Monday, February 28, 2011

Fa'apapa - Baked pumpkin bread

By panipopos

Traditionally, fa'apapa are wrapped in leaves and thrown in the umu along with everything else. In the modern kitchen, some people use well-greased aluminium foil, which allows the fa'apapa to steam/bake just like it would in an umu. However, I prefer to use baking paper because it results in a firmer, evenly browned crust, and I don't have to peel off bits of foil where it sticks to the fa'apapa.

When you're making fa'apapa, it's best to have your coconut milk at liquid temperature. If it's solidified, it makes it harder to mix in with the flour and you might end up with tough fa'apapa. Simply put your coconut milk in the microwave for a few seconds to melt it into its liquid state, but be careful not to heat it. As always, you're going to get a much richer flavour from fresh coconut milk versus the canned stuff.

Oh and just for the record, fa'apapa does not mean bread. To fa'apapa something is to flatten it. In cooking, it means to wrap something into flat parcels and bake in an umu (Samoan oven). Although I have absolutely no proof of it, my theory is that the verb fa'apapa was originally applied to this bread because of its form and cooking method, and over time fa'apapa became the general term for this kind of baked good.

Fa'apapa can be made with coconut, pumpkin, taro, and banana, but there might be other kinds out there that I haven't tasted. The following variation is one of my favorites.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fa'apapa - Baked coconut bread

By panipopos

So the other day, my mother called me "old school".
She didn't use those exact words but the implication was clear. I've been away too long.

How did this happen?
Well, I was telling her how I was making fa'apapa, the way we used to have it when I was little. Fa'apapa in those days were these heavy, thick, dense coconut slabs that you could break your teeth on. An old Samoan woman could keep this kind of fa'apapa in her bag and nibble a lump off while waiting for the bus, sitting in church, in the doctor's waiting room. And the fa'apapa also doubled as a weapon in case she got mugged. One hit, and the guy would be out like a light.

So I was telling my mother how I had succeeded in recreating the same kind of hard crunchy crust around a dense coconut texture, weighing the requisite one pound, and the woman says "Oh, we don't make them like that anymore".

"What? What do you mean?" I ask her.
"Yeah, these days, we like lighter, fluffier fa'apapa." my mother replies.
"Huh? What are you talking about, 'lighter' 'fluffier'? They're supposed to be bricks of coconut right?"
"No, that's how they used to make them. Some people still make it that way (eg. my old-school daughter). But these days, we add baking powder to give it a bit of lift and don't add so much coconut. It tastes better too."

Well, I'll be darned. Who would have thought that fa'apapa would evolve without me.

So I've been experimenting with the traditional and updated versions of fa'apapa, and my mother is right, the modern stuff is easier on the palate. But I still think the old-fashioned fa'apapa is better for fa'ausi, which in truth, was the whole reason I was trying to make fa'apapa anyway. Feel free to try either version. They both taste good, but only the original fa'apapa can prevent mugging.

Old-school Fa'apapa (makes 2)
2 cups (250g) flour
 cup (65g) sugar 
1 cup (120g) unsweetened coconut flakes 
½ can (200ml) coconut milk

Put everything together in a bowl and mix well with your hands. Divide into two equal portions. Generously grease some baking paper with butter. Flatten each portion of dough into a slab no bigger than 1 inch/2.5 thick. Wrap each portion tightly in the baking paper. Bake at 390°F/200ยบC for 35-40 minutes or until crust is well-browned.

If you get a chance, check out this video of fa'apapa straight from the umu!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Oka I'a Video

By panipopos

I really appreciate every email or comment I get, especially from people who have tried the recipes on this blog. Vali from Hawai'i wrote that her and her sister made keke pua'a and panipopo all in one weekend! She even sent photos which had me salivating at the computer. Check out Vali's baking:

She writes:
It was an amazing weekend of fun, baking,
bonding and great memories created.
Vali, you made me miss all those times I cooked with my sisters.
Thank you for sharing.

And thank you to all you readers that support and encourage this blog.

Here is the video for making oka i 'a. Enjoy!