Roti, or Korean coffee buns, are like eating cappuccino incarnated as a sweet bun. Glazed in creamy coffee and filled with butter and sugar, they’re shockingly light for their size. Think pan dulce, only better.
I call them Korean coffee buns because here in Los Angeles, it is the magnificent Korean bakers at places like Cafe Dulce in Little Tokyo who have popularized the form. From Penang originally, they’re called Mexican coffee buns throughout southern Asia despite not being a thing at all in Mexico. And of course there are buns and pancakes from all over the world also called roti. Which isn’t at all surprising when one considers the Sanskrit origin of the word (it means “roll”) and the influence of ancient Indian culture on a wider Europe, but I digress.
Etymology aside, this iteration of roti is a cinch to replace cinnamon rolls at your next brunch. To enjoy them at their best, eat within twelve hours of baking.
This recipe yields eight 5-inch buns.
Korean Coffee Buns
312g bread flour
50g white sugar
4g instant yeast (preferably SAF Gold)
68g unsalted butter, room temperature
186g milk, warmed to about 90º
85g unsalted butter, room temperature
25g white sugar
4g instant coffee powder
12g hot water
91g unsalted butter, room temperature
85g powdered sugar
128g all-purpose flour
Combine bread flour, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk. Add salt and butter. With a fork, lightly cut butter into the flour. Pour in the milk and mix on #2 with the dough hook until the just combined. Rest for twenty minutes and then knead for eight minutes on #4 until smooth and silky. Turn the dough out into a lightly buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and rest on the counter until the dough doubles in volume, about an hour.
While the dough rises, make the filling by whisking all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Scoop out eight tablespoons (more or less) onto a plate. Try to smooth out any rough edges on the butter balls with your fingers. Cover with plastic wrap and park these in the fridge.
Prepare the glaze by first dissolving the instant coffee in the water. Cream together the butter, sugar, and egg. Beat in the coffee, then the flour until just combined. Scoop into a pastry bag fitted with a #7 round tip. If you need to refrigerate the glaze, make sure to let it come to room temperature before using.
When it’s doubled, turn the dough out onto a board and deflate it with the tips of your fingers. Roll it into a 12-inch log and cut into eight portions (~78g each). Between your palms, form each portion into a neat ball and place on parchment-lined cookie sheets, four buns per sheet with 4-inches between them. Cover with plastic wrap and rest on the counter for twenty minutes.
Pinching the edges of each ball so that it resembles a flying saucer about 6-inches around, press a butter ball into the center and close the edges around it, pinching well to seal. Be careful not to get butter on the edges of the dough disk as they will prevent it from sealing. Place each formed bun seam down on the parchment and allow them to rise again until slightly less than doubled in size, about another 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400º and place racks in the upper and lower third.
Just before baking, pipe the glaze on the buns working in a tight zig-zag from end to end. The glaze is very stiff* and will stay put, don’t worry! Be careful not to drag the piping tip on the dough, though, as it will deflate the buns.
Immediately pop the glazed buns in the oven and bake for eight minutes. Swap the sheets top to bottom, turning 180º as you do, and bake for another seven minutes or until they reach an internal temperature of 200º. Cool on wire racks but do not cover with plastic wrap to store as it makes the glaze go gummy.
Finally, for those who like to prep ahead, these can rest in the fridge overnight once the buns are formed, though it does increase the chance of the seams leaking when you bake.
* Note that on account of the glaze’s stiffness, you need to use a cloth or silicon pastry bag here. It will burst the plastic variety.
Sesame and crunch animate these sensational little snacking wafers. Packed with whole grains and nuts and low on oil, they’re also downright healthy. Which is just another way of saying, “pairs well with a nice, rich cheese.”
I’m not going to lie, it’s more work to bake your own crackers than it is to buy them at the store. Make them just once at home, though, and you’re likely to find the time from now on. After you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to go from zero to cracker in about 90 minutes.
