Just one whiff of these is enough to make my mouth water! These Coffee Buns have a fragrant coffee cookie shell that gives way to soft bread underneath.
Long before I started food blogging, I fell in love with coffee buns. The very first one I had as a little duckling was from a brand called Roti Mum, and I distinctly recall thinking it was one of the best breads I had ever eaten in my life. Coffee buns also possessed one of the most enchanting smells my nose has had the pleasure of sniffing. It’s this amazing combination of the scent of freshly baked bread, mingling with a deep, almost charcoal-roasted coffee aroma.
I actually think that coffee buns are what started my love affair with coffee.
It was impossible to escape the smell of these. It beckoned you into the store, and before you know it you already bought yourself a whole box of coffee buns! If you’ve never passed by any Kopi Roti and Roti Mum shops, I guess you guys would think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. Whip up a batch of this so you will understand what I mean.
When I first started learning how to make yeast breads on my own, coffee buns were high up on the priority list. The first time I attempted these babies (SEVEN years ago!), I thought the results were okay considering I was still quite a noob back then. I remember the domes of my coffee buns sinking after cooling down. I also remember that the coffee I used for the topping barely tasted like anything at all. But oh what a difference years of experience makes!
I’m not saying I’ve become an expert at making breads nowadays, but I will say I have learned a lot from all the bread-making I have done through the years. These coffee buns are one of the best things I have made to date, and it’s all thanks to the recipe from Rasa Malaysia. Even with my slightly botched first attempt, I never once thought to look for another recipe because I knew that I already had the perfect one in my hands.
And so here I am, staring at the screen and wishing I could smell and devour these coffee buns by picking them out of the photos.
These look, smell, and taste so much like store-bought coffee buns. If I had a lot of time in my hands I would probably make these at least once every month. Coffee buns are really one of my favorite things to indulge on!
The best part about coffee buns, aside from the fact that they have a fully delicious coffee taste, is that they go perfectly well with coffee. Hot coffee, preferably. I have always loved the way that the topping sucks in the coffee like a sponge when you dip the bread in. The moment you bite into it, the coffee squirts out from the bread in such a gratifying way. Oh man.
That’s enough discussion about how to eat these coffee buns, because I’m really starting to crave for them now. Let’s talk about how to make them!
I don’t think making these buns are difficult, although they do require some time and a number of steps. I can’t stress enough how worth it these are though, especially if you are very far away from any coffee bun or kopi roti stores. Some people call these Mexican Coffee Buns and while I have no idea about whether these did originate from Mexico, it’s incredibly popular in Asia. Luckily, this recipe doesn’t require you to make any Asian starter tangzhong pastes.
It’s a fairly straightforward butter-enriched dough recipe actually. You first mix together all your dry ingredients before adding in the egg and water to start the dough. Then you work the butter into the dough. The dough should be shiny and supple, and be a little bit sticky to the touch. I would rather have to deal with some slightly sticky dough during the shaping stage rather than add in more flour at the risk of making my bread less fluffy than I like. If you add in too much flour, you’ll get a tough bread.
If you’re not sure if it has enough flour, you can check to see if your dough is well-formed by doing the windowpane test. Take a little piece of dough and stretch it out into a thin membrane without breaking it. That’s an indication that the gluten is well-formed. (See pics in the recipe box below.)
Also, I highly recommend not skipping the milk powder. I know I listed it as optional in the ingredients list below because some people might not like it, but the milk powder adds a little something to the overall taste of the coffee buns methinks.
This dough rises up really really nicely after about 45 minutes in a cool warm place.
While your dough is proofing, it’s time to make the magical coffee topping. You’re going to make a coffee-flavored butter-based topping for your bread that’s sweetened by confectioner’s sugar. (This ain’t a diet-friendly bread, let me just say.) This is the thing that will spell the difference for your coffee buns so use good coffee powder!
I like to use Trader Joe’s Columbian Instant Coffee when I make this recipe and the results are always incredible. I love to drink that coffee to begin with. It surprised me not that it translates well into a coffee bun. Generally speaking, use coffee powder you like to drink, and use BLACK coffee powder, NOT 3-in-1!
Now that you’ve got your two main components ready, it’s time for the best part. Or second to the best part, because eating these is the best part. Let us prep these babies up for baking!
Punch down your risen dough and divide them into rounds. I ended up with 19 pieces of dough rounds with each weighing around 50 grams. Flour your work surface and your hands generously because these will be sticky to work with.
Flatten each ball slightly with a rolling pin, then place a cube of cold butter into the center. Wrap the dough around the butter, making sure to seal it inside. Cold butter makes this part easier to manage. Once you’ve finished filling all your dough with butter, leave your buns to proof another 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Once risen, it’s time to take your coffee topping, put it into a piping bag and get to work! Snip off about a 1/2 inch opening on the tip of your piping bag, and what you want to do is pipe the coffee topping in a tight circular pattern starting from the top of the buns down to about the middle part of the sides of your coffee buns.
