Jamaican Easter bun and cheese

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What you don’t eat, you miss. I never really liked bun and cheese when I lived in Jamaica but now that I’m no longer living there, I miss it. I miss the sticky sweetness of the raisins and cherries contrasting with the salty tang of cheddar cheese. So I decided to try my hand at a stout bun; a quick bread, really. It seemed the easiest one to make, requiring no yeast. However, I did face a couple of challenges. First of all, I had to hunt around liquor stores on the Upper West Side for stout, a dark beer. To be truly patriotic, I should have looked for Dragon Stout but I settled for Guinness. After the fourth liquor store I was glad to find any stout. The second problem was that I couldn’t find mixed peel, the sugared citrus rind that is used in making fruitcakes. Well, this is the wrong holiday for that, so I did without.

How did the Jamaican Easter Bun come about? Some writers say it is a variation on the hot cross bun that is traditionally eaten at Easter in Europe. If so, that hot cross bun has undergone quite a transformation. No longer decorated with a cross, the Easter Bun in Jamaica is a spice bread redolent of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. In the case of the stout bun, it has a cup of dark beer added to it. It also gets its distinctive dark color from molasses.

I adapted this recipe for Jamaican Easter Bun from one I found on keepitjiggy.com.

Jamaican Easter Bun

Ingredients

6 oz or 3/4 cup stout (It must be fresh not flat stout)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons unsulphured molasses
2 tablespoons softened butter + 2 tablespoons butter for melting
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour + 1 tablespoon flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon allspice or mixed spice (e.g. apple pie)
2 eggs beaten
1 cup milk
1/2 cup raisins, softened in enough water or rum to cover, drained
1/2 cup mixed peel, chopped (increase raisins to 1 cup if mixed peel is unavailable)
1/3 cup maraschino cherries, drained and stems removed, coarsely chopped

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300˚F. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and mix it with 1 tablespoon flour.  Brush butter-flour mixture onto the bottom and sides of the loaf pan(s). Use one 9×5 inch (8 cup capacity) loaf pan or two 8.5×4.5 inch (4 cup capacity each) loaf pans. If using non-stick pans with a dark finish, reduce the oven temperature to 275˚F and test for doneness five minutes sooner than the recommended baking time.

Warm the stout on a low flame. Add brown sugar, molasses and softened butter. Stir until dissolved. Cool.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and spices. Mix in the fruit. In a medium bowl, mix together the beaten eggs and milk.  Add to the flour-fruit mixture. The mixture will be the texture of coarse crumbs. Add the cooled stout mixture. Blend until all dry ingredients are just moistened.

Scrape batter into prepared pan(s). Tap pan(s) lightly on the kitchen counter to eliminate air bubbles. Bake for 1 to 1 ¼ hours. I used two 8.5 inch loaf pans, so mine were done in 55 minutes. Remove from oven when a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Invert the bun(s) onto the wire rack. Re-invert and cool thoroughly. When cooled, cut the loaf in ½ inch thick slices. Serve with cheddar cheese slices sandwiched between two slices of bun. Mm-m! It takes me home again!

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