Consider this recipe yet another template onto which you can project your personal tastes. Try different seeds like poppy or caraway. Substitute the whole wheat flour with rye. And imagine the things you can do with spices or some garlic powder.
This recipe yield about 150 2-inch wafers.
Sesame Sunflower Wafers
140g all-purpose flour
140g whole wheat flour
7g baking powder
45g raw sunflower seeds
40g toasted sesame seeds
18g sunflower oil
Weigh flours, salt, and baking powder into the work bowl of a food processor. Weigh seeds into a small bowl and set aside. Weigh water and oil into a third bowl, preferably with a spout, and set aside.
Pulse flour three or four times to mix in the salt and baking powder. Add seeds and pulse briefly three or four times to just break the sunflower seeds up a bit. Add the water and oil all at once and process until dough forms a ball.
Carefully scrape the dough out of the work bowl onto a very lightly floured board. Knead three or four times until smooth and then wrap in plastic. Chill dough in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400º and place racks in the upper and lower third.
Divide dough into six pieces. Working with one at a time and keeping the others covered, roll dough out to 1/16th-inch and cut with a 2-inch biscuit cutter. Use additional flour for rolling only if absolutely necessary as it will both degrade the texture and flavor and make re-rolling the scrap difficult.
Space 1-inch apart on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake for eight minutes, then swap cookie sheets top to bottom, turning them 180º as you do so. Bake for another eight minutes or until crisp with golden edges.
Since there will be more crackers than can be accommodated by two sheets, I stage the second batch onto parchment sheets and slide them onto the pans. It’s okay that the pans are hot for the second batch.
Cool completely on wire racks before storing in an airtight container.
Bright lemon juice, pops of pungent scallion, the bitter fruitiness of olive oil, and a heavy hand of Romano cheese raise garbanzos up where they belong. Irresistible when they’re first made, like all things, they improve with time and are best prepared a day ahead.
Marinated beans like these are traditionally enjoyed at room temperature. Have I mentioned how they’re perfect for summer picnics and BBQs? You’ll be a total hero to the gluten free vegetarians right off the bat and some sort of food Jesus to vegans if you substitute a tablespoonful of tahini for the cheese.
Now don’t go ruining this edible marvel with canned garbanzos. They’re easy enough to cook from dry, all the more so with a pressure cooker. The difference in texture and flavor is remarkable and completely worth the effort.
Recipe yields enough for three as a main course.
Lemon Scallion Garbanzos
2 cups dried garbanzos
juice of a medium lemon
five scallions, sliced thinly
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, preferably Greek or Californian
1 tsp Greek oregano, crushed finely
a handful of finely grated Romano cheese
salt to taste
If using a pressure cooker, follow your manufacturer’s instructions. Otherwise, soak dried garbanzos overnight in a quart of water in the refrigerator. Simmer for about two hours until tender. In both cases, be sure to salt the cooking water with one teaspoon of salt per quart of water.
Combine lemon juice, scallions, olive oil, and oregano in a bowl and set aside while the beans cook. When the beans are done, drain them and toss with marinade. Add cheese and add salt as needed.
An authentic Greek Salad is a revel in summer flavors. Sweet, tart tomatoes, floral cucumbers, and piquant peppers countered by creamy feta and succulent olives. Lacking the adornment of dressing, it relies completely upon your ability to select the freshest and most flavorful ingredients. If you’re not already familiar with your local farmers market, consider this an opportunity to change that.
Speaking of markets, if you live near any significant population of Greeks, seek out their supermarket and get your feta and olives there. Supermarket specimens of each will do, but they lack a certain something. Here in Los Angeles, I stock my Greek pantry at Papa Cristo’s.
In lieu of dressing, have your favorite unfiltered olive oil and red wine vinegar at hand as well as a bit of salt. But use them only on what’s on your plate, and sparingly at that. The idea is to enjoy each bite as an individual celebration of the vegetable. It’s all very Spartan, I’m sure.
This recipe serves four as part of a larger spread, two if just accompanied by bread and wine.
