The Pleiss family from Sunnyvale, Calif., has a favorite stop when on Hawaii vacations: 3660 on the Rise, where the kids especially love the taro rolls.
"The rolls at 3660 are very light and addictive," Mike Pleiss wrote. "My kids could eat a dozen if allowed at one sitting."
Pleiss said he can get both poi and fresh taro in Sunnyvale and wants to give his children a little taste of the islands at home.
Alas, the recipe is not one that the restaurant is willing to share. But Pleiss said he’d accept a reasonable facsimile, so I broke out my refrigerated jar of yeast and set forth to experiment, armed with a few recipes and a 3-pound bag of poi from Costco.
The aim was a light, slightly sweet roll. My first pass was a little too dense and not sweet enough. A little tinkering lead to this version, which I really think is the closest you’re going to get to those bakery taro buns at home. They’re light, soft and just sweet enough.
They’re also a purplish-gray, thanks to food coloring. That color we associate with taro products comes from a bottle (read the label). It takes a full teaspoon, which is a lot of a substance normally measured in drops. But it you don’t use it, your rolls just won’t look right.
1 cup poi
1 package dry yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)
3/4 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon purple food coloring (or half-half mixture of blue and red)
6 cups flour, sifted
Stir about 1 tablespoon water into poi until smooth (it should be about eating consistency, not runny). Set aside.
Dissolve yeast in warm water; mix in 1 teaspoon sugar and let sit 5 minutes to proof. If mixture does not get foamy, your yeast might be old. Start over with fresh yeast.
Cream remaining sugar and butter. Mix in egg, salt, poi, yeast mixture and food coloring. Gradually add about 4 cups flour, mixing until a soft, sticky dough forms. Transfer batter to a well-floured surface and knead, sprinkling more of the flour over the surface of the dough and kneading it in, just until dough is smooth and soft (keep hands covered in flour to prevent sticking).
Form dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled, 60 to 90 minutes.
Punch down dough. Pinch off pieces and roll into 2-inch balls. Place in a greased 9-by-13-inch baking pan (you should have 24 rolls). Cover and let rise until doubled, another 60 to 90 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake rolls 15 to 20 minutes, until brown on top. Makes 2 dozen.
Approximate nutritional information, per roll: 200 calories, 5 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 34 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 5 g protein
Nutritional analysis by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S. Write "By Request," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.