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.

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