Vietnamese Coffee Sticky Buns

There are two beautiful things about being on a diet. The first is obviously that you lose weight and in a healthier way. The second is that you continuously develop cravings for things you know you should not be eating, and that is a wonderful basis for some really delicious desserts. These sticky buns are yet another biproduct of consuming spinach smoothies and bland chicken breast salads. Specifically, I was craving a pillowy, doughy pastry drowned in a sweet cream cheese glaze. And when it came to the flavor, it just made sense to go with coffee, since a. I would normally have a sticky bun/cinnamon roll with coffee anyways, and b. I figured going with a coffee filling would help balance out said sweet cream cheese glaze. Between coffee and a sweet, dairy-based topping, I thought about doing Vietnamese coffee. I initially had the idea of making these with a mochi filling, then decided to go fully gluten-free instead, and make the base of these buns using mochi!

Vietnamese coffee is made using a French press, resulting in a super intense hit of caffeine. It is paired with sweetened condensed milk as a way to contrast the bitterness and when served with ice, is quite pleasant to drink on a hot day. I can attest to that. When it came to the buns themselves, I was in a bit of a sticky situation. I wanted to make them with yeast, but I also had no patience to bloom it. That and I wanted to try out making these buns with a dough that is more similar to a cake doughnut. So baking powder and buttermilk it was! The dough itself does not need any time to proof, just time to rest so that it holds its structure well when you are rolling and portioning it out. The filling is made by thickening espresso with cornstarch, then mixing that in with sugar to create this sticky-sweet-caramel-y goo that just enrobes the pastry. These sticky buns are a fun take on an American classic, and they are the perfect way to cheat on your diet and have your coffee and pastry, all in one!

For the coffee filling:
1/4 cup ground espresso
1 cup water, in three parts(can sub 1 part with milk if not using milk powder)
a pinch of salt
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup dark brown or granulated sugar
1/4 cup milk powder

In a pot, heat up the espresso with two parts of water and the salt. Traditionally, you can also use a French press, but I know not everyone has that. In a bowl, dissolve the cornstarch into the remaining water(or milk). Pour the cornstarch mixture into the coffee mixture and whisk on medium-high heat until everything is thickened to the point where your mixture resembles chocolate pudding. Pour through a sieve to remove the coffee grounds(obviously skip this step if you used the French press). Allow the mixture to fully cool down before mixing it into the brown sugar and milk powder to form a spreadable paste.

For the dough:
1 1/2 cups mochiko
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla

Mix together 1/4 cup of your mochiko with the water. Microwave that mixture for 1 minute. In a bowl, mix all of your ingredients together to form a dough. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Then roll out your dough into a rectangle, roughly 8 inches by 6 inches. Spread the cooled down coffee sugar mixture over the dough and roll it up, along the width, to form a long and thin log. Cool down the dough for another 10 minutes in the refrigerator before cutting the dough into 12 pieces. Spread them out on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes. While still warm, make sure to smear the glaze over them.

For the condensed milk glaze:
4oz cream cheese
1/2 a can of sweetened condensed milk
a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Whip ingredients together to form your glaze. Spread over the still-warm buns so that the glaze will generously coat each one.

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