Here is a brioche bread with delicious flavors of the Pacific. Pani popo is soft and light as a cloud, delicately scented with coconut, and comes straight from Samoa.
The cuisine of Samoa
Samoa, officially the Independent State of Samoa, is an independent state of Western Polynesia, in the South Pacific.
Occupying the western part of the Samoa Islands, the other part being under American administration, the Samoa Independent State comprises four inhabited islands: Upolu, Savai’i, Manono and Apolima and six uninhabited islets. Samoa is about 2,000 miles from the coast of New Zealand and 1,500 miles from Tahiti.
Samoans are among the most smiling and carefree people in the world. They love to sing, dance and laugh, but there are 3 topics you will never see any Samoan joking about: family, religion and … food.
Food in Samoa includes mainly tubers, coconut, tropical plants, fresh fruits, pork, chicken and, of course, fish.
The traditional Polynesian feast consists of cooking food in an umu (oven at ground level). The men of the house prepare the umu, an oven placed on the ground in the garden of the house and composed of river stones.
You will always find the unavoidable taro, a fundamental element of the Samoan diet, but also unripe bananas, breadfruit, palusami, another typical dish based on fish and meat. And in the umu, everything is covered with layers of banana and/or coconut leaves.
Kava, also typical from other Pacific islands, is a drink made from bell pepper roots that has a mild sedative effect. It is usually consumed at the beginning of village assemblies or at ceremonies.
What is pani popo?
Pani means bread and popo means coconut. Pani popo is a brioche bun that has the particularity of baking in a sweet sauce made from coconut milk.
It is basically a brioche made of several dough pieces in a mold, a bit like the buchty brioche of the Czech Republic.
The dough is then sprinkled with coconut milk before being baked. Although sweet, these brioche rolls are often used for preparing savory sandwiches and are often served with the remaining sauce at the bottom of the pan after baking.
A coconut-free pani popo is obviously not a pani popo and few recipes are as emblematic of Samoa as this delicious pani popo.
Coconut, its milk, and its cream are the key ingredients of many recipes in Samoa and all the Pacific cuisines. Indeed, coconut is the key ingredient of Samoan cooking. It is used in sweet preparations as well as savory preparations and as a seasoning.
Each part of the coconut is used and in all its forms: in addition to coconut cream and milk, the pulp is often cooked, eaten fresh or grated. Also, the coconut water with which people prepare a popular drink called niu, fresh and sparkling, is a winning drink against the heat.
The baking profession is a real profession of passion. It is about work, precision and a lot of love, but also to illuminate the daily life of those who will taste all these breads, brioches and pastries.
Ask me how I summarize my passion for dough, and I will answer, to set the tone, with a replica of Jules Muraire (famous French actor also known as Raimu), taken from the famous movie “The baker’s wife”, by Marcel Pagnol:
I will make you bread like you’ve never seen, and in this bread, there will be love and a lot of friendship
Preparing bread at home seems difficult? Well, there is nothing simpler and it provides even greater emotions!
You can do it all with the equipment of a regular home cook, with the stand mixer or by hand. You just need a good recipe with good ingredients and especially a lot of love.
The most important element of preparing a good homemade bread is the choice of the best flour.
Indeed, when you choose flour for the preparation of dough recipes, whether sweet or savory, you must take into consideration one of its fundamental characteristics, often underestimated, but which has a considerable influence on the final result: the strength of the flour, i.e. its capacity to absorb liquids during the preparation of a dough and, at the same time, to retain a quantity of carbon dioxide during the rising stage.
The value of the strength of flour depends on the proteins contained, in particular the amount of gliadin and glutein: in short, it depends on the amount of gluten it contains.
A strong graded flour is therefore rich in gluten, absorbs more liquids and retains more carbon dioxide. The dough obtained from a strong flour is elastic and particularly resistant to leaven thanks to the more solid gluten mesh.
A weak flour, on the other hand, forms a reduced gluten mesh, has a lower absorption capacity and retains less carbon dioxide during the rise. It can therefore be suitable for the preparation of cookies or shortbread.
To all the lovers of breads, brioches and other tasty pastries, oatmeal flour will be your most beautiful ally.
Sourced from selected, tender and high-quality wheats, oatmeal flour is richer in protein than conventional wheat flour, giving it unmatched leavening power, that is, an unbeatable softness and puffiness.
Oatmeal flour has a higher rising power, it allows a very good development, it promotes conservation and improves flavor, it also plays a role in the preservation of the finished product.
Remember one very important thing: salt and yeast do not mix well. In order to obtain a light bread, the salt must never come into contact with the yeast, because it has the property of delaying or sabotaging the leavening processes and thus weighing down the dough.
Let’s go back to pani popo, our succulent brioche bread and its exquisite coconut perfume that perfumed the whole house.
The smell of bread coming out of the oven, there is indeed nothing more exquisite. It changes your life and puts you in a very good mood!
- 4 cups high gluten bread flour
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- ¼ cup caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 cup warm water 95 F
- 1 egg beaten
- 1½ teaspoon salt
- For the coconut sauce
- ¾ cup coconut milk
- ¾ cup water
- ½ cup caster sugar
Mix the yeast with ½ cup of warm water.
Leave for 20 minutes, away from drafts, until the mixture is frothy and increases in volume.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the flour and sugar. Dig a well in the center, add the oil, the water/sugar/yeast mixture and the beaten egg.
Using the dough hook, mix on medium speed while incorporating the remaining water gradually.
Knead the dough for 10 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic.
Stir in the salt after 5 minutes of kneading.
Cover the dough with a cloth and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour, until it doubles in volume.
On a lightly floured work surface, punch the dough and divide it into 10 or 12 dough pieces.
First option: form a long rope, cut the dough into pieces and then shape them into small balls.
Second option: spread the dough in a long rectangle using a rolling pin, then roll the rectangle of dough on itself (as to make a rolled cake). Cut into 1-inch thick slices.
Arrange the rolls in a baking dish (round or square) with high edges or in a cake pan, leaving enough spacing between them, in anticipation of their increase in volume.
Cover with a cloth and let rise again for 20 minutes in a warm, draft-free place or until the pieces of dough have doubled in volume.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 F and prepare the sauce.
Whisk the water, coconut milk and sugar together.
Pour the sauce into the dish, directly on the dough and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is golden and the sauce is bubbling slightly around the edges.
Serve hot with some of the remaining sauce.