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Soft Coffee Roll

Updated: Oct 4, 2020

Try this Soft Mexican Coffee Butter Roll with the Tang Zhong Method. This Coffee Roll has a salted butter in the centre and a sweet bitter coffee topping. The final product is a rich coffee soft roll with salty buttery goodness. This is a really good recipe that gives you a soft sweet roll that stays that way for days. Most bread goes dry and stale after a day or so, the Tang Zhong method helps retain its shelf life and if you have not heard of it before and is interested to know, give this a go!

In the recipe below, I will be sharing with you the not so secret Tang Zhong method in bread making. This method is not well recognised in the western culture but in Asia, it is widely used in their bread.

Tang Zhong refers to a water - flour roux mixed and heated until it swells. This method is adapted from Japan in bread making and it is the secret in keeping Asian bread rolls soft and spongy for a longer period of time. Another tip for a soft roll is using a combination of bread flour and cake flour. Commonly when making bread, bread flour is used because of its high protein content that help in holding on to the structure of the bread during baking which is important to prevent the bread from collapsing. In Asian bread, a combination of bread flour and hi-ratio flour/cake flour are used because of the way hi- ratio flour are treated that allows it toretain a lot of moisture/liquid, yielding a soft pillowy bread roll.

This bread stays soft even after 5 days and if you do have leftover from the day that you baked it, it is best served slightly warmed up in the oven.

How does Tang Zhong Works

Thang Zhong refers to a water & flour roux made by heating the both together until it becomes a gooey mass. When flour are heated with liquid, the starch will start to swell and absorb the water content and this is also termed as gelatinization of the starch. When we make Tang Zhong to add in the bread recipe, we are basically pre gelatinizing the starch that naturally exist in the flour. The common amount of flour used to make a Tang Zhong is around 5 % of the total flour from the original recipe and the liquid used from the original recipe is approximately five times the amount of the 5% flour.

When the flour and water are heated, the starch pre gelatinizes and absorbs the liquid. When starch in flour gelatinizes, it hold on to all the water it has absorb. The Tang Zhong is then cooled slightly before being added in to the rest of the bread mix. What this does is it retains the water that it absorbed and this helps the final dough to become softer and prevent the baked bread from getting dry too quickly. It is also thought that Tang Zhong helps the dough rise more when being baked because the extra water helps to give it the extra kick when it starts to evaporates from the dough in the oven, I have still yet much more experiment to do to second that but even if it does not give it the extra rise, it definitely keep the rolls soft for longer.

In the recipes below, the flour, water and milk have already been subtracted for the Tang Zhong so you don't have to take anything out from the recipe, just follow as it is.

Bread Flour v Cake Flour

If you are not familiar with the types of flour there are out there, predominantly bread or cake flour are made from wheat; bread flour comes from hard wheat and cake flour from soft wheat. Without going in to too much theory here, which will be discussed in one of my lessons blog soon, the best way to differentiate bread flour and cake flour is the protein content. Bread flour generally consist of protein content of 12% onwards, whereas cake flour as a protein percentage of 7 or 8%. The protein level in a wheat flour is important to understand because it is an indication on the level of gluten in the flour. The higher the protein level, the tougher the dough or cake is and vice versa.

In the recipe below, I have mixed bread flour with cake flour and this is often done to make a type of flour called the all-purpose flour that you may find in the supermarket. The downside about using a straight all-purpose flour that you buy from the supermarket is you often are not given the information on how much of each flour is in the mix. A lot of time if you do not have all-purpose flour at hands, plain flour can be used as a direct substitute.

When it involved bread making, I would not recommend using plain flour or at least not entirely just plain flour as it does not have enough gluten structure to hold its shape when baked.

In the recipe below, I use a combination of bread flour and cake flour. Bread flour gives it enough strength to hold on to its structure and cake flour are commonly chemically altered to allow it to absorb more water than a normal plain flour could and this can help the bread maintain its softness for a longer period of time.

If you can't get your hands on cake flour, feel free to use all bakers flour or substitute the cake flour with plain flour.


Makes 8 x buns

Coffee Toppings

Unsalted Butter 60 g

Sugar 90 g

Eggs 1 egg

Plain Flour 65 g

Coffee mix 10 g hot water + 10 g instant coffee granules

1. Start by making the coffee mix by stirring the hot water with the instant coffee. If you have an espresso machine, you can just add in 20 g of espresso.

2. Soften the butter with a wooden spoon, add in the sugar then whisk in the eggs until the mixture comes together. If the mixture looks like it is starting to split, add in half of the flour and gently whisk to combine.

