Ultimate healthy banana bread

Ultimate No added-sugar banana bread

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Are you looking a -sort- of guilt-free banana cake? I’ve got you covered!

My ultimate healthy banana cake.

Ingredients

For 26 cm long cake loaf pan/ Temp: 170 C/ Baking time: 50 min

– 3 very ripe bananas (400 to 450 g )
– 200 g who wheat flour or 50%-50% to white
– 80 g hazelnut powder
– 120 ml milk (hazelnut, soja, coconut, almond)
– 2 eggs, medium-size
– 60 ml d’argan, hazelnut or coconut oil
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 1 tsp vanilla sugar
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 6 g baking powder
– 1/4 tsp bicarb.
– 80 -100 g chocolate chips

Preparation

Watch for instruction following this link or just click on the video:


Thin Sephardic Moroccan biscuits

Fat-free thin Moroccan Jewish biscuits -Fekkas d’ Lihoud

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A while ago, I spotted some moulds of different shapes in Essaouira and when asked, the shop keeper said it was for Fekkas d’lihoud. Now fekkas is a form of Moroccan biscotti and lihoud refers to Jews.

Being in Essaouira, I thought it was the place to look for more information about Sephardic cooking. I got busy and forgot about it.

Finding the baking pans

These thin biscuits  as well as their famous baking pans have become a thing in Casablanca for last 5 years and come with different nuts and seed mix in bakeries.

It can also be made to order by the many women who cater from home. My brother brought us some a few years ago and recently my sister brought me an adapted version with chocolate and coffee! the latter was to die for!

So in my last trip, I decided to get hold of some of this iconic baking pans which can also be used to make brioches and thin cake loaves of different shapes: stars, triangles, flowers, rectangular..

In Morocco, these moulds cost next to nothing, unlike the birkmann brand that seem quite expensive considering that you need at least 3 of these even when you halve the recipe..But it’s out there, available via Amazon. Having lived in Germany and bought things from this brand, I know how good it is!

It’s also worth to get those thin bread pans because you can make all sorts of breads and bakes and cut them later on for canapes etc..

Mixing up 

I understood the logic of the recipe then completely changed the additions: I made a less sweeter and also savoury one with anchovies. I substituted white sugar with coconut sugar in the recipe below. I added cranberries and dried strawberries.

The dough needs to be sticky and just slightly runny so do not go and add more flour. It has to flow in the moulds while it’s baking and take their shape.

What I’m posting today is a completely adapted version. As I mention in the list of ingredients, feel free to replace the seeds, nuts and dried fruits but make sure things go in harmony with each other and most of all make sure you stick to a minimum of sticky and sweet dried fruits as it might become excessively sweet.

Regarding the nuts, seeds and fruit mix, you can use a pre-mixed pack but just weight the total of each group to get closer to the one I’m giving down below.

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Ingredients

Serves 30-40 people
Prep: 30 min – resting: min 8 hrs – baking: 30 to 35 min (in two times)

Basic ingredients for the dough 

  • 6 eggs. medium to large
  • 400 g of all purpose flour ( I mixed 1/3 whole wheat and 2/3 white flour)
  • 200 g of sugar (I use half light brown and half white caster sugar, initial recipes call for 300g caster sugar!)
  • 7 g baking powder
  • A good pinch of salt

Nuts, seeds and dried fruits (open to options and substitutes)

  • 150 g of almonds with skin on or slivered (whole almonds will need pre-soaking for a few minutes then pat-dried and roughly chopped)
  • 150g whole hazelnuts,
  • 150g whole cashew nuts,
  • 100g pistachio
  • 100g of dried apricots, raisins, goji berries or anything you have around (unsweetened)
  • 4 tbsps of mixed seeds (or just unhulled sesame seeds)
  • 2-3 tbsps of unsweetened dessicated coconut

Flavourings

  • 1 tablespoon of lemon zest or 
  • 2 tbps of chopped candied orange or clementine peels
  • or 1 tsp of vanilla extract


Preparation

Preheat your oven at 160 degrees C. Grease the pans/tins/moulds with oil and dust them with flour. Discard excess flour.

Beat eggs with sugar and salt until foamy. Put the egg beater or whisk on the side and get a spatula.

