The Fresh Loaf

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My first blog from the caribbean

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caribbaker's picture
caribbaker

My first blog from the caribbean

I recently moved to a very small island in the Caribbean called Nevis.  I am a professional pastry chef by trade however am only working two days a week as we really moved here for my husbands job (a chef also).  I bake bread several times a week at home as well as at work.  When I moved here and tried to bake bread like I was used to I was quite dismayed.  There really are no alternatives to AP flour and even that I kind of weak.  Sometimes we get whole wheat flour but nothing like the choices I had at my local co-op in the states where I moved from.  To top that off, sometimes the flour had an off taste from sitting on the shelves too long or from the boat it came over on, also there seems to be only instant yeast here.  Sounds bad for a baker huh? 

 I almost gave up until one day I decided to try a recipe from Julia Childs book "Baking with Julia" for a pain de campagne which directs you to make a levain without using yeast.  Attempting to catch wild yeast got my excitement level going again for making bread.  I made the chef in the bread area of my pastry kitchen where bread has been baked for about 20 years figuring there had to be some wild yeast there.  The book says that after 2 days you might get a little rise and it will smell somewhat yeasty.  When I walked into work the two days later I was shocked to see my little pint container full of bubbly yeasty wonderful stuff!  Now we are talking!  As I followed her recipe, my little starter became more and more healthy and robust to the point of, on the day I made the first loaf it was kind of crazy tangy.  Now, I know that I only have to leave the starter out a few hours when I feed it and it is a lovely sucessful starter.  I have decided that the climate here being warm and humid is just wonderful for a sourdough.  I divided my start and keep some at home also for everyday baking.  

A sour dough is not really a dough that the Nevisians take to all that much (they like soft and sweeter bread) however the guests at the Inn seem happy.  I did give a taste of my first loaf to the morning bread baker who is from here and she tasted it and said that she had tasted something like it long ago.  "The old people used to make it." she said.  This made me very happy because it tells me that a starter is probably how it was once done, even here, and in a way I am bringing something back.  Needless to say, I am jazzed about bread baking again even with my all purpose flour!

caribbaker

Comments

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

I'm sure, like me,  there are a lot of Northern US and Canadian bakers here shivering in our current sub-zero F temps wishing we were rising our bread dough in the balmy temps of a Caribbean island like you are - that sounds wonderful!

 

Forgive my ignorance until I've had a chance to look it up, but in what part of the Caribbean is Nevis located, Greater Antilles, Lesser Antilles, etc.? French, Spanish, Dutch, or British? I guess that would have a lot of influence on what type of bread the old-timers made there. I feel your dilemma about the flour - I lived in Hawaii many years ago for a spell and found it difficult to deal with the extremely high prices of all of the food that had to be shipped in, so we ended up adapting to the local diet instead - lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, and good fish!

caribbaker's picture
caribbaker

Nevis is in the Lesser Antillies Just northwest of Montserrat  and several islands south of St. Martin.  Nevis and St. Kitts are thier own country.  I beleive we are the smallest country in the northern hemisphere.  There is 40,000 people between the two I think.  Nevis has 11,000 people.  Used to be British.

I too was from Northern US.  We owned a home in Minnesota, I think it is about 13 below there now.  Somehow I do miss it though.

Grocery  prices are high and the products are not that varied so we too are adapting to a diet of more local produce, fish and meats (goat and very lean beef as everything is free range here).  I am looking forward to my vacation back to the states.  Not that I don't love it here, because I do, but I look forward to a day when Sargento sliced provelone isn't the "fancy stuff".

 caribbaker

Susan's picture
Susan

Just reading the word Caribbean takes me back a few years to our bareboat trip in BVI.  Just four of us, and not one wanted to go back home.  So I guess it was the 'bestest' vacation ever!  Hope things go well for you down there.  Where did you move from?  Perhaps you can import some vital gluten to pump up your AP flour?  That wouldn't be nearly as expensive as importing bread flour!  SD Susan

caribbaker's picture
caribbaker

Thank you for your repy and well wishes.  As I mentioned before my husband I owned a house in Minnesota.  He is from San Francisco, we met in Eureka CA and have also lived in Ashland OR.

I have thought about trying to order somethings for breadmaking however it is very hard to find companies who will ship here (even Amazon.com won't) and regular mail takes 6 to 8 weeks from the states so I am going to just sit tight and get creative.

caribbaker