May 19, 2002 – Think dumb bread is just for stuffing with cheese at breakfast? Well, this dense baked good also makes a fine shortcake dessert — especially when topped with berries or local tropical fruits and a mound of whipped cream.
Dumb bread got its name for the clever way in which it was traditionally made. The white flour dough, sometimes sweetened with shredded coconut, was placed into a skillet, covered with a lid and set over hot coals. More hot coals were placed atop the skillet lid, so the bread would cook from above and below until it turned a toasty brown. This is known as the dum style of baking — a procedure that came to the Caribbean with indentured workers from India following the emancipation of African slaves.
Dumb bread is customarily made into pie-size rounds, but in this recipe I created individual mini-dumb breads with a 2-inch diameter cookie cutter.
After the dumb bread is baked, let it cool just enough so you can hold with your fingers, and slice it in half horizontally. Place the lower half in a dessert dish, and cover it with fruit, the top half of the dumb bread and whipped cream. If desired, sprinkle shortcakes with brown or granulated sugar.
Bananas were my choice of fruit in the recipe below, but strawberries, mango slices, papaya slices, apple slices, pineapple wedges and sliced kiwi — or any combination of thereof — work equally well. As an added touch, I also used chocolate whipped cream rather than the conventional vanilla variety. The beauty of this recipe is that you can "have it your way."
Dumb Bread Banana Shortcakes
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter
12 tablespoons whipped cream
12 teaspoons sugar, as desired
Sift flour, salt, baking powder and sugar into a bowl. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Add milk and up to 4 tablespoons of water to make a stiff dough. Knead on a lightly floured surface. (The more you knead, the tighter the dough will get.) Let dough rest for one hour. Roll dough out to 1/2-inch thickness and cut shapes with 2-inch diameter cookie cutter. Lay dough cutouts on a greased baking sheet. Make designs on top with the tines of a fork. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.
To make shortcakes: Cut mini-dumb breads in half. Lay bottom halves in dessert dish. Slice bananas and place on top. Place top halves of dumb bread atop fruit. Top with one tablespoon of whipped cream and, if desired, sprinkle with one teaspoon sugar. Serve immediately.
Makes 12 servings. Per serving: 270 calories, 8 gms fat (27 percent fat calories), 25 mg cholesterol, 320 mg sodium.
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