What would you say about eating a slice of cake that was rich, moist, and tasted of butterscotch,without worrying about raising your blood sugar, or rotting your teeth?
The answer is sfoof , but made with carob molasses. Sfoof is one of those popular cakes that used to be sold in the streets of Beirut by cart vendors. It had a bright yellow color and it was luring us every day whenever we would go play at our neighborhood one and only garden jneynet al-sanayeh. It is flavored with turmeric (hence its yellow color) and ground anise powder. It was sold for pennies right off the cart and everyone loved it. I am presenting a traditional recipe for sfoof that I plucked out of Chef Ramzi’s book The culinary Heritage of Lebanon. Now, before the introduction of white sugar, Lebanese folks used molasses as a sweetener. There are three main types: Carob, Grape and Date.
Research into molasses revealed amazing discoveries. It is so good for you!!!! Unlike white sugar which will destroy your teeth and eventually give you diabetes and all kinds of other diseases, molasses is actually loaded with fantastic nutrients, fiber, protein, potassium and more.
This carob tree (in Arabickharroob) from which this molasses comes bears large pods. The molasses is extracted from these pods. Its history goes back to thousands of years. It has been said that St John the Baptist survived on the carob pods during his time in the desert and that Muslim armies used to feed its soldiers with it as well. Children throughout history of the mediterranean used to eat it because it is so sweet and nutritious. Rich in iron, in fiber, in calcium, in protein and many other vitamins and minerals, it is a very important food. In Lebanon, it is grown principally in an area called iqleem al-kharroob.
This recipe is adapted because I had to scale down the quantities or I would be feeding the whole neighborhood!
The cake is rich and has a similar texture as pound cake-minus all the eggs. It is reminiscent of a gingerbread cake, with a nice anise fragrance. Feel free to skip the anise and substitute cinnamon or whatever else you fancy.
INGREDIENTS: The quantity will yield 16 servings and can be divided.
- 2 cups of fine semolina
- 1 1/4 cup of white all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup of butter ( 6 oz)
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 cup (8oz) carob molasses dibs al-kharroob which can be substituted by another type of molasse
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon ground anise (omit if you don’t like the taste and replace by cinnamon)
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- Pour the flour, semolina and anise powder and baking powder in a food processor or mixer and mix well.
- Add the butter and pulse until it gives a texture of bread crumbs.
- Add the milk through the feed tube, then add the molasses until the batter is smooth.
- Grease a baking dish (can use a 10 inch round or a rectangular dish 9X13) with a couple of tablespoons of tahineh.
- Pour the dough in the dish. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) and decorate the cake batter with pine nuts or other nuts.
- Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes until the cake batter is dry.
- Cut in little squares and enjoy with a cup of tea.
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