Ulu Tortillas by Tom Pickett of Kilauea Bakery

It’s July 1991 and the Kilauea Bakery bakes its first loaves of bread for the rural Kauai town of Kilauea. Chef and graduate with honors of the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, Tom Pickett and his wife Katie transformed the bread scene on the North Shore and throughout the years have created some spectacular recipes – like his ulu tortillas.

“Think of an ‘ulu fruit as dough on a tree”

Tom Pickett

A tremendous advocate for supporting local, Tom purchases produce from more than 10 different nearby farms and farmers to stock his bakery’s pantry. The outcome is deliciously fresh comfort food that draws in the hungry folks passing through Kilauea town. One of his many innovative formulas was created to highlight ulu (breadfruit). As a baker he took the name literally and let the ideas fly.

Be sure to stop by the bakery early! The Ulu bread usually sells out before closing time.

Long ago, a local farmer with a feral, survivalist edge to him cheerfully ordered his morning coffee and proposed a problem that Tom would not forget. He asked, “What will you bake and serve at your bakery when the barges stop coming?”. As a lifelong tinkerer and inventor, Tom took on the question as a sort of challenge. Through much trial and error he was able to develop a true ulu bread formula that can be adapted to make many different types of bread. Check out Tom’s pita making methods at the very bottom using this same dough recipe!

Ulu Tortillas

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound    ulu
  • 4 ounces    tapioca flour
  • ½ tsp        salt
  • ½ tsp        sugar
  • 1 tsp        xantham gum
  • 1 ounce    butter, lard or oil of your choice.We use coconut oil

Preparation Instructions: Pick an ulu from a breadfruit tree, cut it in wedges, boil it a few minutes, shred it on a cheese grater, mix it with a few ingredients into a dough, make tortillas and pan fry them. Recipe makes 6 ulu tortillas. The breakdown:

  •  Pick an ‘Ulu: Look for an ulu in your tree that is mature, starchy and hard. We like the big ones, two or three pounds at least. Any sign of softness means the fruit is too ripe for bread recipes. A fruit that is too young will be light green and have a bumpy surface. The fruit you want has a deeper shade of green and the bumpy texture is almost gone as if the fruit is swollen or plump. There should be a drip or two of dried white latex sap showing on parts of the skin. Picking the fruit can be a sticky job because latex sap will drip from the stem. A few minutes after you pick it the sap will stop running. We said “pick” the ulu but you will actually have to cut it down with a blade or clipper as the stem is rather thick and woody. Wear clothing if you plan on climbing into your tree. Speaking from personal experience heading up the tree without a shirt on can leave you a bit itchy after brushing up against the underside of breadfruit leaves. 
  • Boil it a few minutes: Rinse the ulu, cut into four or six wedges and drop them into a large pot of boiling water for 15 minutes. The idea is to soften the starches but not to overcook them or make them soggy or mushy. Once boiled turn off the heat, carefully pick the pieces out of the water with tongs and let them cool on a plate or in a bowl. Once they are room temperature refrigerate them for an hour or more. They will be fine refrigerated for a few days if you cover them. It is fine to peel and core your fruit however we do not. The skin contains extra nutrients and the core contains more dietary fiber. Consider this a “whole grain” ulu recipe. The only part we don’t use is the woody stem and the occasional seed. Note; steaming is also a fine cooking method. 
  • Shred it: Shred or grate your cooled wedges of par-cooked ulu with a cheese grater or a food processor to convert it into a shredded or finely chopped meal. This is the basic ingredient for tortilla dough and for several other breads and pastry recipes. Put it into a bag or container, refrigerate it for a few days or freeze it for the long term.
  • Mix it like a dough: Measure the ingredients into a bowl then mix and knead them well with your hands or a Kitchenaid style mixer. Mix well until most lumps are smoothed out and your dough resembles moist clay. If you have a food processor use it, the finer the mix the better.
  • Make tortillas: Cut 2 pieces of waxed or parchment paper 10” or 12” square, oil one surface of each paper. Wet your hands with water and roll gobs of your dough into 1 1/2 “ to 2 1/2” balls. Sandwich a dough ball between the two pieces of oiled paper. Place a flat board, like a small cutting board, on top of this and smash it flat with the weight of your hands until your tortilla is about 1/8 inch thick and 6” to 10” inches in diameter. 
  • Cook them: Flatten and cook your ulu tortillas one at a time. Put a non-stick or seasoned frying pan or griddle over medium heat. Peel the top piece of waxed paper from your newly flattened tortilla. Lift it off the table with the bottom piece of waxed paper. Flop the tortilla over and into the pan and carefully peel the other paper away. Cook the tortilla until it is firmed up a bit. Flip it over or turn carefully with a spatula. Once it looks cooked, with a bit of browning in spots on both sides set it to cool on a plate and begin the next one. The heat converts the starches to gelatins and gives your flat bread itʻs strength, flexibility and chewy texture. 

Try something different! I donʻt know about you but we usually ask ourselves, “What else can we do with this?” “Let’s try a huge one, let’s try a tiny one. Let’s try making a pita bread with it.” Hint: to make a pita bread flatten two 6” inch tortillas and peel the top paper off, stick the two exposed sides together and gently press the outer rims. Peel the top paper off your new Pita bread, invert it into your pan or griddle, peel the other paper off and fry as you would a tortilla only a bit longer. Your Pita will puff up a bit while it is cooking due to the steam in the middle. That steam creates the pocket. When it is cooled you can cut it in half and open it to make your Pita sandwich.

Good luck, have fun, make mistakes, it’s how you learn.

Do you have a recipe highlighting Hawaii grown produce that you’d like to share?
Email us at hawaiifarmersmarkets@gmail.com

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