Who doesn’t love Johnny cakes or as more commonly known, good old fried dumplings; served with your chose of savoury meats or steamed vegetables, it is the perfect breakfast accompaniment. It is believed that we inherited the custom of frying dough from the native North American Tribes and this is evident all throughout the Caribbean.
Now this seemingly simple breakfast side dish requires a delicate balance of ingredients. I’ve recently started watching the “Great British Bake-Off” and Jamaican Johnny cakes could undoubtedly be a technical challenge for contenders.
Particular attention should be paid to the baking powder and only the most seasoned cook is able to judge by hand the exact amount needed for the dough. Too much baking powder can lead to biscuit-like, slightly bitter dumplings and too little can lead to weaponized stone dumplings.
Many of my childhood play-wars were fought with Johnny Cakes gone awry. Stone dumplings that were hard enough to be felt when hit by them, but not hard enough to cause real harm.
The perfect Johnny Cake is soft and flaky with a well cooked through fluffy center – great for sopping up gravy. You will know that your Johnny Cake is done cooking when it makes a hollow sound when tapped with a fork.
There are also many variations as some people will add cornmeal, sugar and even cow’s milk to their recipe. Let’s start with the traditional Johnny Cake before we experiment with other ingredients.
- 4 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1.5 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup butter or margarine
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 1 cup vegetable oil for frying
Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Knead in the butter or margarine and water until the mixture forms into a dough.
Section the dough into marble-sized balls, with flattened centers, (achieved by pressing the center of the dough-ball with a thumb).
Heat oil in a heavy bottomed frying pot over medium-low heat until hot. Place the Johnny Cakes into the hot oil, ensuring that they are not touching. Fry until they become golden for approximately 2- 3 minutes. Remove the Johnny cakes from the pot and drain on paper towels to absorb the extra oil. Serves 6 persons, 3 Johnny Cakes each.