It was with my godmother Carol that I first visited the Caribbean Isle through our kitchen before I could even pronounce “Jamaica.” My twin sister and I were wee tots when Carol swooped into our snow-dusted Denver home to help Mamma manage full-time work peppered with a double dose of friskiness. It seemed Carol had stored up the Jamaican sun so she could light up those around her with her gentle, giving nature and sweet smile! One of the ways she did this best was in the kitchen.
Carol and Mamma loved sharing their favorite homeland recipes, weaving them into our family traditions. Ackee and saltfish on Christmas morning! Basil, mozzarella and tomato penne on Friday night! When I first tasted fresh ackee in Jamaica, I remember the shock on the caretaker’s face at the rental house; these kids actually know about it…and like it?! Oh did we! Under palm trees rippled and sprayed by the soft ocean breeze, each bite was paradise.
So when the day arrived for my friend Stefan and me to share our version of a Jamaican feast with our families, I was delighted to greet the morning with inspired memories of a Carol dream! When I was twelve, Carol taught me the art of celebration. Ironically, it was at her funeral. Despite the pain that surrounded her battle with breast cancer, Carol’s friends and family honored her life with such joyous gospel, dance and food! I remember the church rumbling with laughter and praise, as I tapped my shiny, black patent shoes and swayed in my flowery frock.
Each time I gather with family and friends around Jamaican fare, Carol’s spirit infuses each morsel with foolish, delicious delight!
This was my first time preparing Jamaican coco bread. It is a simple, slightly sweet roll that serves well for mopping up ackee and saltfish! Oddly, not a single recipe called for coconut of any sort, so I bedazzled my rolls with coconut shreds for a crunchy, Caribbean finish. Stefan, who was raised in Jamaica, taught us that growing, ravenous boys are often served a Jamaican patty inside coco bread. Talk about boosting caloric needs!
Stefan and Sylvia’s 6 and 7 year old children, clearly well-seasoned at baking, had a grand time rolling out the bread and brushing the rolls with butter!
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For a traditional Jamaican meal, serve with ackee. Can't find it? Order it online.
- 2 packets yeast
- 1 teaspoon organic cane sugar
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 medium egg, beaten
- 1 cup warm milk
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 3.5 cups white flour*
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 cup shredded coconut
- Whisk together the yeast, sugar and water.
- Add the beaten egg and stir into the mixture. Stir in the milk and sea salt.
- Stir in 2 cups of flour. Slowly add more flour until the dough becomes too stiff to stir.
- Sprinkle a clean surface with flour, and turn out the dough onto the surface. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it is smooth. Form the dough into a large ball.
- Transfer the dough to a clean bowl and drizzle the dough with about 1 tablespoon of the melted butter. Roll the dough in the bowl until it is coated with butter. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and put the bowl in a warm place (by a radiator or even insulated with a down jacket) to rise for about 1 hour.
- When the dough has doubled in size, preheat the oven to 425. Grease a baking sheet or layer it with parchment paper.
- Sprinkle a clean surface with flour again. Uncover the dough and divide it into 10 pieces. Use a rolling pin to roll each piece into a circle about a 1/2 centimeter thick.
- Brush the surface of the dough with the melted butter and then fold it in half. Brush the surface facing up again with melted butter. Transfer the coco bread to the baking sheet. Repeat for all 10 pieces.
- Sprinkle the top of the coco bread with coconut shreds.
- Place the bread on the bottom oven rack and bake for about 15 minutes, until it turns golden brown.
*Farmer Ground Flour is original native grain four and milled locally. As a result it gave it a lovely integral, whole-wheat look and flavor. If you don't have affordable, artisanal flour, try using half whole wheat flour and half white flour.