DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Puna Hongwanji's Portuguese-style milk bread is served wtih strawberry-guava and lilikoi jellies made by volunteers at the Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii Betsuin. All the items will be sold at this weekend's Taste of Hongwanji.
Raising the dough
A Big Island temple shares its bounty of bread with neighbors on Oahu
Devoted bread makers will tell you -- it's not just about the finished loaf. The process of mixing, kneading and baking can be good for the soul.
TASTE OF HONGWANJI
» Featuring: Rotisserie chicken, Okinawan miso rib soup, Osaka tako balls, Puna Portuguese -style milk bread, homemade jams and jellies, temple cookbooks and much more
» When: 8 a.m. to noon Sunday
» Place: Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii Betsuin, 1727 Pali Highway
» Call: 522-9200
So it is for the volunteers at Puna Hongwanji Mission, who gather every other month to bake bread as a benefit for their temple (in the in-between months they make an pan).
"We come for fellowship, we come to relax, we come for a good meal," says the Rev. Earl Ikeda, minister of the temple and chief baker.
Puna Hongwanji shares the bounty this weekend, sending 44 cases of its specialty sweet bread to the Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii Betsuin, to sell among the many homemade goods at the Honolulu temple's annual Taste of Hongwanji.
It was Ikeda's purchase of a 20-quart mixer from a failed bakery that started his temple on this path. Two or three years ago, he says, the benefit baking began, 60 loaves at a time. These days his team of 15 volunteers bakes 500 loaves in a single day, starting at 3 a.m. They've got four convection ovens now, so they can make 96 loaves at a time, wrapping up by 1 p.m.
"I'm always amazed at what can be done," Ikeda says. "It's very enjoyable."
And it's never a problem finding takers. "We don't sell the bread, we fulfill people's requests and they make a donation (usually $4 a loaf)."
COURTESY HONPA HONGWANJI HAWAII BETSUIN
Banana leaves line the pans as volunteers at the Puna Hongwanji prepare bread for baking.
The bread is called "Portuguese-style" milk bread, because the bakers are largely of Japanese heritage, not Portuguese, but Ikeda says the techniques were taught to him by a veteran Portuguese baker.
These included lining the baking pans with banana leaves. "Natural oils come out of the leaves, so the bread doesn't stick and it helps to brown."
Ikeda's own baking heritage goes back generations. His grandfather Tatsunosuke, father Shiro and uncle Hideo were the successive CEOs of the Hilo Macaroni Factory, makers of the beloved Saloon Pilot and Hilo Creme crackers.
Ikeda was general manger of the bakery from the late 1970s until 1996 and so was skilled at cracker-baking. But he'd often allow community groups to use the company's ovens to bake goods for benefit events, and it was from one of those groups that he learned to bake bread.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Rev. Earl Ikeda of the Puna Hongwanji displays two loaves of his milk bread as volunteers behind him sort items for the Taste of Hongwanji's white-elephant sale.
This became both a hobby and source of extra income as he sold fresh-baked loaves and dinner rolls made after his shift at the cracker factory ended. It was never a formal thing, Ikeda says -- more a word-of-mouth enterprise -- but it did pay off.
"When you're newly married you don't have much money, right? So this is how my wife and I made ends meet: I learned to make bread."