The more I travel within Belize, the more I fall in love with the cuisine, and I have barely scratched the surface of what really makes up the country’s best dishes. Breakfast in Belize is one of my favorite meals and this is easily attributed to an overindulgence of fry jacks and Johnny Cakes over the years.
Johnny Cakes are really just like hard sandwich rolls, but there is something so homey and addicting about them. You might be familiar with them from other cultures around the Caribbean and Native American Indians. Some people refer to them as Journey Cakes as they would stay fresh for weeks, making them the perfect travel food.
Also called Jonnycake, these are commonly eaten in places like Jamaica, the West Indies, Dominican Republic, and more — especially along the Atlantic seaboard. You might know them in the Southern US as hoecakes.
Traditionally, Johnny Cakes were made with cornmeal, salt, hot water (or milk) and may or may not be sweetened. However, in Belize, the Johnny Cakes you find are made with flour.
I recently became friends with Tanya, a very talented cook in Belize who recently started a food blog dedicated to Belizean cuisine. Through the good fortune of a number of mutual friends and Facebook, I was immediately hooked in by her blog. This week, she mentioned on Facebook that she was going to make Johnny Cakes and post a recipe. She sent me the link and I gave it a whirl Sunday morning. Well, I have a long way to go in getting these right, but it will be fun trying in the meantime.
My problem has been baking in Taiwan with the humidity and the differing flours. Most flours, even the general all-purpose ones, are high in gluten, which I’ve been told need extra kneading and special care when trying to use in traditional bread making.
Tanya’s recipe for Johnny Cakes on her Tizzle Sizzles blog is quite easy, although if you are hungry when you start making them, better nibble on something as these are not a quick 30 minutes in the kitchen.
I will refer you back to her blog for the actual recipe, but it is quite simple in that you only need:
- White all-purpose flour
- Crisco shortening
- Baking Powder
- Coconut Milk
Personally, I think this is a good excuse to travel back down to Belize and sample more Johnny Cakes — for research sake!
Although mine did not rise as much as I had hoped, they were still quite tasty. Most people use them to make a breakfast sandwich with meat and cheese, and I learned a great tip from Tanya — Cheese Whiz is heaven! I added beans, eggs with onions, Cheese Whiz, and of course Marie Sharp’s hot sauce from Belize (a must try!).
I didn’t bake all the dough and let a few balls sit up overnight in the fridge. Surprisingly, these actually fluffed up a bit and were much better than yesterday’s batch (lowered the oven rack and used the convection setting today as well). Still have some work to do, but making progress!
And now, I am munching one of my fresh and fluffy Johnny Cakes today while writing this post — thanks Tanya!