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Bitchin’ Bread Battle Day 5: Not Quite King’s Hawaiian Style Rolls

Kitchen Overlord King's Hawaiian Rolls

After yesterday’s Ood-tastic failure, I decided to try making King’s Hawaiian Style bread again today. I had a couple of ideas for making this recipe work. Increase the sugar, increase the ginger, and most of all, proof the yeast.

Most of the Hawaiian Bread knockoff recipes I’ve seen tell you to just mix everything together and wait three hours. I tried that. Instead of gorgeous, fluffy rolls I ended up with dense, crusty ones. Sure, I made made calamari from the tentacles of failure, but while the Ood were adorable, they didn’t deliver the gloriously fluffy goodness I craved.

Behold the adorable face of failure.

3 tbsp yeast
¼ cup warm water
1 cup sugar + 1 tbsp (or 2 cups, if you want it more grocery-like)
3 eggs (or 4, if you actually read the directions)
1 ½ cups pineapple juice
1 tbsp vanilla
2 tsp salt
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 tsp ground ginger
6 ½ – 7 cups flour

This time, I started off both increasing the yeast and proofing it first. Three tablespoons of yeast, one tablespoon of sugar, and a quarter cup of warm water yielded a dense yeast slurry. However, ten minutes later, those beasties had climbed halfway up my bowl. They were probably sending out scouts for possible colonization mission to my counter.


Once my bowl was overflowing with yeasty goodness, I added everything but the flour. I have to say, it smelled glorious. Surely, this wonderfully creamy blend with a deliciously fruity aroma would deliver on the promise of homemade Hawaiian bread.

I was wrong. If I try this again, I’m going to add another ½ – 1 cup of sugar and another egg. The final result isn’t anywhere near as sweet, fluffy, or creamy as the stuff you find in the grocery store. After trying two days in a row, I feel comfortable saying the knockoff recipes online aren’t that close to the real thing.

Once I had a nice eggy, yeasty, citrussy slurry, it was time to add the flour. I found about 6 ½ cups worked, but you might need 7 if you add a fourth egg or if you knead it by hand. I have a stand mixer, so I set it on 2, let it mix away using the dough hook for the next 4-5 minutes, and was pretty much done. If kneading by hand, give it 8-10 minutes.

Now came the time for patience. I’d been warned that you have to let Hawaiian bread sit and rise darn near forever. I knew the yeast was alive. I had plenty to distract me. No worries.

After an hour, the dough had obediently doubled in size, and man, it smelled glorious. I wanted to shove my head right in the bowl. Instead, I greased up a couple of rectangular cake pans with copious amounts of butter then punched the dough down into submission.

The recipes I’ve seen online suggested making golfball sized rolls spaced 2 inches apart. I tried that yesterday and ended up with Ood heads. No. I wanted those beautiful, fluffy, 3 inch tall rolls that always lurk in the back corner of the produce section, promising sweet carby delights as a reward for eating enough carrots. Instead, I made my rolls the size of a lemon and, in a moment of cynicism, spaced them about an inch and a half apart.

An hour later, they were barely touching. Again, according to the recipes, these things should be inflating like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man high on a Ghostbuster’s belief. Okay. I can be patient. I let them rise for another hour. They weren’t exactly crawling out of the pan, but at least they were mostly squished together now. Maybe they’d rise a little more during the yeast’s final death throws in the oven.

Sadly, no. Like Pompeii victims buried under ash, they hardened in place, taking their final shapes and eternal crunchiness in a single fiery instant.

It really wasn’t fair. I baked them at 350F, as per instructions. The lying, bastard recipes said 25-30 minutes, promising pictures of light, airy golden brown rolls. After 22 minutes, mine were a darkish shade of golden brown just this side of “almost burnt.” Out they came. The bottoms were actually a lovely shade of golden brown, so I knew I rescued the rolls just in time.

I let them sit 10 minutes before sampling one. The end result was very well intentioned. I’m not sure how, but the pineapple flavor almost entirely evaporated in the oven. The addictive sweetness that makes it almost impossible to leave the store without eating an entire four pack of Hawaiian rolls was entirely absent. I’d achieved middling quality, slightly sweet white dinner rolls.

Let’s be clear. I’m not one of those cooks who has trouble making her bread rise, if you know what I mean. A glass of wine, Jonathan Coulton’s “Baby Got Back” remix playing on YouTube, and I can make huge, fluffy loaves all night long. I’ve made a challah rise so much I wasn’t sure it could fit on one baking sheet.

So in the case of the internet’s best King’s Hawaiin Rolls knockoffs, I have to say it’s not me, baby, it’s you. You’re not sweet enough. You’re not yeasty enough. You’re too flat in all the wrong places, and honestly, you’re kind of dense. I wish you the best of luck with someone else.

Meanwhile, it’s time for me to get freaky with my dough. That’s right, baby. The spice must flow. Sometime soon, I’m going to relabel a bottle of mead “The Water of Life” and bake myself a sandworm.

Bitchin’ Bread Battle: Enter the Madness
Bitchin’ Bread Battle Day 1: Nutella Challah
Bitchin’ Bread Battle Day 2: Banana (Catan) Bread
Bitchin’ Bread Battle Day 3: Rosemary Garlic Bread
Bitchin’ Bread Battle Day 4: Ood Rolls
Bitchin’ Bread Battle Day 5: Not Quite King’s Hawaiian Rolls
Bitchin’ Bread Battle Day 6: Make it Dough
Bitchin’ Bread Battle Day 7: Wookie Pull Apart Bread
Bitchin’ Bread Battle Day 8-11: Settlers of Catan Bread Board
Bitchin’ Bread Battle Day 12: How NOT to Make a Sandworm
Bitchin’ Bread Battle Day 13: Valentine’s Day Anatomical Human Heart Pull Apart Bread
Bitchin’ Bread Battle Day 14: Nutella or Cinnamon Roll Hearts
Bitchin’ Bread Battle Day 15: Outback Copycat Bread
Bitchin’ Bread Battle Day 16: Return of the Sandworm
Bitchin’ Bread Battle Day 17: Vegan Popplers
Bitchin’ Bread Battle Day 18: Woodbury Bleeding Zombie Victim Loaf
Bitchin’ Bread Battle Day 19: Alien Xenomorph Pretzel Bread Eggs
Bitchin’ Bread Battle Day 20: Aperture Laboratories Bleeding Summer Strawberry Lemon Bread
Bitchin’ Bread Battle Day 21: Roasted Garlic Bread in Meatloaf Grease
Bitchin’ Bread Battle Day 22: Wonder Woman
Bitchin’ Bread Battle Day 23: Watermelon Bread

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