1 large, ripe tomato
3 Persian cucumbers
1 ripe bell pepper of any color
3 – 5 thick slices of sheep’s milk feta
8 – 12 brine cured Kalamata olives
1/2 tsp Greek oregano
Cut tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers into bite-sized chunks. Trim white parts off of scallions and cut lengthwise into quarters. Thinly slice the green part of the scallion into rings. Lay the majority of the cucumbers at the bottom of a wide bowl and scatter over the scallion greens. Cover with tomatoes, then peppers. Scatter remaining cucumbers around the outer edge and lay on the quartered scallion whites. Scatter olives at the center of the salad and then lay on the planks of feta. Sprinkle over the oregano and eat!
This salad can be made up to three hours ahead and held in the refrigerator, covered in plastic wrap. Wait to add the cheese, olives, and oregano until just before serving.
My chocolate chiffon pie is the condition to which all chocolate pies aspire. Chocolate velvet upon buttery brown snap crowned by a firmament of vanilla clouds. One could do worse than to be reincarnated as this pie.
Its inspiration is the French Silk Pie as conceived by the iconic Baker’s Square chain of restaurants. More than a few years of my childhood, it replaced birthday cake at my party. Which isn’t to say this is a taste-alike. The original is toe-curlingly sweet whereas mine is practically restrained in the sugar department.
Don’t spare the expense of best quality cream, chocolate, and butter here. These affordable luxuries make a huge difference in the final product. And you certainly deserve it.
This recipe makes a 9-inch pie, enough for eight generous portions.
Chocolate Chiffon Pie
1 recipe All-Butter Pie Crust
70g white sugar
430g whole milk
5 egg yolks
12g vanilla extract
115g semisweet chocolate chips
200g heavy cream
20g vanilla sugar*
400g heavy cream
Blind-bake and completely cool pie crust in a 9-inch pan.
Weigh white sugar, salt, and milk into a saucepan. Whisk egg yolks in a separate bowl until lightened. Add cornstarch and whisk until smooth.
Heat milk mixture over medium until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and, while whisking eggs constantly, ladle in about half a cup of the hot milk. Whisking the milk as you do so, add the eggs back into the saucepan and return to medium heat.
Continue whisking constantly with special attention paid to the bottom and edges of the pan to prevent scorching. Cook for a full minute, whisking all along, after the mixture returns to a boil. It should read at least 180º on a thermometer. It will be frighteningly thick. Don’t worry, you did it right.
Immediately pour the pudding into a clean bowl and all the chocolate chips and vanilla. Whisk until the chips are completely melted and smooth. Cover the pudding with plastic wrap pressed right onto its surface and then place the bowl into an ice bath. Park it all in the fridge. Stir every ten minutes and chill to 60º.
Whip 200g of heavy cream to stiff peaks. Stir a third of the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate pudding until completely combined. Gently fold in the remaining whipped cream. Pour the finished chiffon into the blind-baked pie shell, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least six hours.
Add the vanilla sugar to the 400g of heavy cream and beat to firm peaks. You can spoon and smooth it upon the chilled pie or pipe it on with a #22 star tip. Whatever’s clever. Keeps in the fridge for three days but is at its best the day it’s made.
* To make vanilla sugar, split a vanilla pod and scrape out the beans into 600-ish grams of white sugar. Blitz in the food processor for one minute then pour into a sealable container with the spent vanilla pod. Or buy it on Amazon with overnight shipping. Patience is cheaper, though.
Straight from Crete, this omelette is a mythic meld of crisp, caramelized potatoes and fluffy eggs with a fruity whiff of olive oil. You’ll having ‘em lining up a the gates of Olympus any time you make one.
The potatoes are fried using Joel Robuchon’s fantastical method. It works for full-sized batches of potatoes as well, but you need to stick with wax, not Russet, varieties.
