Battle of the Breads

Cruising in the Bahamas often finds one in a feast or famine condition.

No really "famine" just an urgent fridge defrosting on Christmas Eve.

Not really “famine” just an urgent fridge defrosting on Christmas Eve.

This may be a slight exaggeration but still it seems that we have either stocked up to the point of bursting or we’re down to our last carrot, sustained only by.. you guessed it- rum. I’m making a broad statement there, but usually we find that one or two food items end up in that feast or famine category. Coconut bread, especially the real deal (not a commercial one) was our first searched for foodstuff in the Bahamas. Hours, days would be more like it, of pouring through books, websites, cruising forums and the Explorer chart books, assured us that coconut bread paved roads awaited us. A feast I tell you.

Our first winter began in the Berrys where you’d be hard pressed to find a morsel of food let alone a baked good. Flo’s was once “the” place to get a meal and coconut bread. As it turned out we considered ourselves lucky to have scored a meal, calling ahead the day before to say we’d be there. (didn’t help that we were very early in the season) However, we did not give up and even stooped to buying a commercial loaf in Nassau just to make French toast. As we traveled down the Exuma chain, becoming more desperate with each passing island, our pot of coconut thankfully appeared at the yellow house in Staniel Cay. A fresh home-baked bread, a step up from a commercial loaf, but not quite what we’d hoped for. Our next stop, Black Point should have been where we found manna from heaven, but an ostrich could not have had its head in the sand any more than we did and we missed out on Mom’s bread. A small blessing at least was that we had no clue what we’d missed; until our next visit.

So then we arrive in George Town, home of Mom’s Bakery. More like Mom’s Bakery is further south but she’d drive up to GT in her van loaded with baked goods and of course, coconut bread. Surely, this would be the place. Our SSCA webinar, “First Timers Guide to the Exumas” promised Mom’s Bakery van in GT. You can guess what we found, or rather didn’t find when we arrived; yep, no Mom’s Bakery van. Mom’s age and health kept her away. One announcement was made on the Net that maybe she’d be coming up, but sadly that didn’t happen. The bakery is run, so we understand, by her daughter and on occasion Exuma Market will have Mom’s Bakery breads on the shelf.

By now you are thinking, “why don’t we just bake our own?” Not so easily done, plus we wanted to be authentic and use fresh grated coconut meat; not that sweet shredded stuff in a package. My compromise was to bake a sweet dessert-like coconut quick bread that used cream of coconut and then the sweet shredded stuff was acceptable. Tasty on its own; it was not French toast material.

Fast forward to the present and our third year in the Bahamas; we’ve finally enjoyed several loaves of what we believe to be the best coconut bread in the Bahamas. Lorraine’s mom at Black Point; perhaps you recall me raving about it more than once 🙂

Bread number one in the battle of the coconut breads in the Black Point corner: Black Point Mom.

Black Point Mom's coconut bread. Mom bakes other types, but this one rocks

Black Point Mom’s coconut bread. Mom bakes other types, but this one rocks

This year we zoomed to GT to be sure we arrived enough ahead of our son flying in for the holidays.  Not many cruising boats and not many vacationers or winter villa owners around. So we get to the market and there on the shelf is a loaf of Mom’s Bakery coconut bread. Halleluiah!  Grabbed that quick as a wink. Could we be so lucky to now have three loaves of coconut bread on board?  Yes- the feast has begun.

Bread number two in the battle, in the George Town corner: George Town Mom.

George Town Mom's coconut bread. Fresh grated coconut meat is throughout the loaf

George Town Mom’s coconut bread. Fresh grated coconut meat is throughout the loaf

On our trip to Long Island with Benj, we received a gift of two coconuts in addition to the one Benj dispatched himself. Russ, our on board bread baker, had already found a recipe online for Bahamian Coconut Bread and now that we had fresh coconut meat to grate we’d see how ours would compare.

Bread number three in the cruising corner: s/v Ortolan (you could think “Dad” for fun).

Here’s how we made ours.

