Tom is a big fan of those little sweet Hawaiian rolls that you can buy in a four pack at the grocery store and I occasionally pick them up for him. I set out to do a little research and found numerous recipes for a sweet Samoan bun called Pani Popo. Many of the recipes called for frozen roll dough or refrigerated biscuit dough but I had a recipe for a savory bun dough from an archived La Cucina Italiana magazine that I converted to sweet. What makes these special is the coconut sauce poured over before baking resulting in a little "sweet" sauce on the bottom of the bun. They're great with coffee or tea....
Makes 9 buns
For the bun dough:
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk from a 13.5 ounce can (make sure to whisk the can of milk thoroughly) and save the rest for the sauce
1 Tbl active dry yeast
3 Tbl granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups bread flour, divided (plus more for kneading)
1 room temperature egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes
2 Tbl very, very soft butter
A pinch of salt
Warm the half cup of milk to 90 to 100 degrees and then in a large mixing bowl, combine it with the yeast, sugar and 1/4 cup of the flour. let this mixture rest for about 30 minutes.
After the 30 minutes stir in the egg, butter, coconut flakes and salt. Start adding the remaining flour, a little at a time until incorporated. On a floured work surface. knead the dough for about 10 minutes, adding more flour if needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic. (you can always use your mixer's dough hook if desired)
Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in, turning once to lightly oil all surfaces. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled. This could take from one to three hours, depending
Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide into 9 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place them in a lightly greased 8 to 9 inch round baking pan. let the buns rise again for 30 to 40 minutes.
For the sauce and baking:
The remainder of the can of coconut milk
1/4 cup water
4 Tbl granulated sugar
While the buns are rising, whisk together the milk, sugar and water.
Pre heat your oven to 375. Pour the sauce over the risen buns. You may not need all of it, but try to get as much in as you can without overspill. I used about 7 ounces, but it will depend on the height of your baking dish.
Bake the buns for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden on top. let them rest for about 20 minutes so the lovely sauce on the bottom sets up.