Recipes and Food Stories from the African Diaspora
My most fond memories of Kwanzaa is Karamu or the feast. My mother made Kwanzaa a tradition in our house when I was in elementary school. Every year people would gather in our home to learn about the Kawaida or the seven principles to ground and practice their resolutions for the upcoming year. Our home eventually was too small to house the ceremony, so we continued the tradition in the community center. I remember as a child being taunted by the delicious smells that floated in the air and feeling a bit tortured as I waited until each candle was lit on the Kinara followed by a performance, discussion or oral memoir for each principle until I got to eat!
Even as I got older, as enlightening as the ceremony was, nothing was more profound than communing and forming relationships over the decadent spread during Karamu. In retrospect, I was simply young and hungry. Not just hungry for the dishes that were always served african diaspora potluck style and inevitably had a “Round the World in 7 Principles” theme, but hungry for the interaction, the smiles, the warmth, the laughter, the stories, the sweetness that once indulged reminded you that you were part of a community.
When I decided to write my first bakebook, I naturally chose to focus on food and relationships. There is something so delicious about being able to express and share how you feel through a meal, just like Karamu. Tantric Tastes: Dessert for Lovers was born out of that need. I chose desserts and sweet breakfast ideas because it’s the perfect way to wrap affection into one delicious bite. One of my favorite recipes from the book is Sweet Potato Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce. I use Jamaican Hardo Bread in this recipe, because it’s strong enough to stand up to the sweet potato mixture and it lends a subtle sweet, buttery taste that enhances this dish.
In the spirit of Kuumba (creativity) and Ujamaa (cooperative economics), I’m proud to announce my first bakebook Tantric Tastes: Dessert for Lovers, and I invite you to purchase it here. Enjoy the recipe!
Sweet Potato Bread Pudding
Ingredients for Bread Pudding
1 loaf Jamaican Hardo Bread* cut into chunks (may substitute with Challah bread)
3 large eggs
2 ½ cups half & half
1 ½ cups sweet potatoes, pureed
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar
½ cup chopped pecans, optional
3 tablespoon butter, melted
3 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon ginger
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Ingredients for Praline Sauce
8 tablespoon, butter (1 stick)
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
¼ cup Bourbon (for the brave and bold) or 2 tsp Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract
Directions for Bread Pudding
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place bread chunks in an even layer on a flat surface for 1 hour to air. Butter a 2 quart casserole dish.
2. In a large bowl toss Hardo bread chunks, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, melted butter and pecans (if using).
3. In another bowl, whisk eggs, half & half, sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cardamom. Beat in sweet potatoes and add vanilla extract.
4. Spread half of bread chunks in a buttered casserole dish in one even layer. Pour half of sweet potato mixture over bread, make sure that all of the bread has been moistened by the mixture. Repeat with remaining bread chunks and sweet potato mixture, making sure all of the bread has been moistened by the mixture.
5. Let the bread pudding stand for 20 minutes before putting it into the oven. Letting it stand allows the bread to soak in the mixture before cooking on its own. Or you can simply pop it right in.
6. Place the butter pieces intermittently over the bread. Bake for 45-55 minutes.
Ingredients for Praline Sauce
1. Melt butter in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat.
2. Add sugar and stir with a wooden spoon until sugar melts. Once mixture comes to a slight boil, reduce the heat to low. Simmer for approx. 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Stir in pecans (optional). Add bourbon or Madagascar Bourbon vanilla extract slowly as it will fizzle.
4. Spoon warm sauce over bread pudding.
The word "Kwanzaa" comes from the phrase, "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first-fruits." Kwanzaa's extra "a" evolved as a result of a particular history of the Organization Us. It was clone as an expression of African values in order to inspire the creativity of our children. In the early days of Us, there were seven children who each wanted to represent a letter of Kwanzaa. Since kwanza (first) has only six letters, we added an extra "a" to make it seven, thus creating "Kwanzaa." To learn more about Kwanzaa, visit the Official Kwanzaa Website.