Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bake and Saltfish: A classic Caribbean breakfast!

If you go to any of the Caribbean islands (or Guyana) you are bound to see bake and saltfish as a breakfast item on the menu at a restaurant or at a native persons home.  I grew up eating this for breakfast on Sunday mornings with my family.  My mom and uncle Junior make the best bakes I've tasted.  My mom cooks hers slightly darker and is a bit sweeter, my uncles is fried to a lighter brown and is slightly salty.

Bake is a type of fried bread that can be eaten with almost anything, jams, jellies, corned beef/mutton, saltfish, even vegetable dishes such as sauteed okra or tomato choka.  It is also delicious just by itself.  Natives from every island prepare these delicious fried breads in varying methods.  In Guyana, we make them round and medium sized, about 4-5 inches in diameter. My mom used to cut them into triangles sometimes to make them look pretty. 

Instructions to make the Bakes 

Some people make them so that they have huge air pockets in the center so that they can be stuffed, while others make them a little more dense.  I like them both ways.  My mom used to make them with the huge air pocket in the center, but whenever I felt for a more dense kind, I always bought it from Sybils (a popular Guyanese bakery in Queens, NY).  The kind that I have made for you is the more dense kind, I also made them slightly smaller since they are so filling.

I am not quite sure why bakes are called bakes, when they are actually fried.  To my knowledge, the only bake that I know which is actually baked, is Trinidad and Tobago's coconut bake.  My boyfriend, who is from Trinidad, bought this for me for breakfast one day and it was heavenly! It was quite dense, even more than the bakes I've made today.  We had it with buljol, which is what Trinidadians call their saltfish.  The main difference is that they do not saute their buljol with tomatoes as we do in Guyana.  I also noticed that it can be eaten cold.  It's just a preference, but I definitely prefer my saltfish hot instead of cold. 

I chose to serve these bakes with saltfish, because that's how I grew up eating it.  It's a classic, this is just how you eat a Caribbean breakfast!  Saltfish is known to many different cultures under different names. Hispanics know it as bacalao, Trinis know it as buljol, Americans know it as salted cod.  Nonetheless, the end product is the same, flaked fish cooked up with lovely onions, peppers and possibly tomatoes.

Instructions for the Saltfish 

Before cooking the fish, there is a de-salting process you must go through.  Some people soak the fish overnight in water to remove some of the salt.  I have chosen to boil the fish, drain, boil again to remove the salt.   Follow along with my pictures to see how to make this wonderful, flavorful, and classic Caribbean breakfast dish!

Prep tomatoes and onions 

Fry the flaked saltfish in onions for 10 minutes, turn heat off. 
Now cook the tomato sauce separately

 In a separate skillet make the tomato sauce for the saltfish

Add the saltfish to the tomato sauce...

So now that your bake and saltfish is done, this is what you do. Examine the bake.  

admire its golden brown color...

slice it open carefully...

 stuff the bake with the saltfish...

and enjoy! 

Bake and Saltfish 

(makes about 10-12 bakes)

For the Bakes:
  • 3 cups flour (substitute 1/2 cups whole wheat flour for a healthier option)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 4 tbsp vegetable shortening such as Crisco (or butter)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup water
For the Saltfish:
  • 1 lb boneless salted codfish
  • 1 large beefsteak tomato or 4 plum tomatoes (all together you need 2 cups diced)
  • 2 scallions
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 wiri wiri pepper or small piece of scotch bonnet to suit your taste
  • about 1 tbsp dry parsley 
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp oil for frying saltfsh
  • 2 tbsp olive oil for tomato sauce


For the Bakes:

  1. Heat oil to 315 degrees.  While oil is heating you can prepare the dough. 
  2. Add all of the ingredients except the water to a mixing bowl.  With a fork, cut shortening into the flour until it turns to small pieces. Add water and bring together into a dough ball. 
  3. Cover with a damp napkin.  This will prevent your dough from forming a crust. Let it sit for about 1/2 hour. 
  4. Flour a surface and place dough ball on surface. Cut dough ball in half and roll the halves into a log.  Cut log into about 5 pieces. 
  5. Roll each piece to about 4 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thickness 
  6. If you don't have a thermometer to temp the oil, just test by breaking a small piece of dough and putting it into the oil. If it immediately rises to the top, the oil is ready. 
  7. Fry until bakes are golden brown on each side. 

For the Saltfish:
  1. Bring a pot with water to a rapid boil. Add saltfish and reduce to a medium boil. Boil for 15 minutes. 
  2. Drain saltfish, do not rinse! Fill pot with water again and bring to a medium boil.  Add drained saltfish and boil for 10 minutes. 
  3. Drain saltfish and transfer to a mixing bowl. 
  4. Flake saltfish with a fork.  Set aside. 
  5. Chop onions and pepper. Heat a skillet with 1 tbsp oil to medium heat, add onions and pepper and fry till onions are tender and fragrant. 
  6. Add saltfish and let it cook with the onions for about 10 minutes.  Turning frequently. 
  7. Chop tomatoes, garlic, and scallions.
  8. In another skillet, heat 2 tbsp oil and add tomatoes.  Let it simmer for about 4 minutes then add chopped garlic and scallions.  Let it cook on low heat until the tomatoes melt and start to resemble a sauce. Add the black pepper and parsley. Cook an additional 4 minutes until tomatoes have become liquid and tender. 
  9. Add saltfish to tomato sauce and mix until it is completely incorporated. 
  10. Leave it on the heat for about 6-8 minutes so some of the tomato liquid can evaporate. If you like your saltfish with more tomato juice then only leave it on for 4 minutes.  
  11. Remove from heat, you're done! 