I adore eggs like this at dinner with a nice salad (it’s something to do while you wait for the potatoes to cook!) and a spot of Côtes de Provence. It also has a great friend in Huy Fong sriracha sauce, though I’m sure my Hellenic ancestors roll in their graves when I write it.
Recipe yields lunch or dinner for two, breakfast for three.
Cretan Potato Omelette
1 medium red or white potato, scrubbed clean
sunflower oil for frying
2 tbsp half & half
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
This recipe requires an 8-inch cast iron pan, and there’s no getting around it. While there are many fine manufacturers out there, you won’t find any superior to Finex. A stainless steel skillet of the same size might do in a pinch, but you’ll need to fry the potatoes in something deeper.
Preheat oven to 350º.
Cut potato into 1/2-inch sticks and put into cold pan. Pour in just enough sunflower oil to cover* and place over medium-high heat. When potatoes begin to brown, about fifteen minutes after the oil starts to boil, gently stir with a wooden spoon or tongs, turning them over carefully. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until deep golden brown. Remove immediately to a heat-proof plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt and set aside.
Beat together remaining ingredients until fully combined.
Oh, so carefully, pour out the oil into a heat-proof bowl and wipe the pan clean with a paper towel. Spread the potatoes over the bottom of the pan and then pour over the eggs. Bake for 20 minutes on middle rack or until the center is just set (175º).
Immediately run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan and turn the omelette out onto a warm plate. I prefer to serve it like this, but if the bottom tears or you simply like it otherwise, just re-invert on another plate.
* If this is more than half the height of your pan, use a deeper one to fry the potatoes to prevent dangerous boil overs.
After Kewpie mayonnaise and the films of Studio Ghibli, my favorite thing to come out of Japan is S&B Crunchy Garlic Topping. It’s a blend of crisp-fried garlic and mild chilis in sesame oil meant as a condiment for ramen. Much like Old Bay Seasoning, there’s nothing it can’t improve
Here I use S&B Crunchy Garlic Topping to give classic French green bean salad a Japanese kick. Like the original, the keys to success are to cook the beans until tender, dress them while still warm, and enjoy at room temperature.
If you have the time, these are even better made a day ahead. Pop into the refrigerator as soon as they’re done but give them about thirty minutes on the counter before serving.
This recipe yields enough for four.
Green Bean Salad with Crunchy Garlic Dressing
1 lb green beans, trimmed
2 tbsp tahini
1 ts molasses
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 heaping tsp S&B Crunchy Garlic Topping*
1 tbsp sake
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp peanut oil
toasted sesame seeds for garnish
Bring at least two quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat with a heaping teaspoon of salt. Add the trimmed green beans and cover until water returns to the boil. Once boiling, cook the beans until tender but not soft. This will take as little as a minute for small beans and up to seven minutes for larger ones, so check often. Drain and rinse for a minute under cold water. Allow to stand in a colander while you prepare the dressing.
In a bowl large enough to toss the beans, add all of the remaining ingredients except for the sesame seeds. Whisk until smooth, then add the drained beans. Toss gently to coat all of the beans completely.
Cover with plastic wrap and allow to stand on the counter for thirty minutes, tossing every ten minutes or so, before serving. Garnish with sesame seeds.
* Easily located at any Japanese grocery or on the interwebs. Yes, the brand matters. Yes, it’s full of MSG. No, MSG will not kill you.
It’s no wonder the ancient Chinese fetishized peaches. In both form and texture, they are sensual to the point of being fruit porn. An electric bite of sweet, tart perfume and impossible juiciness that has the power to transport you to the outer reaches of ecstasy.
You won’t be surprised to learn that I anxiously await that first Sunday of the summer when the gals from Tenerelli Orchards will appear at the Hollywood Farmers Market. Theirs are the best peaches, plums, and nectarines this side of the Mississippi so far as I’m concerned.
My peach galette* is an homage to the Tenerelli’s fruit and uses only the barest amount of sugar, allowing the peaches to shine in all their summer splendor. You’ll be amazed at the sheer depth of flavor that can be extracted from fruits baked in this manner. You’ll also be amazed at how little work goes into such a memorable dessert.
