Bread, Dum and Dumb

March is Bread month at the brooklyn kitchen. Look for a bread salon, at least one special bread class, discussions, and bread recipes to try.

We were just visiting friends on St. Thomas (US Virgin Islands) and took a day trip to the national park on neighboring St. John. While there we visited an old sugar plantation where they were making traditional Caribbean Dumb Bread. Apparently named for the method of cooking, early islanders referred to what we call a dutch oven as a “dum”

It’s a non-yeast bread with a dense texture. They were cooking it over a coal fire, with burning coal on top of the lid, a dutch oven.

Coconut can be added for a sweeter version.

Baked Dumb Bread
from the Virgin Islands National Park, St. John USVI

3 cups AP flour (can sub in 1/2 Whole wheat)
1/2 cup shortening
3 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup fine cornmeal
2 Tbsps sugar (optional)
1/2 cup milk

Combine dry ingredients and work in shortening and margarine (or butter). add water gradually to make a soft dough, it should not be sticky. Knead for 5 minutes until dough is smooth. Rest for 15 minutes, then form into a ball. place on a well-greased sheet, press down into a flat round shape about 1 1/2-2 inches thick, then prick with a fork or slash across the top. Bake in a preheated 350º oven turn over after 15 minutes, bake til golden brown.

I would try this in a preheated dutch oven, I think it will turn out better than on a cookie sheet. I’ll give them both a try later.


8 thoughts on “Bread, Dum and Dumb

  1. Harry & Taylor, I thought it was called Dumb Bread because no yeast is used so the bread doesn’t really rise…and thus it is dumb! At least that’s what my moma told me! Well that just goes to show that we in the islands all ahave our own story for such things! LOL! It was great seeing you guys in STT. BTW, your rum cake will be on the way shortly.
    Hey Jonathan, stand by for more VI recipes as I have a cookbook on the drawing boards and I am a true island girl, born in St Thomas, USVI!

    1. Just an FYI to everyone, I tried the recipe and amended it a little. I think the folks at the park service in St. John put too much shortening (fat) in the recipe and the first time I made this it came out like a giant biscuit. It was delicious, but nothing like what I had tasted. I removed the extra 1/2 cup of butter from the recipe in the original post (it’s been edited) but I haven’t tried the new version yet.

  2. Just got back from St. John. The lady at the national park doesn’t use half the ingredients on the recipe and she doesn’t follow the recipe, she eyeballs it. She makes it without the cornmeal and egg. She substitutes margerine for shortening and soy milk for regular milk. She mostly does this for people who have food allergies and this would explain why it tasted so different! She also uses coconut to make it a little sweeter and suggests putting the dough in the frig overnight to bring out the coconut flavor.

  3. When I was in St. Thomas I was given, what I was told, Straw Bread. To this day I have not been able to find anything close to this – at least by this name. Do you have any suggestions for this type of bread?


  4. That’s a very good recipe but I’m going to eliminate the corn meal my Parents & Grandparents are St.Johnians.

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