TL;DR Honestly, just save yourself the time and start making this recipe right now. I will got through the ins and outs of creating these delicious, soft, semi-sweet coconut buns, but there are times when it just makes sense to experience something for yourself and what I’m about to write is really just various different ways of telling you how good these were.
A friend sent me this recipe, for which I am hugely appreciative because researching 195 countries is a lot of work, and also my friends have excellent taste. I hadn’t started looking into Samoa yet, and I guess I don’t think about baked goods when I think about pacific nations (yet another one of my preconceptions which has proven to be wrong), but pani popo is considered one of Samoa’s national dishes, and now I understand why.
These were very simple to make. You make some dough, knead it, and let it rise for a while. Then you punch the dough down (this is always so satisfying), divide into 12 parts, roll them into balls and then gentle snuggle them together in a oven-proof pan and let them rise together again. Cover with a sugar and coconut milk syrup and whack them in the oven. When they come out all golden and delicious you pour the remaining syrup over the still hot buns, and then try to let them cook a bit before eating them.
I am not much of a sweet tooth. In my world, savoury will win 99 times out of 100. But golly gee these were DELICIOUS. They’re soft and a little bit sticky and sweet without being too sweet. I ate three straight out of the pan, which is why I don’t have very many good photos of individual buns.
One thing to note is that they do not keep very well. They were OK the following day with a 10 second blast in the microwave, but by day three they were hard and a bit chalky inside. I’d recommend making these an hour before you need them and ensure you have a gathering large enough that they will all be devoured. They really are that delicious when they’re freshly made that you won’t want to lose them to the degradation of time.
Also, for one of my favourite recipes so far I failed to get any really good photos because my desire to eat them superseded my plan to document them. And if that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is.