The melodious sounding word implies a luscious, conventional doughnut from the islands of Samoa, Tonga and Palau, which has various other denominations like lapotopoto, tama, even the not less melodiously sounding keke isite. But to complicate things a bit further, it is often called “round pancake” in English. Let’s see what’s behind these beckoning, cute balls called panikeke!
The Polynesian cuisine
It is genuinely insular, because people really cook with the nature provided, local ingredients because those are easily accessible. In the case of an island, it definitely indicates the frequent use of freshly caught fish and seafood, rice, tropical fruits, like banana and coconut can be found in several forms, in many dishes. Cooking doesn’t require too much equipment and lots of basic recipes are used. The fresh ingredients and spices differentiate it from other cuisines.
Panikeke: doughnut or pancake?
As a matter of fact, it is the ultimate mix of both. The sweet, yeasted dough, deep fried in hot oil has a history of long standing from countless cuisines around the world, however the US comes to mind at the first place when we talk about doughnut. This frugal pastry got renowned in Manhattan, brought to the New World most probably by Dutch immigrants who called it olykoek (oily cake), but originally fried it in pork fat. It has been around for a while, as the first doughnut shop was launched in 1673 in New York City.
As the word panikeke resembles in sounding rather to pancake, we have to reconsider it strictly calling for a doughnut. The difference between doughnut and pancake apart from the water/milk and flour ratio is the leavening agent used to help growing for the dough. While pancakes are made with baking powder or baking soda a rather quick method, which does not require any length of proofing, doughnut rises by yeast and it’s a time consuming technique. Pancakes have thinner, runnier dough, that’s why they are fried as a sort of flatbread, in a lightly oiled frying pan. Doughnuts have firmer, more pliable dough, what can be formed into several shapes, and then deep fried after doubled in size while proofing.
How to make panikeke
The dough in question is neither thin, nor firm in texture. What really distinguishes panikeke from any other doughnut type pastries is its properly rounded shape. It’s easily achievable by the two following methods.
By using an oily tablespoon to take out a piece of dough, then shape and scrape it off with another tablespoon. Or fill the dough into a piping bag with a medium plain round nozzle at the end, so it can be squeezed straight into the hot oil.
People in the old times used their fists, to press out the doughnuts but there is no need to fear from them, as they round out by themselves while being cooked.
There are recipes which use mashed banana, diced pineapple or raisins to give natural sweetness and fruity, unique flavor, plus they also make the dough softer.
The oil temperature should be on a medium level while frying, so the doughnut doesn’t burn or remain uncooked inside. Adding a couple tablespoons of rum for each pound of flour prevents the dough from getting spongy and too oily.
When should panikeke be eaten?
Panikeke has many sides and could be consumed as a part of a breakfast feast, a filling dessert after a lighter lunch or even a street food. It goes well with many sweet additions, such as cinnamon brown sugar, fresh fruit or compote, whipped cream, hazelnut spread, jam, honey, or maple syrup and bacon for a more complex flavor. It is the best freshly eaten, but the dough can be made ahead and fried next day.
- 2 cups flour sifted
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ cup caster sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- ½ cup of milk or water
- Vegetable oil for frying
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix all the ingredients (except the vegetable oil) until you have a thick dough of the same texture as a choux pastry. Add water if necessary.
In a large pan, heat the oil over medium heat, at a temperature of about 350 F / 180 C.
- Form balls of dough with tablespoons or with your hands and fry them for 3 to 5 minutes until golden brown.
- Enjoy hot or warm.
If the temperature of the oil is too high, the panikeke will not be cooked inside. If the temperature is too low, the panikeke will be greasy. The use of a thermometer is therefore very important.