I Made a Coffee Sandwich

You know those days when you spend many hours baking some ridiculous dessert instead of preparing a healthy dinner? I just learned that there’s a hashtag on Instagram for this, “#Procrastibaking” which is what I did recently, in the most decadent and absurd way possible, when I asked ChatGPT to come up with a “coffee sandwich.”

First, the backstory. There’s a long gone bánh mì, Pho and filtered water shop called Lu Sub that used to sit between a pet food store and a laundromat on the Glendale Boulevard traffic sewer in Silver Lake. Their sign promised “Coffee-Sandwich Drinking Water.” A friend and I used to speculate about what a “coffee sandwich” would consist of every time we went past the place.

It took may years but I decided this month to bring some closure to this idle speculation. I based my prompt on the dessert sandwiches I ate on our recent trip to Japan. Typically, those sandwiches consist of a fruit and whipped cream filling served on fluffy Japanese milk bread called Hokkaido (北海道). I guess I could have invented a savory coffee sandwich (maybe pork with a coffee rub?), but instead I decided to go down the sweet path:

Me: Create a Japanese style dessert sandwich using bread with a coffee filling
ChatGPT: Certainly! Here’s a recipe for a Japanese-style dessert sandwich featuring bread with a delicious coffee filling:

Japanese Coffee Cream Sandwich


For the coffee cream filling:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brewed coffee, cooled
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules (optional, for extra coffee flavor)

For the sandwich:

  • 8 slices of Japanese milk bread (or any soft bread of your choice)
  • Butter, softened (for spreading)


  1. In a mixing bowl, beat the heavy cream with powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the brewed coffee with the instant coffee granules until dissolved. Then fold this coffee mixture into the whipped cream until well combined. Set aside.
  3. Take two slices of Japanese milk bread and spread a thin layer of softened butter on one side of each slice.
  4. On one slice of bread, spread a generous amount of the coffee cream filling.
  5. Place the other slice of bread on top to create a sandwich, butter side facing outwards.
  6. Repeat steps 3-5 with the remaining slices of bread and coffee cream filling, until you have 4 sandwiches in total.
  7. Optionally, you can trim off the crusts of the sandwiches for a more traditional Japanese-style presentation.
  8. Serve the sandwiches immediately, or chill them in the refrigerator for a firmer texture.
  9. Enjoy your Japanese Coffee Cream Sandwiches as a delightful and unique dessert or snack!

Chat GPT even delivered an editorial statement about the sandwich: “These sandwiches offer a perfect balance of soft and fluffy Japanese milk bread with a creamy and flavorful coffee filling, creating a delightful treat with a touch of Japanese culinary flair.”

I followed the recipe to the letter and made my own Hokkaido bread based on this recipe from King Arthur. Here’s what the completed coffee sandwich looked like:
And guess what? It’s was really, really delicious, the perfect balance of sweet and creamy with a coffee-forward flavor. Now if I wanted to refine this a bit more, I’d probably just look up a coffee frosting recipe and, perhaps, add some chocolate. The ChatGPT version was a bit too watery.
Naturally, instead of the hard work of refining this recipe, I decided to create a fake ad for my new coffee sandwich using Microsoft 365 and got this fairly convincing result:

The AI decided to add some mint and what looks like Nutella.

I spun the AI dice again and got another convincing ad depicting a thick coffee sandwich this time toasted and garnished with random chestnuts.

To head to a sidebar and editorialize for a moment, I’m finding AI useful for a few things: getting out of a stuck place during a creative project, math problems while doing carpentry, and filling out bureaucratic forms that are about style rather than substance (and that nobody will actually ever read). We’re in the midst of an AI hype cycle that many think will go bust soon leaving the technology for what it’s good for, things such as medical imaging, pharmaceutical development, and combinatorial analysis. It will likely be a component of products rather than an end in itself and it requires extensive guard rails and expensive coding in order to, for instance, not spout racist garbage or prevent legitimate queries about racism. Listen to this podcast episode for a nuanced discussion of the problems and benefits of AI

While I’d really love to tinker with this recipe and develop a thicker frosting I have to put aside the #Procrastibaking towards the goal of keeping off the fifteen pounds of pandemic pounds I lost recently. But I’d welcome any of you who want to take of the challenge of perfecting the coffee sandwich and taking it to market.

Special thanks to Sandwiches of History for the inspiration of using AI to create a recipe.

Here’s the Yelp for the now closed Lu Subs. While I’m not a fan of Yelp I find it useful as a kind of museum of long closed businesses.

Our Daily Bread: Sonora Sesame Za’atar Bread

In an effort to take off some pandemic pudge and eat more healthy we’ve been baking our own 100% whole wheat breads. The King’s Roost and a Mock Mill make this easy and convenient but you can also get decent whole wheat flour from Central Milling and King Arthur. On my last trip to the King’s Roost I accidentally bought a bag of Sonora wheat, a white whole wheat originally brought to the Sonora desert in the 17th century. It has a light yellow color and makes a delicious bread. Sonora wheat tastes great plain but, inspired by Josey Baker’s book, I’ve been adding additional ingredients for some variety. This week I added some sesame seeds and one of my favorite spices, za’atar.

Sonora Sesame Za’atar Bread
The night before mixing your dough create a pre-ferment:

56 g Sonora wheat (or any whole wheat)
67 g water
10 g sourdough starter

In a separate container soak 90 g of toasted sesame seeds in water.

In the morning mix together:

509 g Sonora wheat (or any whole wheat)
403 g 80º F water
13 g sea salt
sesame seeds
3 T za’atar

1. Mix the dough until all signs of dry flour disappear. While you’re mixing the dough heat a mason jar of water in your microwave. Place your mixed dough in the microwave to proof for a few hours. Stretch and fold the dough a few times every hour to shape into a rough loaf.

2. Once the bulk fermentation is sufficient, shape into a log and place in a greased bread pan (I use this one with Pam baking spray). Use a spatula to make some diagonal indentations and sprinkle the top of the loaf with some more za’atar.

3. Reheat your water and put the baking pan in the microwave to proof for an hour or two. When the dough is getting close to the top of the pan pre-heat your oven to 475º F.

4. Bake with the lid on for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and bake until the loaf is golden to chestnut brown, likely another 10 to 15 minutes.

Use Your Microwave as Dough Proofing Box

I don’t now why it took me so many years to realize that our kitchen temperature is too low for proofing bread. Most of the year here, except for the hotter months, our interior temps are in the 70sF (20sC). Bread wants to ferment in the 80sF (upper 20sC). Professional bakers either have a hot kitchen or proofing boxes to maintain this higher temperature.

If you’ve got a microwave you’ve got a proofing box. Just heat a mason jar filled with water for a few minutes and stick your dough in for both the bulk fermentation and proofing. If you don’t have a microwave you could heat some water on a stove and put it and your dough in a cooler. If you want to get really fancy you could use a seed propagation heating mat in a cooler. I don’t have a mat so I’ve been using the microwave and it works great.

There are reasons you might want to cool dough and prolong fermentation, either to develop flavor and/or to put off your baking time to a more convenient hour. Your proofing box and refrigerator thus become, to use an old person metaphor, like the fast forward and pause buttons on a VCR.

Concluding note
I’ve gotten back into bread baking after a pause, specifically making whole wheat breads. If you’d like to try baking yourself, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I highly recommend the Josey Baker Bread book. Why? It’s to the point, beginner friendly, has a lot of whole grain recipes, and is the book most likely to help you develop a regular bread baking habit.