I know I have been teasing everyone for nearly a year on my Instagram with this recipe, but to defend myself a little, this recipe was first delayed because I really wasn’t too happy with it and then finally because I had some health issues that kept me out of the kitchen for a few months.
But I have finally gotten around to sharing this recipe with you just in time for those holiday gatherings.
Is it perfect? Nah, never. But it’s delicious and I don’t think I am going to get it any better anytime soon.
A little public service announcement, these buns will fill your kitchen with the aroma of coffee and have you entranced with watching them puff up in the oven as they bake so don’t blame me if you get lost in eating them 😉
These buns are both crisp and sweet on the outside, yet soft and fluffy underneath it with a salty buttery core.
The staples of coffee, bread and butter all in one simple package. 🙂
For those who have never heard of these bread buns before, they are known by various names around the world but the ones that made me fell in love with it was the buns served in the bakery chain ‘Pappa Roti’. With its crisp coffee cookie crust, soft fluffy bread and salty melted butter middles, it honestly was another instance similar to the Famous Amos cookies where the smell is simply irresistible and draws you in and thankfully the buns themselves delivered on the eating experience too.
So enough talk, let’s get down to it shall we?
As per usual, feel free to skip directly to the recipe down below, but if you want a better understanding and my thoughts on the recipe please read on.
There are 3 components to this recipe, and whilst it might put you off thinking… gosh, I have to make 3 things? The thing is, none of these 3 components are hard at all, so fret not and let’s break it down.
Bread: As with all my bread recipes, it is just a matter of letting your mixer do the work and allowing it to proof. There isn’t anything too tedious about this.
Filling: You will have to portion your butter for each of the bread.
Topping: It comes together in one bowl with a whisk. This can be whilst your bread is proofing.
See? Not too bad right?
This bread from start to finish might take around 3-4hrs depending on how warm your kitchen is and how active your yeast is.
Which means that if you start your baking in the morning you will have bread ready for afternoon tea.
Alternatively, if you are after some bread for breakfast, you could start the night before and follow the steps all the way until after you portion your dough balls and fill them with butter.
Instead of allowing the final proof to happen at room temperature before baking, you can cover them and let them proof in the fridge overnight instead.
If they do not fully proof to the right size whilst in the fridge, simply take them out in the morning and let them continue to proof until they are at the desired size. Top them with the coffee crust batter and bake them off as per normal.
Either option will produce delicious buns ready to be devoured.
But whichever option you may decide on, I do not advise baking these in advance. As with all breads, they are best eaten fresh. Whilst these may still taste good reheated, nothing compares to having them warm and freshly baked especially without any additive present in the bread.
Let’s start from the bottom up, and in this instance the base of this recipe is the most important component of the recipe to me.
The bread needs to be both flavourful and fluffy, tender but with a slight tension to it. Essentially, it shouldn’t just dissolve into nothing, we are after all having bread and not cake.
Most bakeries use preservatives and bread improvers to assist with achieving that ideal soft fluffy moist for days result. These additives increases the conversion of the starch into sugar and assist with the dough’s extensibility as well, but we aren’t going to use any in this recipe.
I know that the Tang Zhong and Yudane methods are both famous techniques that have gained popularity over the recent years. And whilst they may work with allowing the dough to stay moist for a longer period, it is important to understand why.
Why are we not using Tang Zhong and Yudane in this recipe?
To answer that questions we will need to talk briefly about what these are. Essentially Tang Zhong is the method of cooking flour with a higher quantity of water until a thick paste/roux forms. Yudane is the addition of hot water to flour in an approximately 1:1 ratio until a thick paste forms.
Both methods at it’s core is about cooking/heating the flour with water.
What happens when heat is applied is that this extends the ability of the amount of water the flour will be able to absorb. This means you are able to incorporate more water into your dough through the paste as the flour is able to absorb more water under heat.
However there is a naturally a consequence to this, otherwise why wouldn’t we just simply cook all of the flour?
I learned the hard way that what cooking/heating does is that it lowers the extensibility of the final dough that the Tang Zhong is added to. In short, if you are after something really fluffy and light, adding Tang Zhong will reduce the ability for the dough to extend and trap the air and allows for that magically “fluffy” existence.
What Tang Zhong and Yudane is great for is for adding moisture and softness. So the next time you decided to make bread, maybe have a play around with what you are after in your final product and adjust accordingly.
