Do you need Hawaiian sweet rolls? Don’t we all?
In Hawaii, sweet bread is ubiquitous. It is formed into rolls and loaves, flavored (and colored) with bright pink guava and purple taro. It is sliced for sandwiches and sizzled into French toast, enjoyed for breakfast, or as a side with kalua pork. It is also something that we have try (mightily) to hide from Mr. Diggy.
Hawaiian sweet rolls are part of the Portuguese history of the islands. The most widely-known brand of Hawaiian sweet bread is King’s Hawaiian, which, somewhat controversially, is no longer produced in Hawaii. On island, our preference is typically for Punalu’u Bakeshop – the southernmost bakery in the United States. Their products are widely available on the islands, and may be shipped nationwide as well. Another island small business is Ani’s – this family-run bakery makes large round loaves in a variety of flavors.
The vast majority of recipes for Hawaiian sweet rolls contain a lot of dairy – it is, after all, an enriched dough, typically made with both butter and milk. Some at-home recipes often go a step further, swapping the milk for even more lactose-laden powdered dry milk. For sweetness, some recipes call for pineapple juice, one of the few non-lactose allergies Mr. Diggy suffers. So when my dear friend Lisa, whose husband grew up in Hilo, told me she had perfected her recipe for Hawaiian sweet roll – without either powdered milk or pineapple – I knew I had to try it.
Because the amount of butter in the recipe is small, and butter is low in lactose, I didn’t touch that, but I did swap the dairy milk for oat milk, settled on honey as a sweetener (Hawaiian, if you can find it), and chose pink Hawaiian salt for the top. The result? A perfectly pillowy, low-lactose Hawaiian style roll. While it’s easy to inhale the entire pan immediately after they come out of the oven, you can also slice the rolls horizontally and pile them with kalua pork, shredded huli huli (Hawaiian barbecue) chicken, or burgers. Next time, I’ll try the recipe in a loaf pan, to see how it will work for French toast.
Hawaiian Sweet Bread Rolls – Low Dairy Version
- ½ cup oat milk or other milk
- 1 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
- 1 egg room temperature
- 2 T butter warmed, but not melted
- 1 T honey Hawaiian if you can find it, or sugar
- 1 ½ cups all purpose flour (or up to 2 cups)
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 T butter
- ½ T honey
- ½ tsp salt Hawaiian if you can find it, or flaky sea salt
- Gently warm the milk – do not boil or simmer and pour into the bowl of your stand mixer (or other bowl). Add the yeast. The heat should activate the yeast, not kill it, so it should foam within a few minutes.
- Add the egg, butter and honey (or sugar) and mix to combine. Add flour and salt and mix 8-10 minutes with the mixer (or by hand). Add additional flour until the dough comes together and is soft, but not overly sticky.
- Rest 1 hour, covered. Lightly grease a pie pan or round cake pan. Divide dough into 6 equal pieces and form into balls. Place into pan, and rest 1 more hour, covered.
- Bake at 350 for 18-22 minutes. Remove from the oven, then melt butter and honey together and brush over warm rolls. Top each with a pinch of salt.
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