When you think of Hawaiian cuisine you might think of Spam, poke, and poi. All of these foods are wonderful (that’s right, even poi), deeply ingrained in Hawaiian culture, and worthy of their own dedicated blog posts. But this month’s blog is dedicated to part of the Hawaiian culinary experience that might be otherwise taken for granted: our bakeries and baked goods. Remember that modern Hawaii is a melting pot of different cultures and culinary influences that have to come to the islands over the past two and a half centuries. In this month’s blog we are highlighting just a few of the excellent bakeries on the Big Island whose influences range from the plantation era to modern times. (Please note that some of the entries are on a temporary hiatus due to COVID-19, but will return to normal operations as soon as possible).
Kona Historical Society’s Portuguese Bread Oven
The first Portuguese settlers to the Hawaiian Islands arrived in 1878 to work on the sugarcane plantations. They brought with them their skills, customs and cuisine, including their technique for building communal stone ovens for baking bread. The Kona Historical Society has kept this tradition alive with a weekly bake at their communal oven in South Kona. Every Thursday the wood-fired oven is lighted at 6:00 am and allowed to heat for the next four hours. During this time, members of the KHS Programs Team mix and proof the dough and then shape it into balls to be baked. Seven balls of dough are placed in each pan (seven is a lucky number for the Portuguese), and then up to 30 pans are baked at a time. The coals from the fire are removed before the pans are put in, so that only the heat stored in the stones is used for baking. The finished loaves are light and fluffy with a dark glossy crust. The loaves are sold for $8 each at a roadside stand next to Greenwell Coffee Farms. Under normal circumstances observers are invited to watch during the bake, but due to COVID-19 all normal operations have been suspended. The Kona Historical Society hopes to resume baking as soon as possible.
Punalu’u Bake Shop
The Punalu’u Bake Shop is famous for their sweet bread, which is available throughout the islands. It is also beloved by locals for their malasadas, a type of doughnut also introduced by the Portuguese. Malasadas are made made with a rich brioche-style dough, deep fried, and coated with cane sugar. The local twist comes in the form of different fillings, including guava, lilikoi, taro and haupia (coconut). Their visitor center and bakery is located in Na’alehu, making it the perfect place to stop for a sweet snack en route from Kona to Volcano.
New York bagels might be that last thing you would expect to find on the Big Island, but the lack of proper bagels was exactly what inspired owners Aileen and Joe to open their business in 2016. Although they had no prior experience in commercial baking, as natives of New Jersey and New York they knew exactly what they wanted to make. Over the course of several years of trial and error, they developed a recipe and a process until they felt confident enough to offer their bagels for sale. They opened a booth at the Pure Kona Green Market in 2016, baking out of their home oven, but eventually expanded to a commercial baking facility and a second market. All of their bagels are hand-rolled, cold-fermented, boiled, and baked at high temperature for a dark, crunchy crust and a light and fluffy crumb. They offer traditional toppings like poppy, sesame, and everything, as well as locally-inspired flavors like Honey Rosemary & Sea Salt and Lemon Thyme. They also offer customer-favorite prepared sandwiches such as the Adam’s Apple (Bacon, avocado, apple, red onion, cream cheese) and The Works (Smoked salmon, capers, red onion, local tomato, local sprouts, cream cheese). Yo Bagels is currently on a temporary hiatus due to COVID-19, but they hope to return to the Keauhou Farmers Market as soon as possible.
These are just a few of the great bakeries on the Big Island. Also worth checking out are Sandwich Isle Bread Co. and Patisserie Nanako in Waimea, Sundog Bread in Holualoa, Happy Heart in Kona, Georgette in Volcano, and Short & Sweet Bakery and Moonstruck Patisserie in Hilo. You might not be able to fit them all into one trip, but don’t miss the chance to check out at least one of these great bakeries on your trip for a taste of local flavor, and don’t forget to book your stay at the Holualoa Inn!