* Galette is a fancy word for a flat pie.
This recipe yields dessert for four to six on its own, eight if accompanied by ice cream.
Preheat oven to 425º and set a rack in the middle position.
If using peaches, peel them like an apple using a very sharp paring knife. Nectarines can be baked with the skins on. Slice each fruit into sixteen wedges.
Roll dough out to 13-inches and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush lightly with sunflower oil or melted butter.
Leaving an inch border all around, sprinkle some of the sugar lightly over the entire round of dough. Use the rest of the sugar to create a perimeter as shown.
Lay peach wedges in concentric circles, starting from the outside with the tips of the wedges just within the perimeter of sugar. Lightly brush the peaches with sunflower oil or melted butter and then sprinkle over the allspice.
Fold edges like a stop sign, with the crease right at the sugar perimeter. Place in the oven immediately and bake for 40 minutes or until the bottom is golden brown and center bubbling. If the edges are dark but the center still not bubbling after 40 minutes, lower oven to 375º to finish baking.
Cool for five minutes on a wire rack before cutting and serving.
Poundcake is the little black dress of desserts. Enjoyed for its splendid simplicity or made part of a larger ensemble, it is always an effortless star. My poundcake light as air and twice as tasty. Cinnamon brings an exotic perfume to the classic, and European style (Plugra or Kerrygold) butter is worth the splurge when you want to impress.
I cannot help but admire a deceptively simple cake whose name enshrines an entire recipe in one word. The pound in poundcake is a reference to how much of each of the main ingredients (eggs, flour, butter, and sugar) are required. It’s another way of saying, “a cake of equal parts eggs, flour, butter, and sugar.”
That sounds a lot like a ratio. And you know I love a good ratio in the kitchen! See the one that underlies this recipe here.
This recipe yields one 10-inch Bundt or two 4-cup loaves.
Brown Sugar Poundcake
336g cake flour
18g baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional but highly recommended)
336g unsalted butter, room temperature
336g brown sugar
6 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 325º and set the rack in the middle position. Lightly grease your pan(s) with butter.
Weigh all the dry ingredients and butter into the work bowl of a stand mixer. With the cake paddle attachment, mix on low until the butter is completely incorporated and the mixture resembles damp sand.
Beat eggs and vanilla together in a bowl and then add to flour mixture. Beat on #2 for a minute. Stop mixer and scrape down the edges of the bowl with a silicon spatula. Beat on #4 for 30 seconds and then scrape the bowl down again. Beat on #4 for a minute.
Scrape batter into pan and smooth with spatula. Rap the pan on the counter three or four times to dislodge any air bubbles and then place in oven.
Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack for 20 minutes. Turn poundcake out and cool, still on the rack, for at least an hour before cutting.
I’m a huge fan of custard in all of its forms, no less so than in pies and tarts. Each lightly sweet, eggy, jiggly bite of my almond custard comes with the snapping crunch of buttery, flaky crust. Their marriage is divine.
It was a surplus of almond milk that brought this riff on the custard tart to life. Normally I would use half-and-half in such a creation. Arguably this dairy alternative yields a relatively healthier dessert. The almond milk also gives the final custard a consistency not unlike trembleque – much more wiggle than the classic made with cream.
It’s worth noting that this custard follows perfectly the ratio you can find in my Kitchen Grimoire.
This recipe yields one 9-inch pie.
Almond Custard Pie
All-Butter Pie Crust
4 large eggs
112g brown sugar
1/4 ts salt
224g plain, unsweetened almond milk
1/2 ts almond extract
1/2 ts vanilla
Prepare All-Butter Pie Crust. Roll and blind bake (detailed instructions below) crust. It’s important that the custard be ready to go the second the crust is finished blind baking. Also, the egg you reserve in the next step is what you’ll use to glaze the crust, so get it ready pronto!
