If you have time while visiting Oahu, I highly recommend spending an afternoon-into-evening at the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) on the Northeast side of the island. The PCC is divided into eight simulated Polynesian villages where performers demonstrate various arts, crafts, food, culture, and lifestyles of their respective heritages, all while attending classes on BYU-Hawaii.
All the students/performers take real pride is sharing their culture with visitors, and us visitors are lucky to be able to experience their cultures without having to travel across the world.
In the Hawaiian village, we visited a full-scale, sea-worthy traditional boat and learnt about ancient methods of wayfinding (just like Moana, as my youngest brother would say).
We visited the Samoa village and enjoyed a lively and comedic presentation before sampling some delicious coconut + taro soup made in an underground oven called an “imu”—a second recipe from our visit I’ll have to try.
In the Fijian village, we learned how to make coconut oil.
Despite each island having different variations of dance, clothing, housing, etc, each island has a continued dependence on coconut palms.
We had already learned so much about coconuts during our coconut farm tour on Maui, but at the PCC we saw just how coconut and it’s derivatives are truly a vital source of life for the Polynesians.
For example, in Tahiti coconuts are the most important agricultural resource on the island and is a large part of the economy. In fact coconut plantations occupy 2/3 of the agricultural land in the islands.
We arrived to late to enjoy some of the coconut bread that the students baked, though thankfully they shared the recipe, and now we finally get to try it. Of course an adjustment for gluten-free and the addition of a coconut icing just for fun. :)
Here’s what we found out: Tahitian Coconut Bread makes a great breakfast, snack, or afternoon tea accompaniment. It’s decently dense, moist and rich with coconut.
Since it’s a balanced item, you can mix it up with difference icings, fruit, jam or simply dusted with powdered sugar.
Gluten-Free, Vegan Tahitian Coconut Bread
For Coconut Bread:
- 2 cups fresh coconut, grated
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 4 cups gluten-free flour, additional as needed
For Coconut Icing (optional):
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 tsp coconut extract
Additional toppings (optional):
- Sliced fresh fruit (like strawberries, nectarines, bananas, blueberries, etc)
- Vegan butter substitute
For Coconut Bread:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a large bowl, mix together coconut and baking powder.
- Add sugar and water, stirring until just combined.
- Add in flour by the 1/2 cup, gently mixing in each addition until a doughy texture is reached.
- Add additional flour if needed so the dough is not too sticky.
- Separate the dough into five equal size pieces.
- Roll each piece into a log and wrap in aluminum foil.
- Bake for 1 - 1 1/2 hours until bread is set.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before unwrapping and slicing.
- Mix all icing ingredients together until well combined.
- I love slices the bread then toasting it slightly. :)
- The original recipe from the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, Oahu is not gluten-free, but I made the adjustments for my dietary preferences and the dough was slightly denser yet still delicious and sweet!