Pan Pudding (Japanese Milk Bread Pudding) is made with fluffy shokupan, eggs, milk, and sugar and topped with a delicious caramel sauce. The high ratio of custard gives this dish the texture of purin (the Japanese take on crème caramel or flan) that simply melts in your mouth. Get ready to transform your leftover shokupan into this sweet and luxurious treat for breakfast or dessert!
One of the most memorable food scenes from the Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House for me was the Pan Pudding (パンプディング) that Kiyo made for Tsurukoma. It seriously leaves us drooling, especially when Kiyo swirls the nicely brown caramel sauce into the bread custard.
Since the release of this popular Netflix series, I have received quite a lot of requests for the recipe from JOC readers. So I took it up as a fun project to replicate the pan pudding at home, with the aim of achieving a comparable texture and look shown in the act.
Here I am sharing my version of pan pudding, and I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did!
Table of Contents
What is Pan Pudding?
Pan Pudding (パンプディング) is a Japanese milk bread pudding. The Japanese call bread pan (パン) so we call bread pudding “pan pudding.”
In Japan, pan pudding is typically made with Japanese milk bread called Shokupan.
Soft and light as a cloud and fluffy as cotton, Japanese Milk Bread is the most tender and moist Pullman loaf bread you’ll find.
Therefore, when you make bread pudding with Japanese milk bread, the texture should resemble Purin, the Japanese custard dessert similar to crème caramel or flan. The refined soft crumbs absorb the delicious custard and become incredibly tender and almost velvety. The shokupan practically melts away when baked in the custard.
Besides Japanese milk bread, the rest of the ingredients are the same: eggs, milk, and sugar.
I tried to make this recipe as close to how Kiyo made it in Episode 3 of the Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House. Her pan pudding definitely has more custard than the typical pan pudding. In fact, Kiyo’s version uses probably half the amount of bread typically called for in standard bread pudding.
How to Make Pan Pudding
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Japanese milk bread (shokupan) – I highly recommend making your own shokupan if you can’t purchase shokupan locally at a Japanese (Chinese or Korean) grocery store.
- Vanilla extract
- Whole or reduced-fat milk
- Butter – for greasing the baking dish(es)
- Caramel Sauce – sugar, room temperature water, and hot water
I used two individual oval-shaped gratin baking dishes, just like how it was done in The Makanai. The gratin dishes I used for this recipe measure 7 inches x 4½ inches x 1¼ inches (about 18 cm x 11.5 cm x 3 cm) and hold about 12 fluid oz (360 ml) each. The benefit is that the sides of these baking dishes are shallow so it’s easier to brown the top. It is also nice to have individual servings as it keeps the bread pudding hot.
If you don’t have two individual gratin dishes of a similar size to mine, you can use an 8-inch x 8-inch (20 x 20 cm) baking dish. The surface area is slightly bigger so the custard mixture will fill in the space, resulting in more custard parts. Also, the sides of the square baking dish tend to be taller, which will prevent the bread pudding from browning easily due to a lack of good hot air circulation. It’s not a bad thing, but just be aware of the differences between the use of these baking dishes.
Overview: Cooking Steps
- Make the custard mixture.
- Cut the shokupan slice into 16 pieces and put them in the baking dish.
- Pour the custard over the bread and bake until golden brown on top.
- Make the caramel sauce.
- Drizzle the sauce over the bread pudding and serve immediately.
The Bread-to-Custard Ratio
When I was testing the recipe, I found the most tricky part was the bread-to-custard ratio.
I want it to be custardy (need a good amount of eggs) but it needs enough liquid so it will resemble purin, and not so much “bread.”
Initially, I put too many pieces of bread in one baking dish. They absorbed all the custard mixture and ended up like a standard bread pudding. It tasted great but was firm than Kiyo’s pan pudding and didn’t have the right texture.
It was one of those “aha” moments when I finally figured out the perfect ratio for both the shokupan bread and the custard mixture.
The revelation comes down to the thickness of the shokupan slice. The amount of custard mixture works best with a 2 cm (¾ inch) thick slice meant for toast. If you get Japanese milk bread, buy a square shokupan loaf that is precut into six slices that are 2 cm (¾ inch) thick (6枚切りトースト). If you use a thinner shokupan slice meant for sandwiches, the bread doesn’t absorb enough custard mixture, leaving too much of it in the baking dish, resulting in a more eggy-like texture. If you use a thicker slice or more bread, it will be too bread-heavy. The bread-to-custard balance is really the key to that melt-in-your-mouth texture!
The Caramel Sauce
You might be familiar with caramel sauce if you have made Purin before. For those who haven’t, I want to explain a little bit about caramel sauce here.
Wet caramel is made by mixing granulated sugar with a small amount of water. The whole purpose here is to boil the sugar syrup to caramelize it and achieve a caramel color. For this pan pudding recipe, we aim for a medium to dark amber color.
Before you begin, here are a few tips if you’ve never made it before:
- Use a heavy-bottomed, light-colored saucepan so you can see the progress of the caramel sauce.
