Korean Coffee Buns (Roti)

Roti - Coffee Buns

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)
3g salt
68g unsalted butter, room temperature
186g milk, warmed to about 90º

85g unsalted butter, room temperature
25g white sugar
3g molasses
2g vanilla

4g instant coffee powder
12g hot water
91g unsalted butter, room temperature
85g powdered sugar
1 egg
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 Sunflower Wafers

Sesame Sunflower Wafers

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
8g salt
45g raw sunflower seeds
40g toasted sesame seeds
18g sunflower oil
185g water

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.

Basic Biscuits

Rye Biscuits

My basic biscuits are the Platonic ideal of crisp exterior with a meltingly fluffy, wheat-perfumed interior. Each bite is its own pat of butter. I choose to believe it’s because I don’t use milk, which lets the butter really sing out. I also choose to believe that they’re “light” for the same reason. A big spoonful of blueberry jam or honey on top of one of these, and your day is made, whether or not you buy into my beliefs on the matter.

Biscuits are the gateway to all things crusted, flaky, and delicious. There’s a lot to be said on the science and technique of making them, but honestly, it’s best not to think about it too much. Use a scale to weight your ingredients, keep the butter and water cold, and you’re gonna be fine.

A food processor makes biscuits nearly-instant. But a pastry blender will work just as well. Everything’s the same, except you’re doing all of the work by hand. Fun!

This recipe yields nine generous biscuits. It also illustrates a kitchen ratio in the simplest terms possible.

Basic Biscuits
300g a/p flour
15g baking powder
9g salt
200g water, cold
100g unsalted butter, cold

Preheat oven to 450º and set a rack in the lowest position.

Weigh flour, baking powder, and salt into the work bowl of your food processor. Weigh butter onto a plate, cut into half-inch cubes, and return to fridge. Weigh water into a pre-chilled cup and return to fridge.

Pulse* dry ingredients together three times to combine. Those going the manual route will want to use a whisk or fork.

Add butter and pulse three more times. Use a fork to dredge the flour to check the size of the pieces of butter. If more than a couple are bigger than a peanut, pulse one more time.

If you’re using the pastry blender, the idea is that you press the blades into the butter to cut it up. Dust the blender with flour before you start and between each cut to keep the butter from sticking too much. Clear the blades with a fork inserted from the top when they get clogged. Stop when no more than a couple of pieces of butter are larger than a split pea.

Add the water all at once. In the food processor, pulse six to eight more times, or until the flour just begins to clump together like little bits of buckshot or roe. For the manual crowd, stir with a fork until the dough forms into a ragged clump, then push it into the side of the bowl with a large spoon until it holds together in a ball.

No matter how you mixed it, turn the dough out onto a clean tea towel. Keeping your hands on the underside of the towel, and thus away from direct contact with the dough, knead the dough into a smooth ball. Put otherwise, press the dough together from opposite directions until it stops cracking when you do that. Once smooth, form it into roughly 5-inch square, fold the towel around it, and stash it in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Remove dough from fridge, lightly sprinkle a half teaspoon of flour on one side, turn it over, and repeat with another half teaspoon of flour. The dough is incredibly soft, so rolling lightly with a floured pin directly on the tea towel, get the square to about 1 1/4-inch thick. If you don’t have a rolling pin, don’t despair, just use your hands to press the dough. But work quickly so you don’t melt the butter!

Cut the dough in a tic-tac-toe pattern and immediately transfer to the parchment, maintaining the 3x3x3 arrangement with a half-inch between each biscuit. Pop into the oven and bake for twenty minutes or until golden brown on the top and deep brown on the bottom. For perfectionists, you want an internal temperature of 210º.

Cool for five minutes on a rack and devour. There’s no such thing as a biscuit that stores well, so you’ll just have to eat what you bake within the day. Poor you.

* For our purposes, a pulse is a press on the “pulse” button of your food processor that takes only and exact “one hippopotamus.”

** The biscuits in the recipe’s photo are made with rye flour. Like my 3-2-1 cookies and brownies, this recipe is built for experimentation. You can substitute up to thirty percent of the all-purpose flour for any other flour imaginable. Add up to a half cup of grated cheese or little seeds. Herbs and spices as you see fit. You could bake them every morning from now to eternity and still not exhaust the possibilities.