Pani Popo

Pani PopoEach new school year, I was greeted with the inescapable “what I did over summer vacation” essay assignment. I often struggled with mine; the short answer being “nothing.” Writing a nihilist “NOTHING!” across a page may be arty, but my 4th grade teacher, Ms. Allison, would not approve. Perhaps that was part of the writing exercise – forcing students to uncover little nuggets of adventure within three months of doing almost nothing. Each year, the (anti)climax of my family’s summer was a road trip to Cedar City, UT – seven of us piled in the apple green, wood paneled station wagon. We stayed with an older couple, longtime family friends, and most days, dad and siblings would venture forth for a day of spelunking, hiking, and exploring. A susceptibility to car sickness relegated me to days with mom and Mrs. Heinz in the kitchen, eavesdropping as they chatted and cooked.

As an adult, I’ve found that this year’s summer vacation hasn’t changed much. I’ve spent the last 11 days pottering around the house spending a good deal of time in the kitchen, playing with a few different recipes. For example – this is my second attempt at a white-girl version of Pani Popo, Samoan coconut glazed pull-apart rolls. I could have made my own rolls, as I did the first time, but I decided on a shortcut – using frozen, pre-made rolls. The golden raisins are my addition and not traditional, making the finished bread taste like coconut bread pudding when warm. A friend had the brilliant idea of finely chopped macadamia nuts instead, similar to a not-so-sweet pecan roll. The nuts will most make an appearance on the next batch.

Pani Popo
Makes 8 rolls


1 T. Unsalted Butter
1/3 c. Golden raisins or finely chopped macadamia nuts (optional)
1 can Coconut milk
1/2 c. Sugar
¼ t. Salt
8 Frozen dinner rolls (soft, yeasty variety)


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9” cake pan with butter and scatter with raisins or nuts, if using. Mix coconut milk, sugar and salt in a small bowl until combined. Place dinner rolls in the pan and let proof per package instructions. Pour coconut milk mixture over fully proofed rolls. Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until rolls are fully cooked and a light golden brown. If tops are browning too quickly, cover with foil. Remove pan from oven and cool 10 minutes. Turn rolls out onto a serving platter so the coconut side is on top.






As kids, our family Christmas tradition included a morning of Ray Conniff, hot cocoa and Sister S’s home-baked pastries. As we grew into adults, parents needing more care and family members moving away to begin their own traditions, homemade pastries had given way to purchased Viktor Benes Danishes, and our hot cocoa into mochas.

Last year, Sister S and I escaped the holidays by traveling to Portland. We spent our time devouring the city’s famous foodstuffs. During our culinary adventures, I discovered a breakfast bread at Pearl Bakery called gibassier. While I devoured the knots of yeast bread in mere seconds, their sugar-crusted memory lingered with me throughout the year. My first attempt baking them happened soon after our visit – January 3rd – but I quickly realized that making these tasty treats too often would result in the ballooning of my waistline. For the remainder of 2014, gibassier stayed just a memory.

This year, I decided to restart my sister’s Christmas morning pastry tradition by baking my second batch of gibassier.   She has proclaimed my Gibassier “better than Pearl Bakery’s,” which is quiet a compliment, indeed.

Gibassier (Makes 18)
Revised and Adapted from Dinner Plate

Overnight Starter:
1 1/4 cup equal parts APF and Bread Flour (180 grams total) [6 ounces]
1/2 cup whole milk  (110 grams)
2 pinches from 1 packet granular yeast (Fleishman’s) (10 grams) [2 1/2 teaspoons]
1 egg

Put in an oiled bowl, cover with oiled plastic wrap, and put in a warm place (can be an oven/toaster oven/convection oven that is cooling from previous cooking) that is just warm and draft free.  Let ferment overnight.  It does not rise much, if at all.

