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.

Cretan Potato Omelette

Potato Omelette (August 1, 2016)

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
5 eggs
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).

Potato Omelette (August 1, 2016)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.

Caramel Belgian Waffles

Golden caramel waffles ready to pull from the waffle iron.

My friend Mikey brought this brilliant technique for dry caramelizing sugar to my attention last week. We decided to try it out last night at the Treehouse. With the joint suddenly smelling like an enchanted cookie forest, conversation turned to Liège waffles. For those who don’t eat them daily, Liège-style waffles are infused with this magic caramel produced by a fancy sugar

They’re sufficiently difficult that even I leave them to the professionals.

So here’s a riff on my favorite yeasted waffles (the yeast makes a more flavorful and smoothly textured waffle), using this fabulous new dry caramelized sugar. You can use brown sugar, too, and still have a great waffle. It just won’t be inspired. And really, don’t we all need a little inspiration with breakfast? Being for actual Belgian waffles this recipe is meant to be made in a Belgian (deep hole) waffle maker. For thinner waffle makers, I prefer to use my brown butter pancake recipe.

Anything more than whipped cream, and perhaps a drizzle of my dark chocolate sauce, is gilding the lily when it comes to topping these babies.

This recipe makes about a dozen 6-inch waffles.

Caramel Belgian Waffles
730g whole milk, warmed to body temperature
580g a/p flour
20 grates of nutmeg
7g instant yeast (1 packet)
3 eggs, separated
170g browned unsalted butter, cooled to no more than 100º
100g dry caramelized sugar or dark brown sugar
10g salt
8g vanilla

Prepare browned butter, as described in this cookie recipe that you should also be trying, an hour before you plan to mix the waffles.

Heat milk to about 100º, or the temperature you’d use for a baby’s bath, and set aside.

Weigh yeast into a small bowl and add 60g warmed milk. Stir to combine and set aside.

Combine flour and nutmeg in a bowl and set aside.

Beat the egg whites to soft peaks in a clean bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together yolks from separated eggs with 60g warm milk, sugar, salt, vanilla, and cooled browned butter. Whisk in the yeast mixture.

Add a third of the flour to the milk and egg mixture, then gently whisk until only pea-sized pockets of dry flour remain. Add half of the milk and gently whisk in until just incorporated. Add another third of the flour, mixing as before, then the rest of the milk, and finally the last of the flour. With a large spoon or rubber spatula, fold in the egg whites until barely combined. It’s okay if a few streaks of egg remain.

Cover the bowl with a plate or plastic wrap and aside for an hour. The yeast will cause the batter to double in size. This is good and normal!

About forty five minutes into the hour of rest you give the batter, get your waffle iron warming up. Carefully rub the inside of the iron with a clean paper towel and a little vegetable oil after the waffle iron cycles the first time. Always follow your manufacturer’s instructions when using your waffle iron!

Add enough batter to the waffle iron to come almost to the top of the peaks in the lower half, spread quickly to even, and close the iron. If you don’t have a waffle iron with a built-in sensor, you can tell they’re done when only a little bit of steam is coming out from the maker, usually about four minutes.

Waffles are best eaten immediately, and I promise, your guests will be happy to wait to get one fresh and hot from the waffle iron. Subdue the crowd with mimosas if they get rowdy.

Brown Butter Pancakes

Dad's Birthday Bakes (May 16, 2016) #

I’m going to be honest, pancakes used bore me to tiny bits. It wasn’t until I started making them using the ratio from my Kitchen Grimoire, and playing with the recipe, that I landed on this version and came to love the pancake.

Of course they’re stellar with a pat of good salted butter (it’s Kerrygold or nothing) and some warm maple syrup (the smokey richness of the syrup from Sleeping Bear Farm in Michigan is superior). If you’re feeling different, mix it up with fresh or cooked fruit, honey, and/or whipped cream. Or go truly wild, lay a little bit of everything out, and let folks go all pancake bar. See also: prep things the night before and dominate Saturday breakfast with the kids. Bonus point for getting them to help you out with the dishes.

The real flavor driver in these pancakes is browned butter. Check out my Molasses Spice Bombs to get the technique if it’s not already in your repertoire.

This recipe yields about 16 1/4 cup pancakes.

Brown Butter Pancakes
165g a/p flour
6g baking powder
2g powdered ginger
2g cinnamon
10 grates of fresh nutmeg
330g milk
3 eggs
3g salt
88g unsalted butter, browned and cooled for fifteen minutes

Prepare browned butter, as described in this cookie recipe that you should also be trying, and set it aside to cool while you prep the other ingredients. If you’re making it the night before, gently warm to melted before adding to the milk.

Weigh flour, spices, and baking powder into the larger of two mixing bowls. Whisk to combine. Weigh salt and milk into a second bowl, crack in eggs, and whisk to combine well. While whisking, drizzle in the browned butter. Be sure to get all of those little brown bits in the butter. That there is flavor country!

Add the wet stuff to the dry stuff and fold together with a large spoon or rubber spatula until mostly combined. Stop mixing when there are still some pea-sized pockets of dry flour. It’s gonna be fine. Mix the batter any longer, and you’ll have something more suited to a sneaker sole than a breakfast plate.

Let the batter rest while you heat a heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Non-stick pans will also do, but I wouldn’t try this in stainless steel for love nor money. Once the pan’s up to temperature, pour in a tablespoon of oil or butter, swirl around to coat, and then wipe out with a paper towel. Yes, wipe it out.

Now ladle in pancakes of your desired size. I like 1/4 cup pancakes, which spread to about 4-inches. Turn as soon as you see bubbles breaking and lightly set in the middle of the pancake, usually about a minute. Flip and cook for another minute. Wipe the pan with the lubed paper towel from earlier between batches.

If you’re making all at once to serve as a big stack, hold them in a 170º oven on a plate lined with a clean kitchen towel. These reheat better in the toaster oven than the microwave, if you’re into that kind of thing.