Hops bread is one of those things every Trinbagonian can relate too with some level of passion. For me, it’s playing football (soccer) after school at Irving Park, San Fernando and heading over to the Chinese bakery next to the WASA office, for hops bread fresh out of the oven… after our game. Digging deep into our collective pockets to secure enough coins to get a dozen of these temptingly delicious rolls. We never had enough to purchase cheese or even a drink, but we didn’t care… we choked those hops bread down like voracious pigs!
After many requests for this hops bread recipe, I decided to ‘make a mess”… that’s what happens when I start playing around with flour. Something I inherited from my dad, who is a boss cook/baker, but quite messy! You should have seen the stove top, counters and kitchen floor when I was all done baking.
2 1/2 cups hot water
2 tablespoon shortening
8 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 pack or 1 tbsp instant yeast
Stir the shortening into the hot water until it melts completely and the water becomes luke warm.
In a large bowl, place about 7 cups of the flour, salt, sugar and yeast and give it a good mix to combine evenly. Now start adding the water a little at a time, until you have a soggy dough.
The dough will be very sticky and wet at this point. Dust a surface with flour and empty the dough onto it to knead. Knead for about 5 minutes, adding flour as necessary until you have a well formed dough ball. Soft, but firm.
It’s time to get the yeast active and allow the dough to swell. I sprayed a large bowl with cooking spray (greased) and placed the dough in it to do it’s thing. With the dough in the bowl, I covered it with plastic wrap (or use a damp towel) and set it in a warm corner of my kitchen. We’re looking for it to basically double in size. Which takes between 40 – 50 mins (depends on how active your yeast is and how warm your kitchen is).
Line you baking sheet with parchment paper or grease and dust with flour. Now remove the plastic wrap and punch the dough to release the air. Divide the dough into 12 even dough balls (about 3 inches in diameter) and set onto the parchment lined baking sheet. We’ve got to allow this to proof again and double in size. Place a damp towel/cloth on top to keep the moisture in and so the top of the individual hops bread dough balls don’t dry out. Set aside in a warm corner of your kitchen to double in size. I believe it took about 45 mins. Refer to the video below to see how I did the individual dough balls, so they were smooth and well rounded.
Preheat your oven to 400F and set on the middle rack to bake. It will take between 20-25 mins (depends on your oven) to be nice and golden. In our oven it took 25 mins to get to the desired color I wanted and as soon as they were out, I already had butter and cheese on hand to go to work. Your kitchen will have that wonderful scent of your favorite bakery and don’t be surprised if your neighbors come knocking.
Try not to be as greedy as I am and do allow the freshly baked hops bread to cool a bit before using. They’re great for sandwiches, used as dinner rolls and Caron had a couple with freshly made hamburgers she had this evening. Speaking about after school and my love for hops bread. I absolutely hated being in a taxi after school and a passenger would ask the driver to stop for him/her to get some bread at the bakery on our way home. My belly would be in full chorus and this person would have those delicious smelling bread within reach.. that is torture! FYI, taxis in my time down on the islands were shared. So basically 4 people from the same village or town would pay a fare to the driver for his service.