I wanted this bread to be both fluffy and soft without the need to add bread improvers. And I feel that the illusion of softness in bread comes from the air which is often ignored as a key part.
After all, the best comparison is that the same dough that isn’t well proofed will turn out dense and will never feel as “soft” as a well proofed “airy” bread even if they were both the same. The “air” is what gives it that soft impression.
That feeling of the dough collapsing under your tender touch, that’s what I want.
And the best way to incorporate air into your dough is to allow your dough to trap as much as as possible, pushing it to it’s limits without going too far. It’s a balance but I feel happy with my results in this recipe.
There are a few ways to increase extensibility, one is through moisture. A wetter dough will have the ability to stretch more without tearing as compared to a drier dough. If you had gone through the phase of sourdough bread making you will know what I mean with higher hydration doughs and those pockets of air.
I had adjusted this recipe to allow this to be manageable at home without any particular special technique needed. You just need to be firm working with this dough, and keep to the ingredients provided. (I illustrate this in my video of this recipe) This affects how sticky your final dough will be. It should be tacky but not sticky. It shouldn’t be wet either. If you are struggling, you can always add a touch of flour because humidity affects things too.
Another thing is the flour. You need to use bread flour for this recipe here. Trust me, I’ve tried others. 😉
I used all purpose flour in one of my tests to see if I could get a softer result, and whilst it was soft, it was too soft. The bread lacked structure and started collapse post bake after it cooled. Too much air trapped, without the ability to sustain those pockets of air with a good gluten net is also an issue. I used T55 flour in this particular recipe which is a bread flour, but any brand will work fine.
You will also notice that eggs have been used in this recipe. Eggs also increases the extensibility of the dough so please do not replace it otherwise you might affect the final texture.
There are a few things that add to the flavour and richness of the coffee bun.
Instead of using cream or milk to flavour the dough, milk powder is used. This is to add that milky creamy richness without adding too much liquid and also gives us more control over the ratios. 🙂
You might ask if perhaps you could leave out the milk powder, and unfortunately not. Leaving it out will result in a change in the texture and flavour of the final dough and using milk or cream as a substitute will also affect the final result.
If you aren’t keen on buying a bag of milk powder just for this recipe and are wondering what else you can do with the milk powder, you can use for recipes like my melt in your mouth pineapple tart or chocolate chunk cookies
Shaping it and putting it together
Working with the dough
As mentioned above, this dough is a rather sticky and soft dough which might tempt you to add flour when working with the dough. Depending on how humid your climate is, you may add a touch a flour. But the key with this dough is to work with it without adding flour as you want the dough to retain as much moisture as possible.
If you have a look at the video, you will see how tacky the dough is, but if you work firmly and do not linger, your fingers should not stick to the dough.
The Buttery Center
Now one of my favorite things about this bread is the moist butter core and ensuring the butter stays trapped requires a trick as well.
It’s nothing too hard, all you have to do is to wrap the butter in 2 layers of dough.
The butter gets wrapped in dough and the seams are closed. You then ensure the seam is facing upwards before wrapping the that with another piece of dough, this time round, because the wrapping goes on top of the closed seam, the final seam of the second dough is at the bottom thus trapping the butter within the dough and reducing the chance of leakage.
And as with everything, because you can actually taste the butter in the bread once baked, I strongly recommend using good quality salted cultured butter, the type that you would love to spread on your bread. The flavour that the cultured butter imparts just adds another dimension to the buns.
But whichever style of butter you end up going for, the key thing is to definitely use salted butter* as the flavour of the salt balances out nicely with the sweetness in the crust.
Now, if you are like me and love butter and are thinking, “why not double the amount of butter within the bread?” You could give it a go but I shall warn you that I have tried and for the most part, the bread is unable to hold that much better before it started to leak all over the place 😉 The most that I have been successful with was around 12g of butter but 10g is a rather nice whole number and a safe one as well.
*Note: If you do not have any salted butter at home, use good quality unsalted butter and add a small pinch of fine sea salt to the butter balls before you begin wrapping it in the bread dough. It’s always hard to control the saltiness when adding the salt externally so I recommend adding only a really small pinch of salt to your unsalted butter to ensure that you do not end up with a really salty middle
The Cookie Crust
After playing around of with a variation of balances, from thicker crusts, to thinner crusts to ones that were less sweet vs ones that were sweeter, I feel that I landed on one that I really like.