- Don’t use a pot with a nonstick coating because the pot will be exposed to medium-high heat and the pot is too thin (with hot spots).
- Do not mix with a utensil because that will cause the sugar to crystallize.
- Do not touch the caramel; just swirl the saucepan to mix it.
- Keep an eye on the caramelization process at all times.
When the caramel is the optimal medium to dark amber color, you need to stop the caramelization process. Otherwise, the caramel will continue to darken in color, become more bitter, and might even burn. You stop the caramelization process by pouring a small amount of hot water, which loosens up the caramel consistency.
The hissing sound is probably one of the scariest kitchen moments you may experience. Don’t be scared. Protect your hand/fingers when adding hot water following my instructions in the recipe card precisely.
You must make the caramel sauce right before drizzling; otherwise, it will solidify before you are able to pour.
Tip 1: Don’t change the bread-to-custard ratio.
As I mentioned in the previous step, you would need to follow this exact ratio to achieve a soft, velvety texture for the pan pudding.
- 1 slice of shokupan, 2 cm (¾ inch) thick (6枚切りトースト)
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup (50 g) sugar
- 1½ cups (360 ml) milk
Tip 2: Let the bread absorb half the custard mixture before adding the rest.
The bread needs just a few minutes to absorb the custard mixture. If the bread pieces float, don’t worry. They will slowly absorb the custard mixture so you can add the rest after a few minutes.
Tip 3: Don’t overcook the bread pudding.
Overcooking may cause curdling and you want to avoid that. To determine doneness in egg dishes such as bread pudding and quiche, make sure the inserted toothpick comes out clean and the internal temperature should reach 160ºF (71ºC) when measured with a food thermometer.
You will notice that pan pudding is beginning to rise up around the sides of the baking dish and slowly turns golden brown. When you shake it, the bread pudding will giggle slightly at the center.
Not golden brown yet? You can switch to a broiler and broil for 1-3 minutes.
Can I use a different type of bread?
You definitely can, but please know that the outcome will be different. As you may know, bread pudding can be made with different types of bread—French baguette, brioche, challah, sourdough… and it’s delicious in its own way.
If you really want to make the pan pudding shown in The Makanai, it’s important to use shokupan because this type of crumb absorbs the custard and yields a super fluffy, delicate texture. As you see in Kiyo’s pan pudding, it’s very custardy and less “bread” like.
Do I need to use old stale bread?
You can use old shokupan that has been sitting around for 3-4 days. However, unlike other types of bread, shokupan doesn’t become dry or stale to a similar extent. Even old shokupan still has more moisture than other bread. For that reason, I don’t find it necessary to purposely use old shokupan.
I don’t have the same individual baking dishes shown in The Makanai. Any recommendations?
To make the pan pudding similar to the Makanai, I used similar gratin dishes measuring 7 inches x 4½ inches x 1¼ inches (18 cm x 11.5 cm x 3 cm) to create this recipe. Two important things to remember when you look for a baking dish:
- Choose a baking dish with enough space to give the bread pieces plenty of wiggle room prior to baking. You might think there’s not enough bread in the dish, but the bread will need space to expand to about 1½ times its original size as it bakes. If the pieces are already snug before baking, your dish is too small; the bread won’t have room to expand and will overcrowd the dish. At the same time, there shouldn’t be too much space between the bread pieces, either. In either case, adjust the size of the baking dish instead of adding more bread or custard.
- The baking dish should be at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep. Before baking, the bread pieces are floating in the baking dish as they gradually absorb the custard mixture. The bread will gradually soak up more custard mixture, but when fully saturated, the leftover custard mixture will fill up the space between the bread pieces. This is the ideal situation.
Can I use other types of milk?
I recommend using whole or reduced-fat milk for this recipe. If needed, you can use another type of milk, but the taste will be different.
Can I reduce the amount of sugar in the custard?
I tried making this recipe with both 2 tablespoons and 3 tablespoons of sugar (with the caramel sauce on top). Both Mr. JOC and I agree that 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of sugar is just the right amount for people who enjoy Asian sweets because western sweets can be overly sweet. You can certainly cut down on the sugar if you prefer. Please adjust according to your own preference.
Do I really need to make the caramel sauce?
You don’t have to, but you may want to increase the sugar a little bit for the custard.
What to Serve with Pan Pudding
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Pan Pudding (Japanese Milk Bread Pudding)
- ½ Tbsp unsalted butter (for greasing the baking dish or dishes)
- 1 slice shokupan (Japanese milk bread) (make sure your slice is ¾ inches or 2 cm thick; buy a square shokupan loaf that is precut into six slices for toast that are 2 cm thick; the bread-to-custard ratio makes a difference in the final outcome)
- 2 large eggs (50 g each w/o shell)
- ¼ cup sugar
- ⅛ tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1½ cups whole milk (you can use reduced-fat or non-dairy milk; however, the taste will be different)
For the Caramel Sauce
- 2 Tbsp sugar (use only granulated sugar)
- 1 Tbsp water (at room temperature)
- 1 Tbsp hot water
- Gather all the ingredients. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). For a convection oven, reduce the cooking temperature by 25ºF (15ºC). Set the oven rack to the upper middle position for a standard oven or the middle position for a countertop oven.
