Monday, May 20, 2013

Cooking the Hilo Woman's Club Cook Book: Papaia Pie

I was looking for a cookbook with vintage charm that was exotic yet approachable. Something with character. I found the jackpot on eBay: The Hilo Woman's Club Cook Book (Sixth printing, October 1948).

First published in July 1937 by the Hilo Tribune-Herald.

The HWCCB has many recipes featuring familiar traditional Hawaiian ingredients like pineapple and coconut, but also less common delicacies like granadillo, pomelo, ohelo, poha, and breadfruit. Immediately, though, my eye was drawn to the section on "papaia", as papaya was apparently spelled back then. There were many options: baked papaia, Chinese orange and papaia marmalade, and three variations on pickled papaia.

Thanks for the recipe, Miss Ellen Pomeroy. Wherever you are, I hope there's plenty of ripe tropical fruit to cook with.

Pie, however, seem the way to go. Here's the brief version. Peel and seed a large papaya, cutting into 1-inch chunks.

Yes, the piece on the right kind of looks like half a chicken with a wing on the side. I promise you, no extreme genetic modifications were at play here.

Boil the pieces in a syrup of sugar and pineapple juice until soft. Remove pieces from syrup, set aside, proceed to thicken syrup with corn starch. Place papaya pieces in pie crust and cover with syrup, bake in a hot over for 25 minutes.

Interestingly, the art of making pie crusts was apparently so taken for granted among the women of Hilo in the 1940s that, even though the book contains many pie recipes, nowhere does it contain any pastry-making guidelines. You're on your own, haole.

I used a pie crust recipe from Land of Cotton and the glass holder from a Virgin of Guadalupe prayer candle to roll out the dough. Saints be praised!

Eventually, all of this should yield an actual pie. The final instructions before baking are to "put strips of pastry on top." I didn't have nearly enough dough left to make a proper lattice-top pie crust, so I made the Adidas logo instead.

The final result was some fairly good pie. The one deficiency was that even after coming out of the oven and cooling the filling was still slightly runny on top. A little additional corn starch in the syrup with no doubt fix that right up next time.

And just in case you were wondering, the Hilo Woman's Club is still around and "committed to assisting and educating its members in the areas of civic and personal interest." They celebrated their 90th anniversary recently, and their club house at 7 Lele Street is currently available for special events for a very reasonable rental fee. 

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