3. Whisk in the coffee mix then the rest of the flour. Transfer the topping mix in to a piping bag.

4. When the bread dough have finished its final proof, pipe spirals on top of each bun before baking.

note: For better piping consistency and control, if you are working in a hot ambient kitchen, place the coffee toppings in a piping bag resting in the fridge before use.


Salted Butter Fillings

Unsalted Butter 120 g

Salt 5 g

Soften the butter and mix in the salt. Divide the butter in to 8 x 15 g butter and roll them in to a ball. Place in the fridge to chill until ready to use.

You can use salted butter for this recipe without adding the additional salt. I tend to never have salted butter in my pantry because I like to adjust the amount of salt I put in my recipes. So, if you only have salted butter, feel free to substitute.



Makes 8 x buns

Tang Zhong

Water 50 g

Milk 50 g

Baker's Flour 25 g


1. Place all the ingredients in to a pot over low heat. Keep stirring the mix until it thickens.

2. Remove the pot from the heat, transfer the roux on to a bowl, cover and leave to cool.

3. The paste should be like a semi translucent thickened paste, it looks something like glue.

Final Dough

Tang Zhong Above recipe

Bakers Flour 12% Protein 250 g

Biscuit Flour 8 -9.5% Protein 70 g

Malt 15 g

Instant Yeast 10 g

Sugar 60 g

Salt 2.5 g

Milk 130 g

Butter 110 g

1. When the Tang Zhong mix have cooled down, start making the final dough.

2. First, activate the instant yeast by heating up the 80g of the milk and adding 1 teaspoon of sugar from the recipe until it is roughly around 28°C to 30°C, and then whisk in the yeast. Leave the mix at room temperature for roughly about 15 to 20 minutes until they become frothy and looks like a light sponge.

Note: You can definitely add in the instant yeast without the frothing process. I sometimes bulk buy my instant yeast and have them ready whenever I need them. By doing the frothing process, it just gives me a peace of mind that my instant yeast is still alive and is not expired. However, if you are using active dry yeast, you must go through the yeast activating process.

3. In a stand mixer bowl, mix the flours, yeast sponge, malt, sugar, salt and the rest of the milk and start mixing with a dough hook attachment. Start mixing until they come together and forms in to a dough.

4. Gradually add the butter while mixing, a little cube at a time until they all come together. They will start to look like they are splitting but will come together again.

5. Once all the butter have been incorporated and there are no more lumps of butter, shape the dough in to a ball and transfer the ball of dough in to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel to bulk ferment. The dough should rise to double the original size. This process takes roughly about 40 minutes to an hour give and take depending on the environment your kitchen is in.

6. Once the dough have rise, transfer the dough on to a lightly flour bench, do not dust too much flour as this can dry out the dough. Knock out the air from the dough by gently pressing down on the dough but not too much.

Portion the dough in to 8 x 85 g dough and roll them in to a ball. Leave the individually portioned ball of dough covered on the bench for 5 to 10 minutes to relax. Then, press each ball down and roll them lightly flat with a rolling pin.

7. Place a chilled salted butter ball in the center of the flatten dough and start wrapping the dough around the butter and seal the bottom by pinching the dough close and then roll the balls against your other palm to smooth out.

Note: Make sure that you pinch to deal really tight otherwise too much of the butter will seep out during baking.

8. Place the roll on to a lightly greased tray leaving enough space in between for it to expand for the second proof and during baking.

9. Place a tea tower over the rolled rolls and leave to final proof. This process takes roughly around 20 to 30 minutes depending on the temperature of the room it is rested in.

10. When the balls of filled rolls starts to rise in size again roughly around 75% of the original size or when tapped lightly with your finger, it will gently dent and very slowly bounces back. If it bounces off too quick, it is not ready. But if the dent stays and hold, it is an indication you have over-proofed your rolls. Over-proofing is something you cannot undo, so make sure you check them every so often to make sure they are not proofed more than they need to, especially during summer days when the proofing process will take much lesser time.

11. Preheat the oven to 180°C on fan force.

12. Once the individual buns are ready, pipe a spiral of the coffee toppings, enough to cover the surface of the buns but not all the way down to the side. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes then turn the tray and bake a further 5 minutes or until the buns turn golden brown in color.



Here are some videos of the steps, I hope you enjoy them. Still a little sloppy with video making but I am definitely learning as I go.

Making the Tang Zhong (video)

Salted Butter Fillings

Making the Final Dough (Video)

After the dough is ready from bulk fermentation,

Portion and Pre-Shaping the dough

Filling the Rolls (Video)

When the rolls is ready from its final proof,

Coffee Topping and Piping (Video)


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