Remainder of packet granular yeast (Fleishman’s) (10 grams) [2 1/2 teaspoons]
2 Tablespoons water (25 grams) at 107 degrees
2 eggs plus 1 yolk (130 grams)
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon Orange Flower water
3 cups equal parts APF and Bread Flour (400 grams)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (100 grams) [3 3/4 ounces]
6 Tablespoons butter (70 grams)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Anise Seed, toasted and slightly crushed
3/4 cup Candied Orange Peel (70 grams) – it’s worth making your own

Bloom yeast in 2 T. water. All remaining liquids should be about 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the bowl of a mixer, add eggs, olive oil and orange water.  Mix with paddle attachment.  Add starter dough and beat slowly until loose and fairly uniform.  Change to dough hook and add flour, sugar, salt, and yeast.  Mix for 4 minutes.  Add softened butter to dough in 4 stages, incorporating each part before adding more.  Mix dough until gluten fully develops, stopping to check every so often–the dough will be smooth, soft, won’t stick to your fingers, and slightly “oily.”  When you pull up a piece, it will pull into a “window” rather than breaking.  When it is kneaded completely, the texture changes and the dough “moves” on the hook.  When you remove the hook, it comes out completely clean.

Remove dough from bowl of mixer, and hand knead in the candied orange peel and anise seed, distributing the flavoring evenly in the dough.  Let rise 2 hours in a draft-free place, in an oiled bowl covered with plastic.

Divide dough into 18 parts at about 70 grams each, shape into rounds, and let it rest for 20 minutes covered by a dishcloth.

Shape into semi-circles about 1/2 inch thick (To make shaping easier, I shape them into a circle and then fold them in half, pushing the semi-circle together firmly) .

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and cut each semi-circle with three long slashes on the curved side, and then with four short slashes (one in between each of the long ones).  Gently spread the “toes” and place on the baking sheets (6 each).  Let it proof for 1 1/2 hours, covered with plastic.

Preheat the (convection) oven for 10 minutes to 350 degrees.  Bake 12-15 minutes.

1/4 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar (don’t use superfine)
1/2 cup butter (4 ounces)

Clarify 4 ounces of butter (113 grams). When the Gibassiers are golden brown (some parts may be lighter than others), remove to a cooling rack and brush generously with butter (once), and roll in sugar (twice).

I freeze leftovers and rewarm them in a 200 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Before serving, I give them a final sugar roll.

Move the Goddamn Horse

bad banana

This time last year, I found myself on vacation at Miraval. While the resort was a little too “L.A.” for my appreciation (entitlement of some infringing on the relaxation of others), I did enjoy a hot and dusty afternoon spent with cowboy-therapist, Wyatt Webb, in a program called “It’s Not about the Horse.” While too lengthy and complicated to describe in detail here, the point of the exercise was to leave personal baggage in the horse ring and take away an “Aha” moment through (what appeared to be) a simple exercise with a horse.

My particular moment sums up as, “Sometimes you’ve just gotta move the goddamn horse.” In other words: No matter how much drive, desire, or determination you have, if you do what’s already been done, don’t be surprised when you get the same results.

I watched a dozen people try to lift the same leg on the same horse in the same manner again and again and again – all without much success. When it was my turn, I realized I had to work with the same horse, but I could switch legs. So, I moved the horse, grabbed a different leg and, voila, mission accomplished.

If you are not getting anywhere, sometimes the best action to take is to step away and approach from a different angle (moving the horse). Is this damn crust the horse this week? Do I need to scrap it and start fresh?

Today, I make banana bread and leave the tart crust for tomorrow.


I’ve been derailed– on many levels.  I’ve turned all my focus on work and, even when it comes to work, I haven’t had any drive lately – just going through the motions.  My gelato project has been tucked away behind closed desk doors in my home office.  I haven’t worked on it in months. I’ve gained weight – a lot of weight – eleven pounds since May.

I’m finishing up my last work project for the year this week.  After that, I have four days of rest and relaxation (and six spa appointments) at Miraval to rejuvenate myself and get back into my groove.  Get on track, girl!  The next two months are light with work so I’m recommitting myself to the “Life” part of the proverbial work/life balance.

Goals for the next two months:

  1. Get in shape/Lose eight pounds
  2. Start (and finish) main bathroom remodel
  3. Re-energize gelato dreams/business plan
  4. Upgrade my surrounding (replace outdated 1980’s chair and buy flat screen TV, paint)
  5. Research options for adding A/C to the house (not another sweltering summer)
  6. Replace tree that died in backyard & clean up front yard
  7. Blog regularly again!

I’m worried that I’m biting off more than I can chew – especially trying to do this over the holidays, but, if I wait until the new year, I have a string of projects that will carry me away until Summer.