegetable but it can also be fried in tempura batter, used for soups and stews, and put in a steamer or in an oven to roast. It works perfectly in desserts too like muffins and this kabocha recipe which bakes it into a sweet bread.
Can I use different pumpkins?
You can use different types of pumpkin. However, the reason Japanese kabocha works best is because it has more of a sweet potato like taste, which means the filling paste has a sweet pumpkin flavor with no bitterness at all. If you can’t access kabocha then the pumpkin and sweet potato paste can be replaced with just sweet potato. But it needs to be purple sweet potato with white/beige coloured flesh. For the bread, you can use butternut squash instead or find frozen kabocha pumpkin at your local Japanese supermarket.
Where to buy Kabocha Japanese pumpkins?
In Australia, if I am lucky I can purchase fresh kabocha pumpkins from the grocery store or farmers market. However, it’s rare and they’re not easy to find here. Try searching for local growers in your area and always check the markets and grocery stores. Alternatively, you can buy frozen kabocha from Japanese grocery stores if you have one near you. Although it’s not easy to find, it’s worth the effort to locate authentic kabocha squash if you can. It’s season runs from late summer to early fall which is when you’ll have the best luck finding it.
How to shape like real kabocha pumpkins?
After the first rise, tie twine (strings) around the dough LOOSELY. You need to do 80cm (about 31 inches) twine (strings). Tie it around the round bread dough gently and loosely. If it is too tight, during the second rise, the bread may rip apart.
2 Tips to tie up the bread dough
- LOOSELY tie around the twine.
- Soak the twine in oil (I used olive oil) in order to remove the twine easily.
Japanese people celebrate Halloween?
In Japan, we did not really celebrate Halloween and it was not a big seasonal event when I was young. Many Japanese people still don’t follow the Halloween traditions. However cute Halloween Jack o lantern pumpkins and pumpkin themed Halloween goods are gradually gaining popularity in Japan. Japanese people started to celebrate Halloween without knowing the real meaning of it in the same way as Japanese people celebrate Christmas in Japan. If you do celebrate Halloween or just like the fall season, then these cute kabocha pumpkin breads are a great little treat to make for a party or snack.
Here is my instruction for Kabocha pumpkin bread and If you liked it, please rate it and leave a comment below. Also, don’t forget to follow me on Youtube, Pinterest, Facebook , Twitter and Instagram to keep up to date with all the latest happenings on Chopstick Chronicles. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #ChopstickChronicles so I can see your wonderful creations!
Japanese Kabocha Bread
- 250 g Baker’s flour
- 30 g mashed Kabocha pumpkin
- 15 g sugar
- 1 tsp yeast
- 1 egg yolk
- 150 ml milk
- 20 g butter
- 2 g salt
- 8 80cm kitchen twine cotton string
- 8 pumpkin seeds used for the stems
For Kabocha anko paste
- 50 g mashed pumpkin
- 50 g mashed purple sweet potato
- 30 g sugar
Pumpkin & Sweet Potato Paste
- Peel the kabocha and sweet potato. Cook the peeled kabocha and sweet potato and mash them.
- Put mashed kabocha pumpkin and sweet potato in a small saucepan, add sugar and stir constantly on low heat for about 5 minutes. When the water evaporates a little and the paste thickens, turn the heat off and cool it down completely.
- Make it into small balls (about 2 tbsp each) and set aside.
- Place bakers flour, salt in a large bowl and make a well in the middle.
- Combine 1 egg yolk, 150ml milk (to make 160ml all together, so you may need a bit more than 150ml milk), 30g mashed Kabocha pumpkin, sugar, and melted butter and dry yeast.
- Pour the liquid ingredients into the well in the flour bowl and mix.
- Knead the bread dough for about 20 minutes.
- Spray the surface of the bowl and place the kneaded dough and wrap with cling wrap. Leave it for 40 minutes to rise.
- Soak the twine (strings) in 1 tbsp of oil (any type of oil is fine, I used olive oil)
- When it becomes twice in size, take the dough out of the bowl and divide it into 8 round balls.
- Flatten the dough ball out and place pumpkin anko paste on the centre and wrap it.
- Take the excess oil off the string and place it on the kitchen bench. Place one dough on the centre. Take two ends of the string and cross it in the centre, and flip the dough around and cross the string, and flip the dough with the string again and repeat. Try not to tie the twine too tight. Make the knot and place the knot side down on the baking paper.
- Repeat the step for each.
- Place a moist tea towel over the bread and leave it in a warm place for about 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and bake them for 12-15 minutes.
- Cool the bread down and cut the twine at a few places then remove the twine carefully.