To Prepare the Pan Pudding
- With unsalted butter, grease all sides of two individual gratin baking dishes. The dishes I used here measure 7 inches x 4½ inches x 1¼ inches (18 cm x 11.5 cm x 3 cm) and hold about 12 fluid oz (360 ml) each. For the best outcome, use dishes of a similar size or switch to a 8-inch x 8-inch (20 x 20 cm) baking dish for 2 servings. Make sure your dishes are big enough to allow the bread plenty of wiggle room, as the bread pieces will expand in the oven to about 1½ times their original size. Tip: Your Pan Pudding will brown more easily if you use a shallow baking dish with low sides, which allow the hot air to circulate better.
- Cut one 2-cm-thick slice of shokupan into 16 square pieces. Place them in the baking dish(es), spacing them evenly throughout. Make sure there's plenty of room between the pieces for the bread to expand while baking; do not stuff the dish(es) with too much bread. Tip: Arrange the pieces so the brown crust is dispersed evenly among the white bread pieces. You want the final look to have brown spots here and there, and not just in one area.
- In a medium bowl, crack the eggs and beat until blended (I use this flat whisk and love it).
- Add the sugar and salt, and beat well until the sugar is completely dissolved. You want to make sure all the sugar goes into the custard and is not left in the bowl when you pour.
- Next, add the vanilla and gradually whisk in the milk. Blend well together.
- Slowly pour half of the custard mixture in a thin stream on top of the bread squares. Pause for a minute or two to allow the bread pieces to absorb some of the liquid. Then, pour in the other half of the mixture. It's okay if the bread pieces are floating. The custard will cook through in the oven. Tip: You might think that there is not enough bread in the dish, but this bread-to-custard ratio is key to the melt-in-your-mouth texture we want. Do not adjust by adding more bread or custard.
- Bake the bread pudding at 350ºF (18ºC) for 30-40 minutes, or until the pudding rises and puffs up and the top of the bread is slightly golden. It's done when an inserted toothpick comes out clean and the internal temperature reaches 160ºF (71ºC). When I used my countertop Anova Precision Oven, it only took 20 minutes to bake, so please adjust the baking time based on your oven. When the bread pudding starts to puff up and rise but is not browned yet, make the caramel sauce (it takes 5 minutes).
- When the bread pudding is nice and golden, remove it from the oven. The bread pudding will deflate and fall once out of the oven, and this is normal. Tip: If your bread pudding is slow to brown on top, you can switch your oven to the Broil setting for 1-3 minutes until the bread is golden brown.
To Make the Caramel Sauce
- Before you start: It takes about 5 minutes to make the caramel sauce and it requires your full attention while making it. If you are worried about your pan pudding and want to watch it closely, you can make the sauce after you remove the bread pudding from the oven. With more experience, you can time it better when you make it again. If you make the caramel sauce too early, it may solidify. Ideally, you want to finish both the bread pudding and the caramel sauce at the same time.
- In a heavy-bottomed small saucepan, combine the sugar and room temperature water. Avoid a nonstick pot because it's too thin and the inner pot color makes it hard to see the caramel color. Turn on the heat to medium low and let the sugar dissolve completely, without stirring. You can tilt the pot occasionally, but otherwise don't touch it until the sugar turns liquid. In the meantime, prepare the hot water. Have it ready to use in 3-4 minutes when the sauce is done.
- When the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat to medium high. The hot mixture will start to bubble. You can swirl the saucepan once in a while to mix it, but do not use a utensil because it will cause the sugar to crystallize. When the sugar starts to caramelize, you will see lots of small bubbles. It will slowly turn brown on the edges of the pan.
- Swirl the pot to incorporate the dark-colored caramelized sugar into the light-colored sugar. Soon, the bubbles will become larger as the sugar mixture caramelizes more and turns an amber color. The caramelized sugar will continue to turn darker and darker. Keep swirling the pot and watch it closely.
- After the caramel sauce starts smoking, wait a tiny bit longer until it reaches an optimal medium to dark amber caramel color. Then, turn off the heat. Immediately pour a little bit of the measured hot water onto a spatula into the caramel pot (so your hand is not directly above the pot).
- The mixture will boil vigorously and sputter, so be careful not to let it splatter on you. Once this has subsided, slowly add the rest of the hot water. Swirl the saucepan to combine.
- Drizzle the caramel sauce over the hot bread pudding. Serve immediately with a spoon. Tip: Do you have some caramel stuck to the pot? Add milk and heat up while stirring. My kids enjoy caramel milk.
- You can cover it with plastic and store in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. I recommend consuming it sooner than later for the best taste.