Life as a yacht chef, to me, is all about the travel and discovery of new foods. Yachting destinations are my classroom, the local cuisine my textbook. There is nothing I like more than learning authentic new recipes from the places we’ve cruised.
We were only going to be in Bimini for two days. There was no time to waste. I wanted Bimini Bread.
Trouble was, we were anchored two miles off the east coast of the island and the tender was broken. Harry, our engineer, was busy trying to fix it. But by the descriptive words coming out of his mouth, I held little hope it would be functioning in time to get me to the craft market and to Natalie’s stall before it closed.
Patrick came into our cabin as I stuffed a few loose bills in the pocket of my swim shorts.
“What are you doing?” Patrick and I’d been married long enough for him to know I was going to take matters into my own hands.
“Taking the paddle board to shore.” I handed him my bottle of sunscreen and turned so he could apply it to my back.
I could hear him rolling his eyes in his tone of voice. “That’s over two miles away.”
“The wind is still blowing.”
We had rocked at anchor the night before through thirty-mile per hour gusts. It had calmed by morning, but there was still a residual breeze and slight chop to the water.
“It will take you over an hour to get there.”
He heavy-sighed. “I’ll get my trunks on.”
I turned and kissed him. He put up a fight, but he liked an adventure as much as I did.
The hot sun set my sun-screened skin to glistening with sweat within moments of pushing off from the boat. My muscles screamed in joy at being able to move again after two days at sea in rough conditions. My paddle swished rhythmically and pulled me through the varying peacock, sapphire and royal colors of the water surrounding me.
It didn’t take long for Patrick to pass me and be half way to shore. I spent most of the time shifting my gaze from the white sand beach of our destination to the clear waters below. I glided over sea fans and rock formations that looked close enough to touch, although I knew they lay thirty-feet below.
A flash of silver and white caught my eye and the board beneath my feet wobbled. A four-foot barracuda hung suspended in teal just behind the back of my board. I recovered from being startled and paddled closer to shore. A dozen strokes later, I turned to see him following me. Another dozen strokes and he was still there; a stalker at sea.
Ahead and to the left, lime green reflected in the sunlight. I paddled closer. Somewhere between the sandy ocean floor and me a sea turtle glided through the blue. I stopped mid-stroke so as not to scare him. Within seconds, he shot out of sight, startled by the shadow of a large predator hovering above.
In the distance, the flipper of a sunfish fluttered at the surface before it, too, darted off.
By the time I caught up with Patrick on the beach, I was hot and thirsty. We stashed our boards under a wind-blown casuarina tree and headed up the road to the craft market.
I had been reading about Natalie’s Bimini bread for days. Now in her late seventies, Natalie had been baking bread for the island for the past fifty years. She was famous for it.
We approached the coral-colored hut and were greeted with the friendly smile of the islands.
“Welcome to Bimini.” Carmen, Natalie’s daughter greeted us. Her close-cropped hair, dark-rimmed glasses and polyester skirt made her look like more of a business woman than an island girl.
“We’ve come for some Bimini bread,” I said.
“They all do, child.” She held up a loaf wrapped in plastic. ”This here is the original.” She arranged the remaining loaves in the bin. “Mama’s been baking since dawn.”
I held out the soggy bills from my pocket and turned back to Patrick who was busy procuring two bottles of water from a cooler full of ice on the ground. I held out the plastic bag and beamed.
“How are you going to get it back to the boat?” Patrick is always the practical one.
My smile faded, but only for a moment. “I guess we will just have to eat it here.”
“A whole loaf?”
I shrugged. “There are worse things.”
We wound our way back to the boards and sat under the dappled shade of the tree. I ripped off a hunk of the bread and handed it to Patrick. Crumbs fell onto my lap and stuck to my greasy skin. The next chunk was for me. I devoured the sweet, soft bread of the island in minutes and washed it down with the ice-cold water. It didn’t take us long to make the loaf disappear.
With bellies full of bread, we slipped the boards into the lapping surf. As I checked over my shoulder to see if I was still being followed, I hoped Harry would have the tender running by the time we returned. I didn’t want a breakdown to stop me from bringing Bimini bread back to the boat.
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup slightly warm coconut milk
4 1/2 cups unbleached flour (plus extra, if the dough comes out too wet)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons hot water
1 stick soft butter
3 tablespoons honey
Heat the coconut milk in a microwave for 10 seconds until barely warm.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine coconut milk with yeast and let sit for 5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients through eggs and mix on medium for 6 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 2 hours in a warm place.
Divide the dough in half and roll into 2 greased loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1 1/2 hours until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Mix the honey and hot water and brush on top of loaves.
Bake at 300 for 30 minutes.
Mix together soft butter and honey until smooth.
Cool loaves slightly and serve warm with soft honey butter.
Makes 2 loaves