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It's nearly impossible to mention Leonard's Bakery without, at some point, referencing its malasadas. The Hawaiian institution, situated at the elbow of Kapahulu Avenue and Charles Street, has been producing the pillowy sweets since 1953.
But what exactly is a malasada?
In short, it’s a Portuguese doughnut without a hole. Made from egg- and butter-enriched sweet yeast-raised dough, generous dollops are deep-fried until a slight golden crust forms on the exterior while the interior retains its light and fluffy texture. They are made to order and served piping hot.
At Leonard's Bakery, not only are malasadas dusted with your choice of white or cinnamon sugar, but these gastronomic delights can be ordered the traditional way or filled with flavors ranging from custard and haupia (coconut) to li hing mui (dried plum) and mango. Their two best sellers? Original and custard-filled.
Originally introduced to Hawaii in the late 1880s by Portuguese immigrants, malasadas weren’t produced on a commercial scale until the bakery’s inception nearly a century later. The grandson of a couple from San Miguel Island, Portugal, Leonard DoRego began churning out the sweet treats after a suggestion from his mother that he should make them for Shrove Tuesday — a Portuguese tradition. Although skeptical that they may be “too ethnic,” Leonard’s Bakery took a gamble and the appetite for malasadas in Hawaii was born.
Today, Leonard’s is still regarded around the world as the creators of the best malasadas in the United States.
Heavy to the touch, but airy to the taste, the malasadas seemed almost to dissolve when they hit my tongue. The crunch of the sugar granules offered the perfect contrast to the pastry's pillowy texture. Nutty, sugary, and oh-so-satisfying, this is one sweet treat I'm sure to have again and again.