Monday, December 13, 2010

Paifala - Samoan half-moon pies (modern recipe)

By panipopos

A couple of months ago, I made paifala using a traditional recipe with coconut milk and cornstarch. Here are some delicious paifala from a fellow blogger, Lotus, at Whymsicallotus, that also used that recipe. When I made it, I noticed that quite some filling leaks out during baking, and the crust on that paifala is very much like Masi Samoa.

So this is Paifala II - with a shortcrust pastry, a custard filling and without coconut milk. It's flavour is not better or worse than the traditional recipe, just different. In terms of structure, however, this modern take on paifala has minimal leakage and the crust can hold even more filling than the traditional recipe.

Paifala (makes 5)
1 cup (240ml) milk
4 tablespoons custard powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 cups (500g) crushed pineapple, drained
½ cup (100g) sugar*
½ teaspoon nutmeg (optional)

* If you have a sweet tooth, increase to 3/4 cup (150g) sugar.

Put the custard powder, milk, vanilla essence and sugar in a saucepan and mix until smooth. Put this over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens. Finally, turn the heat off and add your pineapple and nutmeg (if using). Mix until well-combined, then set aside to cool to room temperature.


3½ cups (400g) flour
4 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of salt
cup (70g) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
4 tablespoons (60ml) milk
¾ cup (150g) butter, room temperature

Sift the flour and baking powder and salt into a bowl. Mix together. Then add the rest of the crust ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until everything just comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead together into a smooth ball. Try not to handle the dough too much because you don't want to melt the butter. Also, don't add too much flour, or you'll get a tough dough. If you find the dough is too sticky to handle, then refrigerate for half an hour, and try working with it again.

Assembling the paifala
Cut your dough into 5 equal pieces. Roll each piece out into an 8” (20cm) circle. Put some of your cooled pineapple filling into the centre. Lightly wet the edges of the piecrust with water, and then fold one half of the pie over the other. Press the edges together with a fork. See the paifala video if you want visuals.

Pierce the top of the pie several times (steam vents) then bake at 350°F (180°C) for 25-30 minutes until light golden. Remove from the oven and cool. Be careful not to overbake these or the crust will be too crumbly.

My pie was stuffed till crammed with filling, but this is the only leak I had:

In the big picture, this leak was next to nothing.

Enjoy warm or cold, with a hot drink.


  1. i think i'd like to try this recipe and see what my brother in law thinks! thanks for posting this recipe:) wish me luck! and merry merry christmas!

  2. Hope your paifala and all your Christmas cooking is a success...Season's greetings to you and your loved ones!

  3. hi! i made this paifala recipe(with the help of my sister) and i thought the taste was good! my family also liked it. my only problem was the crust-even with the traditional recipe, i had trouble with the crust. after mixing it, it was very dry & crumbly-almost like there was too much flour or not enough liquid. what do you think i'm doing wrong? and my crust didn't look anything like yours!:) so obviously, i'm doing something wrong. if only you lived close by:) any suggestions? thanks for your help! and i hope you had a wonderful christmas!

  4. Seasons greetings, and thx for the feedback. Flours in different places absorb varying amounts of liquid, so you might be right, the amount in the recipe might be too much for where you are. Another possibility is that your butter wasn't soft. However, I'll double-check the recipe on my end to make sure there are no typos in the ingredient list.

  5. Talofa panipopo's!
    After great success in your panipopo recipe I want to go for this as well. I have read both recipes about the traditional and modern paifala's and I LOVE the fact that the modern recipe can hold so much filling but im kind of hesitant as to the ingredients the recipe calls just seems "odd" but I will bake anything you have baked!
    I just wanted an opinion from YOU which one you personally like best or prefer.
    Your opinion would really help my debate for modern or traditional!
    Tai Lava!

    1. Hi Sia, try the traditional one first. The old people love the flavours of that one.

  6. Talofa. Faafetai for this lovely recipe! I adjusted the recipe for myself because I found that the wet ingredients weren't sufficient to make the dough for the pastry - also because my eggs were small, I used 3 instead of two, and added 1/2 cup of milk instead of 4 tablespoons.

    Milk tends to give dough a crispiness, so next time I might use a bit more butter instead of the extra milk. I also let the dough sit for 30mins which made it a lot more smoother, and easier to manage as the gluten was allowed to develop.

    Also, I tend to not like the taste of baking power, so I omitted it, and used a blend of self-raising, and plain flours(3 cups plain, 1 cup SR flour).

    I prefer this version next to the traditional one, because this is the version my nan used to make for us.

    I love to eat these by themselves at room temperature, or warmed up with cream.

    Thanks again for sharing this -

    1. Hi Lea, thanks so much for sharing the changes you made to the recipe...I always encourage my readers to make these recipes their own, and you've definitely done this. Great stuff!

    2. Lea's given some great tips above, but I wanted to correct some things for my readers (foodnerd that I am). We don't want gluten to develop in this crust because we want it to be tender and flaky. Gluten is great for breads, puff pastry and pasta because we want some chewiness in the product, but for pie pastry (with the exception of strudel and puff pastry) we want limited gluten formation.

      Letting a pie pastry sit does make it easier to work with, as Lea pointed out, but it also relaxes the gluten in the dough, ensuring that your paifala crust will be wonderfully tender after its baked and not tough.

      Self-raising flour = Flour + Baking Powder + Salt

  7. Hello! I made the traditional pai a few days ago, and gave this one a go today. The filling of the traditional one was such a hit in our household, so I used that filling with this crust. The result? Amazing. That combo recipe is a keeper. Thank you! :)

    1. Malo Bina! You've been baking up quite a storm (bet the people you live with are happy with that). I never thought to try that filling with this crust but now that you mention it, sounds like it would be divine. Will definitely give it a go.