Whilst a thinner crust does result in a nice crisp layer, you don’t want it too thin as it the crust will soften rather quickly.
On the flip side, if you make the crust too thick, it may be too doughy.
What I am after is a crust that is crisp yet will shatter when you press into the soft bun beneath it.
And if you like a stronger coffee flavour, you can increase the quantity of coffee power that you use but I recommend starting with what is suggested in the recipe as whilst a strong coffee flavour sounds lovely, it can get overwhelming and be too strong (I tried it and preferred the dialed back version as seen in the recipe provided).
Also, when piping on the topping, you might be tempted to go heavy handed and really cover it all in a thick layer. What I urge you to keep in mind is that excess topping will eventually flow down the bread as it bakes and form “feet” at the bottom of the bread, so if you pipe on too much it will look like the bread is wearing a dress. Nothing wrong with the cookie dress but just something to keep in mind. 😉
Another key thing with this recipe is the balance of crunchy topping to soft dough.
Unfortunately my oven at home doesn’t allow me to adjust the top and bottom heating elements to their own unique temperatures and I am going to assume most of your ovens at home are similar to mine where the oven will only take one temperature setting.
As such my work around in this instance is to “hack it” by playing around with the bake time, bake temp and position of the racks.
You are probably wondering, why do I even care or want to set it to individual temps in the first place?
Well, to be honest this is where the whole balance comes into play.
To ensure that the top of the crust is crunchy we can’t under cook the cookie topping, however, by cooking it at a high temp to ensure we get a crunchy cookie crust, we risk having an over baked base at the bottom of the bread which will dry out the bread and also compromise on the “softness” of the buns.
So to have both crunchy and soft contrast, we are going to preheat the oven at a higher temperature, lower the temperature when the dough goes in so that the oven doesn’t actually turn on until the temperature gets too low. Having the buns bake on the top third of the oven means it is further away from the base heating element and closer to the top heating element which helps lower the chance of drying out the bread. And finally we turn on the grill function to give it a quick blast of heat. This will crisp up the top and keep the bottom from cooking as quickly as it would if it were positioned in the middle of the oven.
I know it sounds complex but it is rather simple, we just need to preheat the oven at 180C with the rack placed on the top thirds of the oven. Drop the temp to 140C when the buns go in, and then turn on the grill function in the last 2-3 mins.
If your oven doesn’t have a grill mode, during the grilling period of this bake, turn your oven to the mode which only has the top heating element activated and turn the temp of the oven up to the maximum temperature.
If your oven runs really hot and burns the buns instantly, you can switch to just the top heating element in the last 3 minutes and turn the temp up to 200C.
Once baked, we will leave them to cool on the tray as they are too soft to handle and cooling it on the tray means the moisture gets trapped within the bread as it has no gaps to escape from.
These are best enjoyed warm and will stay crunchy for a day uncovered or in a paper bag.
But for longer storage, freeze the buns and reheat them in the oven for 6-8mins at 180C. If you store the buns in a ziplock bag or airtight bag, the moisture will be trapped in the buns and will make the crust soggy. You can reheat it again to crisp them up if that happens.
In short, there is a summary of the baking process:
- Preheat oven to 180C convection mode with rack on the top third of the oven
- Place buns into the oven and lower heat immediately to 140C and bake for 10 mins
- Turn on grill mode with oven switch to highest temp after the 10mins and grill for 3 mins
(Keep your eye on it as different ovens work differently and you do not want to burn it. It is always easier to work out the right timings for your oven after you have done one batch and know what works best for you)
Pappa Roti / Roti Boy / Mexican Coffee Buns
Makes 6 buns
What you’ll need
- 200g bread flour
- 40g white sugar
- 4g salt (3/4 tsp approx)
- 35g milk powder
- 90g water, room temp* (please see updated note below)
- 1 large egg, room temp (50g approx without shell)
- 7g instant yeast (approx 2 tsp)
- 20g unsalted butter, soft
- 67g unsalted butter, soft
- 80g white sugar
- 1 large egg, room temp (approx 50g without shell)
- 3 tsp espresso coffee granules (4-5g) mixed with 7g boiling water
- 85g all purpose flour
- 6 x 10g good quality salted butter, fridge cold
(alternatively, you can use good quality unsalted butter and add a pinch of salt to the butter before wrapping it)
To make the bread dough, place all the ingredients minus the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook or beater attachment.
