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.

Hobnobbing With Home-Baked Hobnobs

I have a lazy and ridiculous fantasy of picking up cookbooks at the library and handing them off to a personal chef to cook from. That will not and should never happen. That doesn’t stop me from impulse checkouts when I’m near the Central Library’s exit. Such was the case when I picked up Milk Bar All About Cookies by Christina Tosi when I really should have check out something more healthy.

Using the excuse of having a friend over for drinks, I baked Tosi’s Chocolate Toffee Hobnobs, an improved version of the popular UK biscuit. I screwed up the toffee topping but substituted a chopped up Heath Bar. If I had to quibble I’d say the toffee making instructions could have been a bit more detailed. That said, this book will make you very popular around the holidays if not sooner. Most of the recipes, including the one for these Hobnobs, seem doable and a step above the usual cookie. A lot involve ironic takes on commercial products or make use of things like Ritz crackers and Cookie Crisp cereal.

You can find Tosi’s hobnob recipe online here. Now off to find a salad cookbook and take off a few pounds.

Browned Butter Peanut Butter Cookies


14 Tbsp/200 g unsalted butter
1/2 cup/100 g white sugar
3/4 cup/150 g dark brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp sea salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
1 large egg
2 cups/255 g all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup/240 g peanut butter

1. Preheat your oven to 375º F.

2. Here’s the secret of this recipe: brown the butter! Put the butter in the pan and brown it. Do this carefully. You have to use your nose and eyes to make sure the butter is browned and not burnt.

3. Mix the sugars, salt, vanilla extract, eggs and peanut butter in a bowl. Allow the browned butter to cool for a few minutes and add to the mix.

4. Mix in the flour. Do not over mix or you’ll develop the gluten and end up with a disagreeably chewy cookie.

5. Form the dough into balls, spread them out on a baking sheet and compress with a fork. Sprinkle some sugar and sea salt on top of the cookies.

6. Here’s the second secret of this recipe: don’t over bake! You want a moist, not hard cookie. Depending on your oven you’ll probably bake somewhere between 8 and 10 minutes.

This cookie is a pandemic accident. I set out to make Josey Baker’s chocolate chip cookie which is based on a recipe in Cooks Illustrated. What makes that cookie so good is the browned butter. I made my dough and went for the chocolate chips only to discover that we had no chocolate chips. Not wanting to risk the ‘rona with a run to the market, I reached for a cup of peanut butter and dumped it in. Success!

The New Homemade Kitchen

I have many fond memories of teaching bread baking classes for the late Joseph Shuldiner’s cheekily named Institute of Domestic Technology. Joseph had a unique formula for the curriculum of the IDT. I’d summarize as “stuff that you’d never think of doing from scratch but once you find out how easy it is your life will be transformed.” In addition to the aforementioned bread baking, the IDT offered classes in mustard, cheese making, jam making, coffee roasting, cocktail crating and much more.

Joseph gathered the recipes and collected wisdom of these classes into his posthumously published book The New Homemade Kitchen: 250 Recipes and Ideas for Reinventing the Art of Preserving, Canning, Fermenting, Dehydrating, and More just released this month by Chronicle. The section on cocktails is a good example of the IDT’s methods. Yes, you get a Martini recipe. But you’ll also be making your own vermouth and it will be easier than you think.

Then there’s the life changing chapter on coffee roasting. One of the perks of teaching at the IDT was getting to sit in on the other classes. This was how I learned to roast my own coffee in a Whirley-Pop roaster. Like a lot of IDT obsessions, roasting your own coffee simultaneously up-scales and bomb proofs your pantry. Green coffee can sit around for a long time and knowing how to roast it is a useful skill in our current crappening. In short, this book is very quarantine friendly both in the sense of having skills handy when supply chains are broken and having something more productive to do than binging Netflix.

In addition to coffee you’ll find chapters on pickles and preserves, baking, dairy, meat and fish, cocktails, fermentation and dehydration. You’ll also learn how to make your own mustard, ketchup, harissa, sriracha, preserved lemons, vanilla extract and much more.

Joseph was a gifted artist, designer, activist and photographer and the book reflects his ability to represent and explain, in clear language, information that can seem intimidating. I learned a lot about how to teach from working for Joseph. Many of the classes took place at the Altadena home of Gloria Putnam and Stephen Rudicel. They tended to be day long affairs with a lunch served to students and an after-party for the instructors. At the end of the day, over glasses of wine, we would review the classes we taught and figure out ways to make information clearer. Joseph was a team player with a thoughtful leadership style. I can still hear his laugh and miss him greatly. This book, for me, is a kind of time capsule of those happy days teaching at the IDT that felt more like attending a lively party than work. And I have this book to remember Joseph’s joyous spirit and knowledge.

Pegu Club: The Perfect Summer Cocktail

Don’t you hate those internet recipes with the book length introductions? So let’s get straight to the point. It’s hot, there’s a lot too worry about in this world and you need a cocktail. You need to make the Pegu Club your official summer libation.

Pegu Club Cocktail
1 1/2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce orange curaçao (or Triple Sec if you’re cheap like me)
1 teaspoon lime juice
Dash bitters

Shake with crushed ice, strain and serve in a martini glass with a slice of lime. The Angostura bitters will give the drink a pleasant, pink tinge and a flavor reminiscent of grapefruit.

Yes we’ve blogged about this vintage cocktail before. But I’ll repeat the backstory now that you’ve proved yourself to be one of the freaks who like to read verbose internet recipes. This was the house cocktail in the 1920s at Burma’s Pegu Club, a gentleman’s establishment for British Army officers and government officials. The cocktail faded into obscurity only to be revived during the heady early years of the vintage cocktail revival of the aughts. The cocktail went viral and even inspired a new Pegu Club in New York.

Now, really, put down your phone and go mix one.