There's thing bread called "easter bun" or "spice bun" that's a Jamaican specialty at, you guessed it, Easter time. There's a company in Jamaica called HTB that makes the "good" ones. They make them for export as well, and they're available here in Cayman, but the Jamaican expats that I work with have always said that the ones you get IN Jamaica are better.
I'd never tried it before, so two Easters ago, they gave me one to try. I took it home and looked at it for a few days before opening it. Seb (my roommate at the time) wouldn't eat it because it has raisins in it and he doesn't like raisins. It looks like bread, but it's more dense and is dark brown. Along with raisins, I'm trying to figure out by taste what else is in it. It's obviously spiced, and it's more of a sweet bread than a savory one. Im guessing cinnamon, ginger, maybe nutmeg or allspice but those are rather distinctive and I didn't taste them... who knows what else. I'll have to cheat and look it up.
The traditional way to eat it is to carve off a hunk and then top it with a thick slice of canned cheese. Yes, canned cheese. That stuff is vile... it doesn't require refrigeration, and it doesn't melt. It will BURN, but it won't melt. I suppose you could divide it in two and use one half to cook with and eat the other half. I suppose it's no more gross than poutine or black pudding, but I don't go out of my way to eat those either. :)
I caused a stir when I went back in to work after that weekend. They asked me how I liked it and I said I sliced it, put it in the toaster and then put some butter on it and it was really good. They all immediately jumped all over me for breaking tradition and not eating it with the canned cheese!
One of my co-workers was in Kingston last week and I emailed him and asked him if he would pick me up one of the "good" HTB easter buns. It cost $350! Well, $350 Jamaican dollars, which works out to about 99 cents. He asked me if I wanted some canned cheese while he was in the market. Uhm... no... This year I went one better with something surely to cause them heart palpitations: french toast.
On Thursday before we all left for the weekend, I told them what my plans were for the Easter bun and the jaws hit the floor. NOOOOOO MON! Ya cannot do that! canned cheese! Everyone else in the office thought it was a great idea and tried to invite themselves over for breakfast!
Last night I sliced a half-dozen slices of bun about 3/4 inch thick and left them out on the counter overnight, hoping that I didn't find a swarm of ants in the morning. I got up and heated up my big non-stick pan while I beat 2 eggs, a cup of milk, 1/4 cup of sugar and a dash of cinnamon like it owed me money. I laid out the six slices in a baking dish and poured the mixture over it and let it soak for about ten minutes, as the bread is really dense. I flipped them over for another few minutes while I started frying up some bacon and then dropped the slices onto the hot pan and let em brown up. I put them in a foil pan in the oven to keep warm while I cooked off the rest of the toasts and bacon, and then whipped up an egg and used the cute-little-egg-pan that Kendi put me on to to make a little scrambler to go along with it.
Finally, the taste test... the bread looked really dark, between the dark bread and the browning from the eggwash. I spread a little butter on them and on one I put a layer of italian raspberry preserves I picked up at Bosa Foods last time I was in Vancouver and drizzled some clover honey on the other from Hawley Haven farms here in Cayman on the other. Since there was already honey in the bread, the honey one was a bit too sweet, but the raspberry preserve-topped one was awesome. Towards the end of the third piece I started to get spice-overload though, so there's some leftovers still. :)
I was going to take some pictures so I could show them to the Jamaicans at work and wind them up about not putting canned cheese on it, but I was too hungry this morning to mess around with a camera.
The verdict: Good, but in moderation!
Update: Here's a recipe for a Jamaican Spice Bun.. I was right, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg are all in there! :)