Anybody who has watched the modern version of Hawaii Five-O will know that the show has given shoutouts to many local businesses. One of the most ringing endorsements has been for the Liliha Bakery’s coco puffs. In one episode Danny Williams tells Chin Ho Kelly, “That is, without a doubt, the greatest thing I’ve ever tasted in my life. That should be illegal, it’s so good.” Like Chin Ho says, the Liliha Bakery sells about 7,000 of these tasty treats every day. So what the heck is a coco puff? It’s a cream puff pastry filled with chocolate pudding and topped with a macadamia chantilly frosting.
I should preface this post by saying that I am not a baker. I love baking and trying new recipes, but I am definitely an amateur, if not a novice. On the bright side, that means that you can learn from all of my blunders. And I certainly encountered a few bumps making these. The final recipe is based on a few different recipes for coco puffs that I found. So here are my tips for recreating one of Hawaii’s most top secret recipes.
First things first, let’s make the frosting because it needs to refrigerate for quite a while. All of the recipes I found said to let it chill for one hour. After one hour my frosting was still warm to the touch and a bit loose, so I would recommend refrigerating it at least until it has completely cooled.
- 1 12 oz can evaporated milk
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 2 sticks of unsalted butter
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts*
- Combine the milk, sugar, butter, eggs yolks, and vanilla.
- Cook, stirrings constantly, over medium heat for 15-18 minutes or until the mixture begins to thicken.
- Add the macadamia nuts.
- Pour the mixture into a heat-safe glass bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the frosting.
- Refrigerate until the frosting is completely cool to the touch and has thickened to a proper spreading consistency.
- *The recipes I found never stated whether to use salted or unsalted macadamia nuts. I went with salted because I thought it would balance out all the sweet ingredients in the coco puffs. The end result was delicious, just the right balance of sweet and salty.
Next, make the puff pastry, which is also known as pate a choux.
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups flour + 4 Tbsp*
- 4 large eggs
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Boil the water and butter in a saucepan.
- Remove the mixture from the heat and pour it into a mixing bowl. Add the flour and stir until a ball of dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
- Let the dough cool for a couple minutes. It should still be hot but cool enough to stick a finger in.
- Mix the eggs in one at a time, beating for a minute before adding the next.
- Scoop 1 1/2 inch balls of dough onto a cookie sheet covered in aluminum foil. (Tip: Keep a small bowl of water nearby. You can use this to smooth out the balls with a wetted fingertip. I wish I had read about this tip earlier, but that's hindsight for ya!)
- Bake the dough at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and continue to bake for 30-35 minutes. The puffs should be golden brown and should roll over easily when nudged by a spoon.
- *All of the recipes I found called for just 1 cup of flour. Well my pate a choux dough was the consistency of soup with just 1 cup of flour. It took another 1/2 cup plus 4 tablespoons of flour before my dough was thick enough to form balls that would retain their shape.
While the puffs are cooling, you can make the chocolate pudding filling. This step is a breeze!
- 1 8 oz container of Cool Whip
- 2 6 oz boxes of instant chocolate pudding mix
- 2 3/4 cup cold whole milk
- Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until everything is well combined.
Once the puffs have cooled, cut a small circle out of the top of your puff pastry. Fill the inside with as much of the chocolate pudding filling as you want. I love chocolate pudding, so I stuffed mine until it was overflowing. Finally, top your coco puff with the cooled macadamia chantilly frosting. As you can see, I should have let my frosting cool longer because it was still a little loose at this point. It did firm up when I put the finished coco puffs in the fridge though.
A cream puff with a sweet Hawaiian twist. These little pastries lived up to the hype and were even tastier than I imagined. Like Danny says, “It’s genius! It’s amazing…Butter, cream, chocolate, a little more butter. You know, I always thought I wanted my last meal to be my mother’s lasagna, but that is out. It’s out. No more. I want this.”