My parents grew up in a third world country and moved here with little money to spare. So it is no wonder that they have a thriftiness that sometimes borders on obsession, especially when it comes to food. Wasting food is probably one of the worst things that one can do in their eyes, and when they left Hawaii, they handed me a number of items, including a papaya that they had not had a chance to eat. Papaya is one of those types of fruit that I enjoy, but not immensely. The soft texture and the perfume like flavor is wonderful for a bite or two, but anymore and I get overwhelmed by it. Not sure what to do with an entire papaya, I decided I needed to turn it into a breakfast bread for AJ and I, as we were heading up to Mt. Haleakala for the sunrise and a long hike. Turns out we would need the nourishment, as our hike was a 7 hour grueling but gorgeous hike into the lava fields, but luckily we had my White Chocolate Ginger Papaya Bread to give us energy.
Maui is a gorgeous island, as most of my Hawaii posts have shown. Though a lot of the island have their own unique attractions, one of the top ones in Maui (besides the Road to Hana) is the trip up to the top of Mt. Haleakala to see the sunrise. The one problem with it, however, is that you have to wake up REALLY early to do it. We set our alarm at 3:30am to do the hike, hyped on coffee & papaya bread, and headed up to the mountain.
I rarely see the sunrise. I’m not an early riser, being very much a night owl. But there’s something mystical and near spiritual to watch the sun rise over the clouds, clouds that are actually below you. The elevation up is 10,000 feet, well above the clouds, and watching the spectacular sun is worth the lack of sleep and drive. AJ and I walked down the trail ever so slightly, away from the crowds of tourists and watched the golden fiery red sky burst into flames as the sun started to peak over the clouds by ourselves. It’s as silent and as still as any place I’ve ever been, with very little wildlife and all I could think of is how magical the entire experience is.
Because most people come up just for the sunrise (often in tour buses), they miss the wonder of hiking down into the lava fields and the cinder cones. AJ and my sister and brother-in-law had gone hiking into the cinder cones a week before, something AJ and I did a few years ago. I had stayed home, recovering from my rogue wave accident, so instead AJ and I headed down the long trail to check out the lava fields, something we hadn’t hiked too yet.
One of the first things they tell you about in the hike is to wear lots of sunscreen and bring lots of water. There is no shade and nowhere to get water. You are hiking into national park that feels like Mars (or a set from a Star Trek episode). Red rocks, and vibrant streaks of color make the landscape feel completely alien, and though you want to keep taking pictures (at least I do) I know that photos will not do the place justice. There are certain times that nothing but the real life experience will do. But it didn’t stop me from taking photo after photo.
As we walked down, there is scant vegetation, but AJ and I did encounter the Haleakala silversword plant, a specific species of plant that is endangered. Though there are other variants of this plant on other Hawaiian volcanoes, this silversword is only found on Maui, on Mt. Haleakala, between the elevation of 6,900 ft and 9,800 ft (no wonder it’s endangered). What makes the plant more unique (and adds to the alien landscape that we were hiking is) is that the plants is covered with a furry silver skin, designed to capture the sun light and reflect it back into the center of the plant, keeping it warm enough to survive the harsh climate of the volcano. On top of that, the plants can live up to 50 years, before they flower once, and then die. We were lucky to traveling during the flowering season (between July and October) and saw numerous silverswords in various stages of flowering.
The hike down is beautiful and barren, with the final lava field that we arrived at, after three hours of hiking, seemingly devoid of life, other than a few stubborn shrubs peaking out in the black field of rocks. The path through the lava field led further on, beckoning and calling to us to continue toward the alien unknown, but after hiking fifteen more minutes, we turned back, knowing that the hike up to the parking lot would be harder and more arduous than the hike down was (especially as we gain altitude). Perhaps next time we get a cabin in the park, which would allow us to hike all day and camp out overnight.
On the airplane flight back to the mainland, days after we did the hike, I picked up the Hawaiian Airlines magazine “HanaHou!” and flipped to an article about the silence of Mt. Haleakala. In it, the writer talks about how he searched high and low to find true natural silence in a world that is filled with noise, whether it is from the clatter and clank of the modern world, to the noise of wildlife and rustling winds. It was only in an unspecified area of the park that the author is able to find true natural silence, where he can hear his own pulse and the pulse of the island. I don’t know if AJ and found that particular space, but I know that we saw perhaps one other couple on a hike early on in our trip down, and then no one else. We were alone, together in an alien world, savoring the last of our trip to Hawaii, and enjoying what little time we had left on paradise, knowing that we would be heading back to the “real world” soon. We were alone but we never felt lonely, because we had each other, the spirit of Mt. Haleakala and Maui and my fresh baked papaya bread to keep us company.
Chunks of white chocolate, crystallized ginger and floral papaya flavor this moist quick bread. Grinding up some of the papaya seeds add a nice subtle kick to the bread, and means you can use even more of the papaya fruit, which is always nice. Save the rest of the papaya seeds and use them in a salad dressing. They have a mild peppery taste that works well on a leafy green salad or pasta salad that you want to infuse with a bit of tropical flavor. Grind the papaya seeds in a mortar and pestle if you have one, or if you don’t, place it in a ziplock bag, seal and crush the seeds with a heavy rolling pin.
Cooked Papaya Puree
1 medium papaya (about 1 lbs)
75 (6 tablespoons) brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter
zest from 1 medium lemon
Juice from 1 medium lemon (~2 tablespoons)
1 vanilla bean
225 g (1 1/2 cup) all purpose flour
140 g (1 cup) white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon fresh papaya seeds, ground
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
140 g (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons or 1 1/4 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
240 g (1 cup) dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100 g (1/2 cup) white chocolate chips
75 g (1/2 cup) diced crystallized ginger
1. Split the papaya in half and scoop out the seeds. Save the 1 tablespoon of the seeds for the bread batter and reserve the rest for another use. Dice the papaya into 1/2” chunks.
2. Place the papaya chunks, brown sugar, butter, lemon zest, and juice in a pan. Cook on medium heat until the papaya chunks start to fall apart, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and split the vanilla bean lengthwise. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the papaya puree. Reserve the vanilla bean pod for another use.
3. Preheat the oven to 350˚F and generously spray and flour a 9 inch x 5 inch loaf pan.
4. Place the flours, papaya seeds, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Using a balloon whisk, vigorously stir until uniform in color.
5. Place the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat the butter until light and creamy, about two to three minutes on medium speed. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides with a spatula between additions. Add the yogurt and vanilla extract and beat to incorporate.
6. Add half the dry ingredients to the batter and beat until incorporated. Add the papaya puree and beat until incorporated. Add the remaining dry ingredients and beat until incorporated. Fold in the white chocolate and ginger.
7. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until a toothpick or skewer placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Be sure to test several areas, as the toothpick may hit a wet papaya chunk area and look not done yet. You don’t want to overbake the loaf.
8. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes on a wire rack, before removing from pan to cool further. Enjoy while hiking on a remote tropical island in the pacific on an inactive volcano landscape, or at home, while dreaming of hiking on a remote tropical island in the pacific on an inactive volcano landscape.
Makes one loaf.