Recipe: Samoan Panipopo Coconut Buns
A popular, yet misrepresented, recipe is of panipopo, or coconut buns. There are many recipes on the Internet using ready-made dough, which is not authentic. An authentic recipe can be found by Lei Ne’emia. As with many people who “eyeball” in their cooking, Ms. Ne’emia’s recipe is similarly written. Here is a shortened version that hopefully will give similar results.
8 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c butter, softened
1/4 c sugar (add more or less to preference)
1/4 c dry active yeast
2 c warm water
In a large bowl, rub softened butter into flour and salt. Using of clean hands works best to create the silky, but not greasy, texture that is needed.
Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture. Pour the sugar in the middle.
In a smaller metal or glass bowl, dissolve yeast in really warm water. Avoid using plastic bowls for this recipe. Stir until the yeast is fully dissolved. Add more warm water if necessary. The yeast should be a milky gray color and smell like bread. Pour mixture into the well of sugar.
Using a wooden spoon, fold the ingredients together. Scrape from the sides of the bowl into the middle until everything is combined nicely. If necessary, add more warm water in to make the doughy consistency, but be sure it is really thick and sticky, like pancake batter.
Cover bowl with a damp dish towel and allow it to rise in a warm, dark place for one hour.
Now, the dough should have doubled in size and have holes in it. Spread flour onto a counter top or tabletop, a thick blanket of flour is good. Knead the dough working from the edges inward. Continue kneading flour to the mixture until it can form into a ball. Do not knead too long or the buns will not be fluffy, but dense like bagels.
Cover the dough again and allow to rise another hour.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the dough into chunks a little larger than a golf ball. Roll each chunk into thick “strings”. Tie each string into a knot. Place about 24 knots in each large cake pan. About two and a half to three pans will be needed.
2 cans pe’epe’e (canned coconut cream)
1 c flour
Fresh coconut cream is always best, but, when there are no coconut trees or coconut tree climbers to pick and crack open a coconut, it is okay to resort to canned coconut cream. A great coconut cream product is made by Kara.
Pour the coconut cream into a container.
In a small bowl, mix together flour and water to make a runny paste. Pour into container. Top off with more water to be sure there’s enough for all the pans. This mixture should be able to fill all the pans and cover at least half of the height of the buns.
Before pouring the mixture onto the buns, it needs to be sweetened with enough sugar to be a bit sweeter than you think it should be.
Pour the cream mixture onto the buns. Place the pans in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes. Be sure to check the cream to be sure it is not too dry. It has to have a chance to boil and the tops of the buns to golden.
While the buns are cooling, be sure to top it off with sugar water to prevent the buns from getting dry. Cover with foil or a damp cloth should work as well.
Best served warm in a shallow bowl with some extra sauce for dipping. Goes great with a warm drink like koko Samoa.
Coconut is a laxative if enough is eaten. Be sure to watch your intake!