  1. Hey! I found your blog while trying to find a recipe for "zucchini curry". I'm Guyanese living in the Chicago area and really miss my mom's cooking. Thanks for posting so many classic Guyanese recipes—but most of all posting them with great photos & instructions! (I appreciate good web content as I work as a web designer!)

    Weird fact: My mom's never made bake with might be because us kids are picky eaters, but I always remember having bake with either scrambled (fry) eggs or baigan choka (roasted eggplant). I'm a vegetarian, but if I ate fish I would LOVE to eat it with the bake you made!

    Keep your post coming! :)


  2. Hey! I made this and it turned out awesome!!!!!

  3. Hi Bibi,

    Thanks so much for visiting! My mom s a vegetarian as well and she usually eats her bake wh baigan choka or some other type of vegetable. If there are every any recipes youre interested in getting just email me :)

    Nikki: Thats great! What a great breakfast huh?

  4. lovely photos - I like the crispy airy kind of bake, although I have noticed the sweeter denser kind here in Guyana since I came here.
    I know buljol as the dish made with saltfish, peppers, onions etc rather than the name for saltfish in Trinidad - it comes from the French Patois "Brûlê Gueule," or "burn mouth," because of the heat of the peppers traditionally used in the dish.

  5. I have enjoyed your recipe, I did not know how to cook at all, my mother always prepared our meals, recently married, I have found your recipes to be very simple and easy to understand.

    Do you have one for curry duck, curry lamb and curry goat?

    Keep up the good work, your a great help to your community and women like me.

  6. This Bake looks amazing I must try!! By the way I added your blog to my foodie Arsenal List on my blog!!!

  7. hey than you for ur recipe for the Bake i make it and it was so so amazing i always try but it never came out good lol

  8. Wow... where have you been all my life? Well, at least your blog...

    Your recipes are spot on (just like mom and pop used to make). The vibrant pictures look like they belong in an art show and add to the simplicity of the recipe process.

    Thank you so much! (from a Guyanese guy who struggles to cook as well as his mother and father).

  9. can i use lard instead of crisco?

  10. Thank you so much. Going cricket tomorrow and wanted to make this for a snack and my aunt could not remember her own recipe to give me lol so thanks.

  11. I only made the bake from this recipe because saltfish is a dish I know how to make, and each house has their way (although it did not vary from what I usually do).

    The bake was great and sharing it with my mother, she also like the recipe (she made it for Father's Day). I am use to the bake you make in the pot over low heat, the really thick heavy ones but this was lite, soft and very easy to make.

  12. Great!! But guyanese do make coconut bake but its called prom prom. And we also does make pot bake which is prepared in a pot...

  13. Hello fellow Guyanese blogger :)-Just found your blog--love it. I just started photographing all of my Guyanese dishes to post. Including making pepper sauce! Keep up the great work. Trish (

  14. Hi everyone! I've actually never seen Crisco before, but my mom makes a wicked bake. Is there a substitute for the Crisco? Or could I just not use it?


    1. Hi Donna!

      You can use butter in place. You need some type of fat in the dough. Try using unsalted or salted butter. I've used it many times and it works great!

    2. How is the recipe altered to make an airy and less dense bake?

  15. Have you ever tried using egg in your bakes? I usually use 1 egg per 2 cups of flour, love saltfish and bakes....making that for breakfast on Good Friday :)

    1. Hi Lisa,

      I have never tried that. I will throw and egg in there when I make it again this Sunday, I'll let you know how I like it :). Thanks for your suggestions!

  16. How do you make the make the other way you mention which is more airy and more lighter with pockets inside? What do you change in the recipe?

  17. I am all but drooling because of your site. My husband is from Guyana and his mother taught me a bunch of these recipes.... I cannot wait to try your versions :) Thank you!

  18. How do you make the bake airy with the large air pocket instead of dense? What do I have to change in the recipe?

  19. OMG, looks simply heavenly!! Great pics and they taste great as well , thanks so much for sharing. I lost my touch and couldnt remember how to make these havent done so since i was a little kid!

  20. Hi,

    I'm from the UK, do I use plain flour or self raising flour?

    Thanks Jesse

  21. wow! This is great post.I like this post. Many many thanks for this post. I was not aware of this cooking method. I love the food at all difficult to handle temptation. Thank's for sharing.

  22. Thanks for sharing this recipe: Bake and Saltfish - A classic Caribbean breakfast! A good shortcut would be to have some salted & dried codfish on hand. Vaught

  23. I am a big fan. love your recipes, I have tried most of them on your list. this bake and salt fish is awesome.

  24. Nice recipe, Trinis call this Fried Bake or Johnny Bake. The other larger in size is a roast bake/coconut bake. We also cook saltfish the same way and we eat it with dumplin and provision or just with bake as you made here, Bujol is just another way we eat saltfish.