If you have no idea what メロンパン a.k.a. Melon Pan is, let me explain. First of all, in Japanese "pan" means bread. "Melon" refers to the look of the bread, not the taste (although some recipes add melon flavoring to the bread, but that's rare). The criss-crossed surface is supposed to look like the rind of a rock melon/cantaloupe, but in the case of turtle-shaped melon bread, it makes the perfect shell.
Melon pan consists of a lightly sweetened bread topped with a layer of sugar cookie dough, scored with the checkerboard pattern. I think melon pan is a close relative of Hong Kong's pineapple bun (polo bun), except the pineapple bun tends to have a softer bread base and a more buttery and fragile topping. Melon pan is delicious. But, turtle melon pan is even better!
Melon Pan Recipe
adapted from My Food Geek
1 1/2-2 cups flour
2 T active dry yeast
2 T sugar
1/2 cup water (110 degrees)
1/2 t salt
1/2 stick butter, room temperature
3/4 cup + 1 T flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
sugar for dusting
Bread Dough: Heat up your water to 110 degrees, basically when the water's hot, but still safe to touch. Add 1 T of the 2 T of sugar to the water. Then add your yeast, mix, and let it proof for 10 minutes (until the mixture is super bubbly). You'll need to divide up your butter and egg. One-third of the 1/2 stick of butter will be used in the bread dough, place the rest of the butter aside for now. Crack your egg into a bowl, mix it up with a fork and pour half of the mixture into another bowl for later (half the egg is for the dough, the other half is for the topping).
Now in a large bowl, mix your dry ingredients together: 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 T of sugar, and 1/2 t salt. By now the yeast should be ready. Form a well in the center of your dry ingredients and pour in the yeast/water/sugar mix. Add in your 1/2 egg and mix. Slowly incorporate the dry into the wet ingredients until a dough begins to form. If the dough is too sticky, add in additional flour one tablespoon at a time until the dough is no longer sticky, but it also must not be too dry.
Gather the dough and place the mound on a cutting board or any smooth surface on which you can knead your dough. Dab the 1/3 of the half stick of butter onto your dough in little blobs and knead your dough until the butter is totally incorporated, when the dough is nice and smooth. Now place your ball of dough back in it's bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, place it in a fairly warm area, and let it rise for one hour.
Cookie Dough: In a new bowl, cream the remaining 2/3 of the half stick of butter with 1/4 cup of sugar. Then mix in the other egg half. In another bowl, mix together 3/4 cup + 1 T of flour with 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder. Slowly mix the flour/baking powder mixture into the butter/sugar/egg mixture until your dough forms (be careful not to overmix). Dump the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, gather it all into a ball, shape it into a marshmallow-like cylinder, and place it in the refrigerator until firm.
Shaping The Body
Divide the 1/3 portion of dough into two. Roll one half into a ball; this will be the head. Take the other half and split it into 5 equal parts. Roll 4 of those parts into balls; those will be the feet. Pinch the remaining part into a triangle; this will be the tail. For the body, take the 2/3 portion, roll it into a ball, and then flatten it slightly on the lined baking sheet. Take the turtle head, feet, and tail and place them in the appropriate places on the body (as pictured above), tucking a slight bit of each under the body.
Repeat the process for the remaining 8 lumps of dough. When finished, let them all rise for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Now take out your cookie dough from the fridge. Cut your cylinder of dough into 9 equal sized circles. Roll each slice out with a rolling pin until it's the same size as your turtle's body. With a knife, gently score the surface of the dough with a checkerboard pattern, be sure not to make the lines too deep or the pattern will split open once in the oven.