Words and Photo by Sonya Samuel
Antiguans & Barbudans love bread.
Whether it’s with cheese, saltfish, sausage, ham roll, or a piece of avocado (or, as we call it, “pear”), bread is more than a staple here, it’s culture, deeply embedded into our daily lives.
While life has taken me from this “little bit of paradise” to the hustle and bustle of Brooklyn, I still remember being sent by my grandparents on summer vacations to Dagon bakery to get hot, wood-oven bread for Sunday breakfast. Not only is wood-oven bread the way that the majority of Antiguans start out their day, you can also spot crowds of people leaving Carnival fetes and heading straight for the bread shop, at a few of the 24-hour spots which churn out warm loaves for the hungry masses, day and night.
If by chance or miracle there happens to be a loaf or two left over, there is no more perfect dessert than a decadent Antiguan bread pudding with spicy mango pineapple jam. Bread pudding is not only a wonderful way to make use of day old or stale bread, it’s a dessert that can easily be elevated with some decidedly Caribbean additions. Tropical fruit and fruit jams are a clever way to take your bread pudding from humdrum to crave status. Mangoes and pineapples work really well in puddings, and are fruits that mean a lot to the people of Antigua and Barbuda, and the Caribbean at large. Antigua is known worldwide for its Antigua Black Pineapple, a rare and uncommonly sweet variety. It’s a fitting crown for the twin islands, since the species is from the “Queen” group of pineapple varieties.
It’s the middle of mango season right now, so if you’re currently on island for Carnival, you will see mango trees laden with fruit, and vendors hawking bright, beautiful mangoes. There is also an annual mango festival, which celebrates the utilization of mangoes and pineapples. Here you’ll find local vendors selling everything from mango ice cream to mango wine. It’s where I recently unveiled a brand new addition to our Bacchanal Sauce line, Mango Hot!
According to Denley Simon, former manager of Greencastle Hill and Christian Valley, two vibrant agriculture areas, says that Christian Valley boasts over 21 varieties of mangoes, the largest in one area in the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), so it’s no wonder that these fruits give creative inspiration to chefs, home cooks and artisan condiment makers such as myself. Make this wickedly delicious recipe, and surprise family and friends with some real island flavor, and if you’re ever in Wadadli (as Antigua is also known), make sure to bus a lime at the bread shop. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of some of our favorites, which you can check out after the recipe.
Antiguan Bread Pudding with Spicy Mango Pineapple Jam
2 ½ loaves wood oven bread (approximately 18 slices week-old bread)
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups canned evaporated milk (can substitute with half and half)
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 large eggs
3 tablespoons grated coconut (optional)
Bacchanal Pepper Sauce Spicy Mango Pineapple Jam (available online; ships nationwide in USA— if unavailable, substitute with jam of choice)
1/4 cup melted butter
¼ cup raisins
½ cup rum (to soak raisins)
pinch of salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla essence
¼ tsp lime zest
Soak raisins with 1/4 rum for 30 minutes, or until hydrated. Grease baking dish. Tear up loaves of bread into pieces and place in buttered dish. Pour melted butter over bread. In large bowl, combine evaporated milk, coconut milk, brown sugar, grated coconut, raisins, spices and vanilla essence. Whisk eggs lightly in separate bowl, then add to the milk mixture and whisk until fully combined. Pour mixture over bread. Then spread jam over entire pudding. Bake at 300°F for 30 minutes until golden brown. Can be served hot or cold on it’s own or with ice cream or whipped cream.
Bread Shop Hop Like You Really From Wadadli
Preferences for bread shops are of course subjective, but here are a few popular choices in the St. John’s area. Many others may not have official names, and are tucked away in local villages.
One of the island’s most frequented bread shops, Dagon is located in the Lower Ottos area of St. John’s.
This long-standing local favorite is in the Gray’s Farm area of St. John’s.
This bakery has two popular locations, in Point and Herberts Road.
Shawn from Point
A 24-hour bakery in Point. Just ask for Shawn.
Another 24-hour bakery, this one is located in the Grays Farm area, right across the street from the police station.
This drive-through bakery is located on All Saints main road in St. John’s.