Because of its many cultural influences, the Caribbean presents a kaleidoscope of different breads. Compared to light, fluffy North American loaves, Caribbean breads bake up distinctly more sturdy, but all are relatively easy to make.
A distant cousin of the North American version, Johnny cakes are ubiquitous throughout the Caribbean, both as a roadside snack and a home-cooked staple. Cooks mix flour, sugar, baking powder and milk to make balls of dough, then roll them out and fry them in oil until they puff up. Served hot, Johnny cakes can be sliced open and filled with salt fish, cheese or scrambled eggs with hot pepper sauce.
Popular in the Southern Caribbean islands that have a large East Indian population, rotis are a flat bread not much different to those found in India, and are made with a simple mix of flour, water and baking powder. Rolled into a circle and heated on a hot plate or stone, rotis have a strong enough consistency to hold juicy curry chicken stew, shrimp, potatoes or dhal without falling apart.
Cassava and Coconut Breads
Thousands of Latin Caribbean households start the day with rounds of cassava bread dipped in coffee or loaded with scrambled eggs and avocado. Making the cakes requires just one ingredient: grated baked cassava root. The end result is hard, insipid and pretty uninspiring on its own; however, cassava bread does not go stale or get moldy, unlike other types of bread in the hot, humid tropics. For best results, dip it in tripe stew or chicken soup, or slather it with sheep’s cheese. Coconut bread combines yeast, coconut milk and desiccated coconut in the dough for a risen loaf that can be baked, sliced and spread with fruit jam.
References and ResourcesDominican Cooking: Casabe (Cassava Bread)
Caribbean Pot: Trinidad Roti Recipe
Saveur: Jamaican Johnny Cakes
Caribbean Pot: Coconut Bread