Climb a tree and cut down a ripe one- or select one off the ground, like most do

Climb a tree and cut down a ripe one- or select one off the ground, like most do

We used our heavy duty large chef's knife to cut around the outer husk first

We used our heavy-duty large chef’s knife to cut around the outer husk first

Not a job for weaklings; rip open the outer husk after you cut all the way around

Not a job for weaklings; rip open the outer husk after you cut all the way around

We were surprised that the nut sits at the bottom not in the middle

We were surprised that the nut sits at the bottom not in the middle

Crack open the coconut and save the milk- or add gin and drink it, then nap

Crack open the coconut and save the milk- or add gin and drink it, then nap ‘cuz you must be pooped by now

Russ grated enough for the bread; the rest we cut into easy-to-snack-on morsels

Russ grated enough for the bread; the rest we cut into easy-to-snack-on morsels

Boil the milk from one coconut with water, then pour over shredded coconut and let steep

Boil the milk from one coconut with water, then pour over shredded coconut and let steep

Mix ingredients, stir in flour and divide dough into two bread loaf pans

Mix ingredients, stir in flour and divide dough into two bread loaf pans

If the dough looks a bit moist here, well it is. The recipe, unfortunately did not give an exact liquid quantity so we went with what we had and hoped the result would be OK.

The result. Extra baking time and a bit heavy but loaded with coconut

The result. Extra baking time and a bit heavy but loaded with coconut

Did our bread pass the french toast test? Yes- as long as you have plenty of egg batter. It soaks up a lot, but is tasty and so effortless. 🙂  Next time we’ll use less liquid and determine the exact quantity. We are down to our last slice; time to hunt down more coconuts and I know just where to find them now that we are back at Long Island.

We score big in Black Point

Black Point Sunset - Bahamas Defense vessel stands watch

Black Point Sunset – Bahamas Defense vessel stands watch

Hanging out at Staniel Cay, anchored reasonably close to shore allowed us to pick up Exuma Wifi from the boat. A better deal than  Warderick Wells at $10 for 250mb or 24 hours whichever comes first (pricey anyway uh?), we did all our online stuff and still didn’t use up the 250mb.

The forecast was pointing to a jump down to George Town Thursday and if we didn’t take that, the next opportunity was indeterminable. Most sailing craft want some north in the wind to reduce major pounding into the waves for 40 miles. The prevailing wind is generally E and ESE; ENE only pops up once in a while and sometimes it could be more wind than you want.

Before that we needed to attend to laundry and more importantly, score some of Lorraine’s mom’s coconut bread; manna from heaven. The trek to Black Point was an easy nine miles; ran the water maker since we couldn’t sail that angle. Only four boats in the large anchorage told us once again how early we are this year; just wait a few weeks!

Ida wasn’t around so we left our laundry at the machines and headed over to Adderley’s market – the backup place for tokens. But they only had dryer tokens. Ok then we’ll try her on VHF16- nope. Went to see Lorraine at the café and she said she’d call Ida at home for us 🙂 She greeted us with hugs; gee I guess we’ve become known regulars. Her mom had fresh out of the oven coconut bread which caused me to do a little happy dance; we’ll take two! The bread was still hot and the aroma filled the house. We chatted and told her that no one makes coconut bread like she does; not that she hasn’t heard that a million times.

Ida appeared and we began our three loads. Had the place to ourselves but Ida was chatty and remembered us from when we were at the airport for Benj’s flight out last January. She and her daughter were Nassau bound on the same small plane.

Benj, the multi-talented pilot, Ida and her daughter wait to board (Jan 2013)

Benj, the multi-talented pilot, Ida and her daughter wait to board (Jan 2013)

We learned her daughter is 19, her son is 22(?) and currently in France. They both sound like motivated young adults who take after their successful business owner parents. In addition to Rockside Laundry, Ida and her husband own Rockside Cottages overlooking the harbor.

The Laundromat is 11 years old now. Five of the washers finally need to be replaced. Ida shared some figures with us: each new one cost $700 in Miami, approx. $1,200 total freight cost plus import duty. If the machines were bought in Nassau the cost each would be $1,600 plus freight to Black Point. You do the math; she went to Miami and saved considerable even with her RT travel cost included. As we headed off with clean laundry, coconut bread and smiling faces, Ida asked us to say “hello” to her cousin (I think) who is the Doctor of Libations at Peace & Plenty (P&P) Resort in George Town. Of course!

Wednesday morning, after a breakfast of- can you guess? Yes! Coconut bread French toast- sigh- we mostly-sailed 13 nm further down the Exuma chain to a spot off the beach at Big Farmers. If the forecast held up, Thurs would find us in Exuma Sound bound for George Town, Elizabeth Harbor and all that goes with being in that larger-than-life area.