Sometimes, the largest of creatures are also the most gentle.
Take, for instance, my dad. Towering at 6 feet and two inches above ground, he’s quite the human skyscraper. But he’s also quite the gentle giant; the guy couldn’t hurt a fly. He’s as laid back as one of those reclining massage chairs in Brookstone, as confrontation-avoidant as a sloth, and yet he approaches the stratosphere in which Yao Ming’s head resides.
In fact, it’s my mom - in all her 5-foot-seven-inch glory – who’s the fiesty one.
Speaking of gentle giants, I will never forget having done a project on giant pandas in seventh grade. The delicate manner and personality of this large creature has ever since fascinated me. They’re so large, yet peaceful, and somehow manage to eat a massive and primarily vegetarian diet of bamboo (imagine Fiber One granola bars times 100…yikes).
And for whatever reason, I’m feeling nostalgic. I’ve had pandas on the brain. So what better time than the present to make panda bread?!
Adapted from Perfect Pandas
Makes one small loaf or two mini loaves*
- 1 cup + 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- scant 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg yolk + skim milk to equal 1/2 cup
- 1 Tablespoon butter, melted and cooled
- 1-1/2 Tablespoons cocoa powder dissolved in 1/2 Tablespoon boiling water
- Stir together flours, sugar, salt, and yeast in a mixing bowl.
- Lightly beat egg yolk into milk. Heat mixture to 100 degrees F (I microwaved it on high for 35 seconds, though the stovetop works as well).
- Using an electric mixer with dough hooks, combine dry ingredients with milk mixture. Add melted butter and mix until dough forms.
- Place dough onto a lightly-floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Divide dough into 2 parts: approximately 80 grams for the chocolate and 210 grams for the plain.
- Add cocoa powder + water paste to the 80 grams dough and knead until the color is even.
- Let both pieces of dough rest in covered, lightly oiled, and separate bowls for one hour.
- Punch air out of dough. Use approximately 90 grams plain dough for the panda’s face and two 20-gram pieces of chocolate dough for the eyes (refer to these picture instructions for further explanation).
- Fill the space between the eyes with about 30 grams plain dough.
- Roll out remaining plain dough into a long strip. Wrap around patterened dough and seal, seam-side down.
- Divide remaining chocolate dough into two pieces (roughly 20-25 grams each) for the ears.
- Place dough in the center of a well-greased loaf pan and let it rest for 15 minutes in an enclosed area (such as a microwave). The dough likely will not be long enough to fill the pan, but try to center it so it bakes evenly.
- Preheat oven to 365 degrees F.
- Bake for about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.
*Note: To make mini loaves, grease two mini loaf pans and divide the given dough masses by two. For example, if it says to use 90 grams of plain dough for the face, use approximately 45 grams for each mini loaf of panda bread.