You don’t want to pipe down all the way because that will be WAY too much topping. The point of this butter-based coffee topping is that once you put these into the oven, they will melt downwards and form a coffee shell over the buns. If you pipe until the bottom, the topping will just ooze down all over the place.
Here’s how they will look once they start cocooning the coffee buns as they bake:
This reminds me a little bit of the cookie topping from choux au craquelins. The best part about that topping is if you pipe on just a generous amount, you will get these excess bits of topping all around the bottom part of the buns. These are so good to break away from the coffee buns and munch on, you guys.
When I get a particularly big piece of extra coffee topping, I dip it into my coffee just because it sucks in all that coffee and makes a coffee explosion in your mouth!
Just forget your diets for a moment and ENJOY these. (I know I do, when it comes to coffee buns!) I swear you are missing out if you don’t. And just look at that soft and fluffy and beautiful bread interior! I swoon at beautiful crumbs like that.
Now that I have more mastery over making these buns, there was no way I would not make a post revisiting the process for you guys, so if you have any questions, just go right ahead and post a comment below. Or you can reach me at my other social media pages any time. Let’s spread the love for coffee buns!
Coffee Buns / Kopi Roti
For the buns
- 500 grams bread flour
- 80 grams caster sugar
- 9 grams salt
- 20 grams milk powder, optional but good
- 10 grams instant dried yeast
- 1 large egg
- 280 milliliters water
- 60 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the coffee cookie topping
- 1 tablespoon instant coffee/espresso granules
- 2 tablespoons very hot water
- 200 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 150 grams confectioner's sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
- 200 grams cake flour
- 1 tablespoon coffee liqueur, optional
For the filling
- 100 grams unsalted butter, cold
Make the buns
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together bread flour, sugar, salt, milk powder, and yeast. Attach the bowl to the stand mixer and attach the dough hook.
- In a measuring cup, mix together egg and water. Turn on the mixer at medium speed and gradually pour the liquid into the dry ingredients, kneading for about 10 minutes until the dough comes together.
- Slowly add in butter and continue kneading until you get a shiny and elastic, but tacky dough. (Resist the urge to add more flour to make the dough less sticky!) To test if the dough is ready, do the windowpane test. You should be able to stretch the dough into a thin membrane without breaking it.
- Transfer the dough into a lightly greased bowl. Cover with towel or clingwrap and leave to proof for at least 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
- Once the dough is ready, transfer the proofed dough onto a lightly floured surface. Punch dough down gently to release the air. Divide dough into 19 pieces, 50 grams each. (For 20 buns, weigh each portion into 47.5 grams.) Briefly roll each portion of dough into rounds and flatten into a circle using a rolling pin.
- Place 1 teaspoon (about 5 grams) of cold butter into the center of each flattened dough and seal the dough around it. Make sure to seal properly so butter won't leak out. Place seam side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and butter, placing each piece of dough at least 4 inches apart to give it plenty of room to expand. (I like to do at most 6 buns per tray.)
- Lay a towel or clingwrap over the buns and allow to proof for a second time until double in size, at least 45 minutes. About 20 minutes before the end of the second rise, preheat oven to 420°F (215°C).
Around this time, also prepare the coffee-cream topping
- In a small bowl, dissolve coffee in the hot water. Set aside for a moment.
- Place butter in a separate medium bowl then beat briefly until creamy, then sift in confectioner's sugar. Beat together with a whisk until well-mixed and pale in color.
- Gradually add in the lightly beaten eggs and beat until fluffy. You want the eggs to be at room temperature and you also want to introduce it gradually to avoid curdling. (I've skipped this step too many times and ended up with topping that wasn't as smooth, but it will still taste great!) Sift in the cake flour then use a spatula to fold in the flour.
- Add in the prepared coffee mixture and liqueur, if using. Mix until well-combined. (Refrigerate and let it come down to room temperature if you do this way in advance.)
Assemble and bake
- Once the buns have puffed up, transfer the coffee topping into a piping bag. Snip out a half inch hole at the corner and pipe out the cream in tight circles around the bun. Make sure each circle touches the circle just before it. Pipe all the way until the top half of the bun is covered.
- Once you complete your first tray, pop it in the oven to bake for about 18 minutes*, until the topping has fully melted over the dough and has turned into a shell. (In the meantime, pipe the topping onto next tray of buns.) Allow to cool and enjoy warm or at room temperature, with some warm or iced coffee of course. Buns are best the day they are made as the cookie topping can turn soggy after a while.