*If you are kneading this by hand, this would be a really tricky dough as it is really soft and sticky so I advice not doing it by hand unless you are experienced with working with such doughs.
Knead on medium for 8-10 minutes until the dough has some strength and elasticity to it, add the butter and continue to knead for another 5 minutes or until you are able to stretch the dough to pass the window plane test and is able to stretch to a really thin membrane when softly tugged like shown in the video. Each machine is different and the timing will vary so please go by consistency.
Shape it into a ball and let proof covered for 1hr or so until slightly more than doubled.
Whilst the dough is proofing, be sure to divide your butter into 10g pieces if you haven’t already done so and leave the butter in the fridge until you need it to ensure it remains cold and easy to work with.
Once the dough has proofed, remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 6 equal pieces (I like weighing each piece)
Divide each piece into 2 parts
1 piece should be around 1/3(A) in size whilst the other will be the remaining 2/3(B). We will then use the smaller piece to wrap the butter.
Taking the smaller piece of dough (A), press it out with your palm and stretch it. Place the cold butter ball in the middle and wrap the dough(A) around it like you would wrap a dumpling and seal it tightly by pinching the dough(A) together. This is to ensure that the butter doesn’t leak out of the dough(A).
Next, take the remaining 2/3 of the dough(B) and stretch it out.
Wrap the 2/3 dough(B) over the seam of the butter dough(A) (imagine encasing the dough so it reduces the chances of the butter leaking) and seal it up. What you should have now is the seam of the butter dough(A) should be facing up whilst the seam of the large encasing dough(B) faces down. (Please refer to the video for a visual reference)
Roll it tight to ensure it forms a ball and set aside whilst you repeat this process for the remaining dough.
Once all 6 have been shaped, place it onto a baking tray lined with baking paper with ample space between each dough. (At least 4-5 inches between each dough ball, these will expand quite a bit)
Cover and let proof for 1-1.5hrs or until more than double in size (I shared a visual reference in the video). The proofed dough should be really pillowy and look really soft. (I proof my dough in this second around at around 28C when possible)
Whilst your dough is proofing, preheat your oven to 180C convection with the rack on the top 1/3 of the oven.
In the meantime, make the coffee topping.
Before beginning, dissolve the coffee granules in the 7g boiling water and set aside. This will be your coffee flavouring.
In a bowl, add the soft unsalted butter and sugar together and whisk. Once creamy, add the egg and coffee flavouring (above) and whisk until it’s fluffy and holds a peak. It might take a few minutes if you are doing it by hand. The mixture might look broken at first but it will start to come together.
At the flour and whisk until incorporated. Transfer the topping to a piping bag or a sandwich size zip-lock bag. You can massage the bag to press out any big air bubbles that is within the mixture to ensure a smoother piping process but it’s optional. Set this aside on your bench until needed, do not refrigerate as this will firm up in the fridge.
Once the dough has proofed, cut a small hole in the corner of your ziplock bag or your piping bag and pipe the topping on. It doesn’t have to be perfect but you want to ensure that at least the top 3/4 of the bun is fully covered. You might not need to use all of the topping but you want to ensure that it is properly covered as per the video.
Place your tray into the preheated oven (your oven should have been preheated to 180C), close the door and immediately reduce the temperature to 140C and bake for 10 mins. After 10 minutes, switch your oven to the grill mode (for my oven I have to increase the temp to the maximum and turn the knob to the grill function) and grill the buns for 3 minutes.
(Keep an eye on it if you are concern it will burn as every oven heats up differently and you do not want to burn the bread. Please see notes above in ‘The Baking’ section on alternative grilling/baking suggestions)
Remove from the oven and let the buns cool on the baking tray.
These buns are best enjoyed whilst warm.
Freeze for longer storage and reheat in the oven as per the note above when you wish to eat them.
15/12/21: Post updated with additional baking alternatives to grilling
22/12/21: Post update: If you are living in a humid country, hold back on 10-15g of water and add a little at a time towards the end if your dough is a little try to ensure your dough is not too wet.
Please do not use this recipe for commercial purposes
21 Comments Add yours
Hi! I live in Indonesia and 65g water is enough for the recipe! Myabe this could help someone out there who wants to make the recipe! Its so humid here. Checked in google and its around 72%
What if I am using a convection oven? What should the temperature be for baking?
Thank you for such a brilliant recipe and detailed information! The bread is delicious!