Coconut Buns

23 Aug

pani popo

We were hosting a dinner party and while brainstorming about a menu, I wanted something simple so we weren’t fussing with cooking when our guests arrived.  To solve this, I marinated some chicken skewers with pineapple ahead of time and wanted something to compliment the “tropical” feel of the skewers.  To round out the meal, I wanted to include a bread and instead of grabbing some King’s Hawaiian Sweet dinner rolls, I decided to tackle something on my own. One recipe that’s been on my mind is a sweet bread called pani popo.  I’ve searched the internet high and low there are no actual online translators for the Samoan language that I could find, but the internet says that this translates to pani=bun and popo=coconut…and we know the internet never lies, right?  Though I could just be spreading rumors here, I’m going to live in blissful ignorance that ‘coconut bun’ is what it means since they were absolutely divine.

pani popo dough

I ended up making these a few times following the dinner party debut, experimenting with various substitutions of coconut flour, vanilla beans, vanilla sugar, agave…and I think I’ve worked out some kinks and maximized the yumminess.  In terms of ingredients, I used Califia Farms toasted coconut, coconut-almondmilk blend and King Arthur’s Flour.  Appliance wise, I use a Kitchen Aid stand mixer with a dough hook attachment to handle the kneading work.  When divvied up, each of my pani popo dough ballsdough balls came out weighing between 2.55 oz and 2.8 oz.  The results were fabulous…a moist, flaky bread with a thin, delicious, creamy bottom layer to them.  In my experimenting, I did find that the coconut flour threw things out of wack a bit – see the photos – more corn bready than flaky, but I’m going to continue playing with that because I think including it could pani popo dough and glazeadd to the overall coconuttiness of the bread. Since I made multiple batches in a  week, I froze the leftovers in a large Ziploc bag for later, and they’ve proven to freeze/thaw wonderfully.

{Pretty Little Tip}

plated pani popo1 teaspoon of vanilla extract is equal to one 2-inch piece of vanilla bean – so, for your typical vanilla bean, you should get ~3 “teaspoons” of vanilla.

And of course, I must thanks AC Ceramics for the beautiful handmade vanilla plates!



Original recipe from King Arthur Flour

4.5 from 2 reviews
Coconut Buns
Recipe type: Bread
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
  • DOUGH:
  • ½ cup lukewarm water
  • 2¼ tsp active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ cup canned unsweetened coconut milk, lukewarm
  • 2-inch piece of vanilla bean seeds (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • ½ cup nonfat dry milk
  • 1¼ tsp salt
  • 3½ cups All Purpose Flour
  • -
  • GLAZE:
  • 1¼ cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
  • ½ cup vanilla sugar (or regular white sugar)
  • ½ Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/16 tsp salt
  1. Measure out the lukewarm water and add the sugar and yeast, stirring until the sugar and yeast dissolve in to the water.
  2. Then, in a bowl, combine the eggs, butter, coconut milk, and vanilla seeds. Whisk until all the ingredients are combined.
  3. Pour mixture into a large bowl. Add in about 1 cup of the flour, dry milk, and salt. Mix together till smooth.
  4. Then add the remaining flour, ½ cup at a time, mixing until you get a smooth dough.
  5. After the dough has been kneaded, place into a bowl greased with butter or vegetable oil and turn dough over to lightly coat all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise till double in bulk. This will take an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the ambient room temperature.
  6. After dough has risen, divide the dough into 12 equal parts and gently roll in to balls.
  7. Place the dough balls in to a 9" x 13" greased pan, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise until the dough balls double in bulk (~1 hr).
  8. While the dough is on it's second rise, prepare the glaze. To to this, mix the coconut milk, sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium sauce pan. Heat glaze, whisking constantly, until it comes to a low boil. Continue whisking and simmer for 5-7 minutes, thickening the glaze, then remove from heat.
  9. Once the dough balls have risen, pour the warm glaze evenly over the dough, coating each dough ball, and place in to a preheated 350F oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until buns are a golden brown.


8 Responses to “Coconut Buns”

  1. Gloria August 27, 2013 at 12:58 am #

    These were delicious. After a weekend of cake making I’d run out of butter. Made these with shortening and vanilla extract. Turned out very well. Only change would be to cut them into smaller pieces before baking. Glaze makes them almost a desert

  2. Virginia Mabry September 2, 2013 at 10:02 pm #

    These turned out pretty well for me. We enjoyed eating them for breakfast as well! I couldn’t find vanilla sugar, but I found coconut sugar, so I used that instead.

    • Pretty Little Dishes September 5, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

      i bet that was delicious! that’s a good reminder – i can do a little ‘basics’ post on vanilla sugar…super simple! glad you enjoyed them!

  3. Shobelyn Dayrit September 20, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    Oh my goodness! This looks so good. I am going make this…

  4. River Breeze Wilson November 27, 2013 at 3:06 am #

    My mother used to make these for me when I was growing up gotta love Samoan food and being from New Zealand it was everywhere it is a dessert dish and the original recipe is alot more simple but I love your experimentation I think I’m going to have to make some now haha

  5. sara April 18, 2014 at 9:06 am #

    You are correct in that translation, it does indeed translate to coconut buns. When made in Samoa, you can’t beat the fresh coconut cream extracted from the raw coconut off the tree. Delicious!

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