American Classics: Haupia

American Classics

Lost classic desserts from our wide and varied past.

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[Photograph: Alexandra Penfold]

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In my experience, coconut is one of those love-it or hate-it foods. As a kid, my only real exposure to coconut had been in the context of cloyingly sweet confections which put me staunchly in the hate-it camp. It's dishes like haupia, a traditional Hawaiian luau staple, that have since made me reconsider.

Haupia, pronounced how-PEE-ah, is an uncluttered dessert made primarily of coconut milk and milk. A few tablespoons of sugar and vanilla are added to amp up the natural sweetness of the coconut and then some cornstarch is whisked in to thicken the pudding. While haupia doesn't take much time to prepare, it's all about the slow and low cooking. In order to get the desired firm yet creamy texture, it's essential to blend coconut milk well with the whole milk heating the mixture over a low flame until thickened and smooth.

While you may be tempted to ladle yourself up a serving immediately, haupia is typically served not in a bowl, but chilled and cut into small squares. Cool, clean, and completely refreshing, this is coconut as it's meant to be enjoyed.

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Haupia »

Got a favorite classic American dessert recipe you'd like to see featured here? Email us with the subject: "American Classics."