Hawaiian doughnuts owe their origin to Portugal, where they are known as malasadas.
And there's no better place to try these delectable doughnuts than at Leonard's Bakery in Honolulu, Hawaii.
This dynamic family bakery was named after the grandson of Portuguese immigrants to Maui in 1882.
After moving to Honolulu in 1952 with his wife Margaret and their daughter, Leonard opened his eponymous bakery.
Malasadas were not originally on the menu, but when Leonard's mother suggested they offer them, he wisely took her advice.
In 1953, their fresh-baked Hawaiian doughnuts became an island hit.
Nearly 70 years later, locals and visitors alike still line up for them every morning.
Visiting Leonard's Bakery
As I learned in San Francisco, jetlag is your friend when it comes to arriving early at bakeries.
And while Leonard's opens at 5:30 am, there was no need to go overboard about it.
My girlfriend and I arrived at 7:15 am to a line around the block.
Granted, they were only allowing five customers at a time inside due to social distancing, but I doubt they have room for more, even in regular times.
It was about a 30-minute wait for us to get inside. By then, we'd already decided what to order.
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But first, what exactly is a malasada?
As the sign (pictured below) says, malasadas are a form of Portuguese fried dough.
The main ingredients are yeast, flour, eggs, milk, butter, sugar, and salt. Oil is used for deep-frying them. They're topped with granulated sugar.
The result is a slightly crisp exterior and a pillowy-soft dough interior.
Malasadas are a pure pleasure to eat, which is why they caught on so quickly.
Unlike an American doughnut, Hawaiian doughnuts don't have holes in the center. And the more traditional ones don't have fillings, either.
Thankfully, for me and everyone else who enjoys a little something extra inside their pastries, Leonard's Bakery introduced malasada puffs.
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Inside Leonard's Bakery, souvenir hats and stuffed malasadas are available for purchase.
The branding and designs are accurate to the original artwork from the 1950s, which creates a sense of nostalgia.
There's even a picture of their old red-and-white-striped food truck serving hot malasadas around town. Today, they're known as Malasadamobiles™.
Our Hawaiian Doughnuts
By now, you must be wondering what we ordered after all this time—and salivating.
We filled up one of Leonard's trademark pink takeaway boxes with:
- Original (sugar)
- Li-Hing (sweet and sour sugar)
- Dobash puff (chocolate)
- Haupia puff (coconut)
- Macademia puff
- Yam (featured flavor)
So, we got three traditional Hawaiian doughnuts with no filling, plus four with filling.
We also wanted to try their pao doce (Portuguese sweet bread) and a few other things; however, they had cut back on production due to the pandemic.
Choices were limited across the entire menu, but it's not affecting their malasada production.
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After 45 minutes of hanging out in and around the bakery parking lot, I suggested taking our winnings to Waikiki Beach.
A quick Lyft ride led us to scenery on Oahu I hadn't seen in person since I was 13 on a family vacation. It brought back memories of my first surf lesson.
Now it was time to make some new and tasty memories. We opened the box, and I grabbed the chocolate malasada first.
My fingers coated in sticky sugar, I bit into the sweet fried dough to reveal a dark custard-like filling. It would be my favorite flavor of them all.
I devoured the remainder and moved on to the special flavor: yam.
I was less impressed with the yam filling's flavor, which was rather bland than I was with its purple color.
Two Hawaiian doughnuts were my limit, while I believe my girlfriend had one.
We closed the box and put the rest in the mini-fridge at our hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki, a few blocks away.
They kept well for several days, so as long as you have a safe place to store them, don't be shy when it comes to ordering what you want.
Leonard's Bakery, 933 Kapahulu Avenue, Honolulu, HI, leonardshawaii.com
Learn how to make malasadas with Christina Tosi and Roy at Leonard's Bakery in the video below.