🇼🇸 Samoa | Pani Popo

Recipe: Vegan Pani Popo from Ai Made it for You

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Also, for one of my favourite recipes so far I failed to get any really good photos because my desire to eat them superseded my plan to document them.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.

🇵🇱 Poland | Bialys

I used three sources for this recipe, all of which have great background info about the history of bialys and are worth a read.

  1. The Polish Housewife
  2. Food Perestroika
  3. Food Republic

I was first introduced to bialys at the Macrina Bakery that was underneath my first apartment in Seattle. They did (and probably still do) a killer breakfast sandwich on one, which is most definitely not at all vegan.

The bialy originates from the Polish city of Bialistok, and migrated to NYC with Polish immigrants sometime in the early 1900’s. A bialy is often referred to as a kind of bagel, except it’s not boiled before it’s baked, and there is no hole in the center, so the comparisons probably have more to do with the fact that if you can find them, they’re probably going to be in a bagel shop.

Bialys have a depression in the center which is meant to lead to a thin, crusty middle, which is filled with caramelised onions and poppy seeds. The ‘proper’ way to eat a bialy is not to slice it open (like a bagel) but to fill the center with butter or cream cheese and eat it like a savory, bread danish.

As you will see, what I made in no way conforms to traditional bialy beauty standards, and probably doesn’t count as one at all.

Whereas your historically accurate (read: made by someone with baking skills and talent) bialy has a pronounced innie, my ‘bialys’ had something closer to an outie. These domed little pillows of bread were objectively tasty, but if you put them in a police line up for some kind of strange bakery-related crime, it’s not going to fit the witness’ description.

I have limited experience baking – and even less experience shaping bread – generally relying on an old faithful ‘no knead’ recipe which is kind of gloopy and impossible to manhandle into the shape of a loaf, but also impossible to mess up? So while the texture of these ‘bialys’ was great – soft, good spring, yet satisfyingly resistant when you bite into them – their little spiky haired domes were not what I set out to make.

And then I broke the cardinal rule and sliced one in half to make the most structurally unsound sandwich possible. There was so much height and so many slippery ingredients (avocado, tomato, pickles, Chao cheese, sprouts, tofurky slices, mayo!) that they all made a quick exit through the back of the buns when I tried to bite into it. I was going to say ‘You live, you learn’ but I knew this was going to happen, and I did it anyway.

Yes I put my sandwich directly on the table like an animal because it looked better in the photo that way

Bialys can be hard to come by (apparently you can’t even buy them in Bialistok anymore!) so if you see them in the wild, I suggest you grab one because if these monstrosities I made are this delicious, the real thing has to be transcendent.

Hot Cross Buns and Busy Sundays

Soundtrack: My Favorite Murder, Episode 112

I don’t want to read your ramblings, I just want the recipe: Classic Hot Cross Buns from Donna Hay

Star Rating: Four Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

If I have one criticism about America (yes, yes, go home if I don’t like it), it’s their approach to Easter.

In Australia and the UK the Easter long weekend really emphasizes ‘long’. We get both Good Friday and Easter Monday as paid public holidays, the weather is generally still good enough in Australia that you can go camping, or possibly to the beach, and unlike other religious-based holidays (I’m looking at you, Christmas) there is no expectation that you’d spend this time with family. The only downside is that bottle shops (liquor stores) aren’t open on Good Friday and I have been caught short going to BBQs without planning ahead. If that’s the biggest inconvenience for a day off work, I’ll take it.

In the US, Easter passes without much fanfare. They aren’t big on Easter Eggs – you can find them, but for a country which can produce novelty candy for seemingly any occasion, it’s shocking to see so little innovation in this area. I particularly miss the dark chocolate Lindt easter bunnies because I’m lactose intolerant and these are the only eggs that I can eat. Cheers to my friends and family who send them to me each year. Or carry them around the globe for me, as my Dad once did.

This is not the only food that’s missing, and why we’ve arrived at this week’s recipe.

Hot Cross Buns are fucking awesome, and you can’t find them, or can’t find good ones, here. Please note that I don’t even have a high bar for HCBs – I’m happy with a 12 pack of Coles or Woolies soft, sweet, slightly chewy, golden buns which have been lightly toasted and drowned in butter (or whatever non-dairy substitute I can find).

I made a callout to Facebook asking for a good HCB recipe and my friends (as always) delivered. There were a number of suggestions which required rubbing butter through flour and this activity is something I don’t need to spend my life doing, so they were cut from the list. I checked out the ones on Taste.com.au but they seemed a bit… basic so those were passed over too.

Then we landed on Donna’s recipe. Now Donna is not a friend of mine, but Australians are all on first name basis with her. Donna Hay has been the doyenne of Australian culinary culture for a long time now, and her recipes are virtually foolproof. Despite my long-held fantasy of baking bread each weekend, I’m not overly familiar with using yeast so I wanted to start with a recipe that many people had already managed to not totally mess up.


Here’s something I didn’t think about. Rising dough waits for no one. I made the first part of this recipe on Sunday morning before heading off for a flying lesson. I got home to a very risen and gorgeous looking ball of dough, which I promptly turned into rolls and fit into a pan.

I had a 2 hour window for both the second rising and 30 minutes of baking, and at the halfway mark I realised that the buns were not proving at the rate I had anticipated. Thankfully resting the pan on the warm stovetop (thanks to the heated oven) sped things up and I was able to get the buns to prove to my timeline.

So how were they? Freaking delicious – so much so that I ate four for dinner that night. They were light and spiced and not too sweet, and and they made my whole apartment smell like Easter.

One word of warning – the following morning, even after being stored in an airtight container, they were already pretty stale. Apparently without a bunch of preservatives and sugar they don’t keep like the store bought ones. I highly recommend making these for a group of people and eating them almost immediately. I will salvage the leftovers by using the stale buns to make Easter bread and butter pudding next weekend, which is a pretty good consolation prize.

All up, these were pretty easy to make, but they do require time so I’m unlikely to make more than once a year. I highly recommend making them on a day when you’re pottering about the house, rather than trying to fit them in between plans. And remember – I have given you permission to eat as many of them as possible while they are hot and delicious.