To start the custard, beat eggs in a medium bowl until pale yellow. Scoop out about a tablespoon of beaten egg into a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Add the rest of the ingredients to the remaining eggs and whisk to combine. As soon as the egg glaze is set on the crust, pour the custard mixture into the shell and return to oven. Immediately reduce oven to 325º and bake for 50 minutes. Pie is done when center jiggles like Jell-o or reads 175º on an instant-read thermometer.
Cool completely on a rack. If it won’t be consumed within four hours of baking, cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to three days.
To Blind Bake Crust
Rather watch than read? Try the video demo!
Before beginning, make sure the dough has rested in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Wrap a clean tea towel, or other lintless towel, around a cutting board that’s at least 13-inches square. Lightly dust it with flour. Unwrap the rested dough, place it in the center of the towel, and dust it lightly on each side with flour.
Gently slap the dough with the rolling pin to flatten it into a disc about 8-inches around. Dust the top of the disc with flour, turn it over, and dust it again. Apply moderate pressure and roll from the center of the dough up and then from the center down. Turn the dough 90º clockwise and repeat. Every time you complete a full circle (four turns), run your hand under the disk to make sure it’s not sticking. Every two complete rotations, flip the dough over. Continue until you have a 13-inch circle. Trim to a 13-inch circle using a very sharp knife or straight razor blade.
If it sticks a bit, and it will, dust lightly with flour, flip, and dust lightly with flour again. Should the dough become too soft, place in the freezer for five minutes to firm it up.
Fold finished dough circle in half, then gently lift and place into tart or pie pan. Unfold the dough to completely cover the pan and center it. The dough must now be settled into the pan so that it’s not stretched in any spots. Stretched dough will shrink in baking and ruin your afternoon. To avoid it, gently run your fingers under the edge of the dough and allow it to settle completely into the pan. You want to see a tiny bit of sag where the dough comes into the bottom of the pan.
With your fingers, gently press the dough into the sides of the pan. Fold the overhanging dough, you should have a bit less than an inch, under itself and press firmly to seal the edge. Don’t worry about forming the border now. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425º and place a foil-lined cookie sheet on the middle rack.
Remove dough from fridge, and remove plastic wrap. Quickly work the border into a semblance of evenness by pinching with your thumb and index finger. If you have a lipless pie pan (usually glass), as you’re evening the border, squish it down a bit so that no more than 1/4-inch is above the rim of the pan. With a fork, poke holes about 1/2-inch apart all over the bottom and side of the crust.
Gently mold a piece of aluminum foil into the bottom of the crust, pushing it carefully but completely into the sides. Be certain not to fold down the edges of the foil or they will make a mess of your border. Fill the foil evenly with rice or beans, immediately place on waiting cookie sheet, and bake for 25 minutes.
Remove crust from oven. Gently pull foil from a portion of the edge and check to see if the crust has set. If it looks dry almost to the bottom, you’re good. Otherwise, return to the oven for ten more minutes. An easy way to tell if the pastry is done is to pull the foil back enough to expose a bit of the bottom at this point. Sides that look mostly like the bottom does aren’t done! The whole point of this exercise is to keep the crust from slipping into the pan, rendering itself useless, or shrinking like a wool sock in a hot dryer. Your patience will be rewarded. Finally, if at any point the exposed edge of the crust looks like it’s burning, lower the oven by 25º.
When the sides of the crust are dry and set, gather the corners of the foil and lift it out, beans/rice and all. Rest the foil on a heat-proof plate to cool. Poke only the bottom of the crust once more with a fork and return to the oven to finish baking. This will take about 15 additional minutes. The crust is done when the entire bottom is deep, golden brown on the inside of the pan. This is critical. The deep, golden brown means the crust is fully cooked. It will not cook further when it gets filled with custard because physics. A crust insufficiently baked now will be a staggering disappointment later.
You’re almost done!
With a pastry or sauce brush, spread the beaten egg reserved when the custard was made onto the inside bottom and sides of the crust. Bake for five additional minutes.