5 Places to Satisfy Your Malassada Craving on Fat Tuesday
Fat Tuesday is February 25 this year, which usually means malassadas! Here are hits and misses we found in our pursuit of this popular Portuguese pastry.
This story was originally published in March 2019.
Pipeline Bakery in Kaimukī.
Photos: Terri Inefuku
In Hawai‘i, Fat Tuesday is also known as Malassada Day—but let’s be honest, our love for the puffy rounds of rich yeasted dough, deep-fried and rolled in sugar, is not bounded by holidays.
Some of our favorites, Champions and Agnes’ Portuguese Bake Shop, are gone. But, in the spirit of celebration, I visited five other bakeries to see how their malassadas measured up in taste, texture and longevity.
Here they are, ranked:
1. Pipeline Bakeshop & Creamery
Malassadas in this Kaimukī shop are made to order and served hot. Choose your flavor of sugar, classic, cocoa, coffee, li hing, or cinnamon, a Sunday exclusive, then settle down and wait while your malassada is made. My order, classic and cinnamon, consisted of gorgeous, round puffs of crispy crust encasing hot, chewy dough topped with generous coats of sugar. The winning factor, I found, was in their flavor, a balanced blend of sweetness and richness with the perfect amount of yeast.
You won’t find any fillings at Pipeline (although the ice cream-stuffed Malamode is another winner there). Owner Gayla Young says great care was taken both in recipe and technique to ensure her malassadas’ longevity. Filling, she says, would only cut their shelf life. Sure enough, subsequent bites taken hours, even a day, later still delivered a delicious, hearty chew, though I preferred the crunch that resulted from a few minutes in the toaster oven.
Overall Rating: 5 malassadas
$1.50 classic, $1.75 flavored, 3632 Wai‘alae Ave., #102. Pipeline Bakeshop & Creamery is normally closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but will open for special hours on Fat Tuesday, March 5, 6 a.m.-7 p.m. pipelinebakeshop.com
2. Leonard’s Bakery
There’s a reason why Leonard’s Bakery is always packed. The malassadas are hot, accented by a delightful sugary crunch that gives way to a soft, practically melt-in-your-mouth dough—a truly blissful bite.
Fortunately, the bakery is used to the rush and knows how to keep things moving. I placed my order at one end of the counter, then took my receipt to the other end where I paid at a second register. Orders are brought out in batches and the entire process took less than 10 minutes.
I found myself lingering in the parking lot, among many others, enjoying my fresh malassada as sugar flew everywhere. But like a unicorn sighting, its magic was somewhat fleeting. As my malassada sat over the next hour, it reverted into a soft, oily mass that exposed a lack of flavor in its dough. My toaster oven test revived its crispness the next day, though its flavor could not compare to Pipeline’s.
Overall Rating: 4 malassadas
$1.30 each, 933 Kapahulu Ave., leonardshawaii.com
3. Liliha Bakery
Liliha Bakery specializes in filled malassadas and, unlike the previous two, these are not made to order. By the time I arrived at the restaurant’s original location, around 1 p.m., I only spotted apple and liliko‘i malassadas in the display case, though I’m told more were made in the early morning (azuki and haupia) and had since sold out.
These are by far the largest malassadas of the bunch, though they consisted mostly of fillings encased in very thin layers of fried dough and sugar. The apple appeared a little more “well-done” with its dark brown color, but that didn’t translate into taste. The fillings were flavorful; I enjoyed the large chunks of spiced apple filling while liliko‘i turned out to be a sturdy, bright-orange cream with a zesty tang. They were so hearty, I found myself cutting them open with a fork and knife, and didn’t come close to finishing either in one sitting.
Overall Rating: 3 malassadas
4. Kamehameha Bakery
I’ve enjoyed many a poi doughnut from Kamehameha Bakery, but never malassadas. They are not made to order, but rather sit in the display case alongside an assortment of sweet offerings. The dough is quite thick, giving the malassada a hefty chew with barely any crisp in the crust. The sugar topping feels lighter here and while it adds sweetness, there’s no discernible crunch.
Keep in mind, I sampled this malassada toward the end of my journey, at around 1:30 p.m. Early birds might have a different experience, though I will likely stick to poi doughnuts on future visits.
Overall Rating: 2 malassadas
80 cents each, 1284 Kalani St., kamehamehabakeryhi.com
Malassadas at Zippy’s are made to order (they also serve up fresh andagi and jin dui), but when I opened my package from the Vineyard location on a Sunday afternoon, I was surprised to find two small, hard spheres with clumps of sugar adhering to its rough surface. The dough was dense and created a crust that leaned more firm than crispy. They also had a distinct, slightly sour flavor, as if the dough had been overproofed.
Overall Rating: 1 malassada
94 cents each, various locations, zippys.com