Trinidad Fry Bake Recipe – Just Like Mom Used to Make
Among the many delectable treats that encompass the Caribbean’s beloved fried dough tradition, none rate higher for me than Trinidad fry bake. It’s a statement bordering on blasphemy for any Crucian to make, I know. After all, Saint Croix is the prime point of origin for the Johnny Cake! Nothing could be better than my home island’s signature sweet and fluffy fried dough delights, right?
Alas, for me, the answer is “wrong.” Fry bake wins every time in my book. Over Johnny Cakes; over Jamaican festivals…basically over any fried dough anythings!
(Editor’s note: This does not apply to Trinidad float or fried bake, which are the same thing as fry bake.)
So, what’s the reason for my unabashed love for fry bake? The answer lies buried in my ancestral roots.
My Trini Roots Run Deep
You see, despite being a proud born and bred Crucian, I am actually the product of parents from Trinidad. In particular, the southern Trinidadian town of San Fernando. The same San Fernando that’s home to the Naparima Girls’ High School, producers of “the Bible of West Indian cooking” – The Naparima Girls’ High School Cookbook.
(Visit our online store to order your copy of the Naparima Girls’ High School Cookbook today!)
As we’ve noted before, there exists no better resource for tried, true, and exceedingly authentic West Indian recipes. I mean, unless you have a West Indian mom, auntie, or grandmother around who’s willing to share her secrets with you, that is.
Of course, Patrick and I once enjoyed the great benefit of having just such a wizardly West Indian culinary master at home. Our mother was simply the best chef ever. Her creations, all made from scratch without hardly ever referencing any written recipes, remain the gold standard for every Caribbean dish we try.
That holds true for fry bake too, of course; a fact that lends even more credence to the unassailable greatness of the Naparima Cookbook. You see, no other recipe I’ve tried comes as close to mimicking my mom’s marvelous fry bakes.
Trinidad Fry Bake vs. Johnny Cake – What’s the difference?
So, what sets fry bake apart from Johnny Cakes and other West Indian fried dough treats? Well, to me it all boils down to weight.
The Trinidad fry bake I knew growing up was lighter, less filling, and decidedly less sweet than Johnny Cakes. They were also smaller. Mom preferred to fry half-moon slices of dough rather than the full circles. I even remember once using Christmas cookie cutters to make Holiday-themed fry bakes!
Johnny Cakes, on the other hand, are more dense. They sustain you longer. This, of course, is on purpose. True to their earlier incarnation as Journey Cakes, the denser fried dough snacks were originally meant to keep people full throughout extended periods that usually included travel.
So yeah, fry bakes are a lighter snack. As with Johnny Cakes, though, you can always add a little something extra to your fry bake to give it more substance. Made correctly, they puff up while frying, creating a tidy little air pocket.
Slide a small slice of cheese, or a little buljol in there for a tiny taste of West Indian heaven.
How to Make Your Own Trinidad Fry Bake
Fry bakes are among the easiest authentic tastes of the Caribbean that you can make. Just four simple ingredients and a tad bit of patience are all that’s needed to cook up a batch. And as with every recipe featured here at Uncommon Caribbean, if I can make it, anyone can. Here’s how…
- 1 Pound (4 cups) Flour
- 1.5 teaspoons Salt
- 4 teaspoons Baking Powder
- Oil for frying
Step 1: Sift your flour, salt, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Once sifted thoroughly, carve a small hole in the center of your sifted dry mix.
Step 2: Add water into the hole at the center of your sifted mix. Do this slowly and deliberately so as to avoid adding too much water. The idea is to make a soft dough, not mush.
Step 3: Knead your soft dough with love and care for about 10 minutes. Don’t fret if you added too much water, or your soft dough is a bit sticky. Simply sprinkle in a bit more flour as needed.
Step 4: Leave your lovingly kneaded dough to rest for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Step 5: Break off pieces of your soft dough and roll them into little balls with your hands. The smaller your dough balls, the smaller your bakes will be. Naparima suggests five- to six-inch balls (diameter), though I tend to make mine a little smaller.
(Note: You’ll also want to start heating your oil right about now.)
Step 6: Grab your rolling pin and flatten your dough balls into rounds. Or in my case, round approximations…
Step 7: Slice those round approximations into semi-circle approximations…
…and carefully place them in your hot oil for frying!
You can see by the video why fry bake is also known as float, right?
You’ll know your bakes are done once they’ve taken on a light golden color all the way round. At that point, you’ll want to get them out of the oil to drain on some paper towels.
Don’t let ’em sit for too long, though. Like Mom used to say, Trinidad fry bake is always best enjoyed nice and warm.