Fold in the flavouring, dry fruits, seeds and nuts. Mix.

Sift the flour with baking powder and fold it in. Mix with the spatula or with your hands (I do).

Butter and flour the molds and pour the mixture to 2/3rds of it. They will rise.

Bake until golden and springy (about 20 min in my oven).

Remove from pan and cover tightly with a couple of kitchen towels. Once cool, place in the refrigerator between 8 and 24 hours (overnight will do).

Get a sharp knife and cut the fekkas 1 mm thin (I go to 2 mm and it’s still good but it should be 1 mm really!). This fekkas does not break if do things delicately and with concentration (and a good knife).

Cover a baking sheet with baking paper because the dried fruits might stick to it. Place the fekkas next to each other without leaving space as they won’t expand.

Bake for 10-15 min at 160 degrees. I prefer to bake them for 12 min and leave them in the hot oven (position OFF). Ideally they should not go very golden, they barely change colour and it will look to you as if it’s still soft but once cooled it will harden.

Once cooled, transfer fekkas to an airtight container and leave them in a dry place. It keeps for weeks.

Serve with hot or cold drinks.

Notes

  • The ones I made were either with a mix of whole wheat and white flour or white brown and coconut sugar, which is why they look slightly golden to brown.
  • I made them on the savoury side and dropped the sugar. I added herbs, anchovies, garlic and dried green onions. It was delicious with a dollop of cream cheese on top and some cucumber.
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Moroccan superfood mix: Zemmita

I always thought that Zemmita was actually Sellou, only more sandy and slightly darker in colour. Well it was only half the truth. Mind you, we even have a song for Zemmita (here, with the Mohammed Bouzoubaa. a famous singer close to our family and who happens to be seriously ill the last 5 years due to his age).

In the cities of Meknes and Fes and all around them, Zemmita is just another name for sellou or sfouf, a sweet healthy energy Moroccan sweet with a texture ranging between sandy to compact.

In my last trip to Morocco, I found out that zemmita is being sold as a powder in many places. I have to say that the beginning of my trip coincided with Ramadan so people were definitely in need of something to keep them strong for as much as it could last.

Then I went to visit my dear friends El Yazami family who own some shops in Casablanca with a decent reputation of selling good ingredients and some Moroccan cheese and yoghurts, some homemade Moroccan sweets, couscous grains of all sorts, Khlii, etc..

I was lucky to find Mrs El Yazami and had quite a long chat with here. During my visit, I spotted some packets of zemmita. Knowing that Mr El Yazami is from Fassi origin (Fez), I just though that this was a sort of dried sellou waiting to mixed with the wet ingredients to finish off the recipe. Mrs El Yazami told me that this was another zemmita rather from Casablanca area and that she made it based on an old recipe from her old grandma who inherited it from her mother. In fact, other regions of Morocco follow the same logic in preparing it, only with less ingredients depending on their availability.

While Mrs. El Yazami told me to mix the zemmita mix with water, salt and olive oil and adjust the consistency to my liking before digging in with a spoon, my sister whose former In-Laws are deeply rooted in this area too told me that she used to makes balls out of the mix, which is rather convenient as a morning energy pick-me-up!

That sort of stories brings sparkles to my eyes. I was even lucky to see the recipe in her little notebook as she was kind enough to show it to me. It didn’t stop there, I made some research (as usual) to cover the story!

Making zemmita is not an easy thing as the list of ingredients is rather daunting! It’s not the usual stuff you will find in your cupboard unless you are from that region of Morocco with the intention to make zemmita, so you collect your ingredients ahead of time depending on their availability (for some of them).

I’m posting zemmita recipe guidelines as I want to share with the world one of the incredibly old Moroccan superfood mixtures that’s worth knowing. Be aware that these are family recipes which depend on their owners so it will be different from one family to another. However, the main ingredients would rather be the same. I’ve come up with one after all this research I’ve been doing.

A limited version of pre-packed zemmita sold in Casablanca markets. Similar sachets but with different ingredients and producer were sold in Essaouira

So, hold your breathe, here is what you may find in an authentic Zemmita in Casablanca and down below all the way to the South of Morocco.

Local millet seeds

 

Dried lemon verbena

Ingredients
Serves 50 +
Prep: 1 hour

Pulses, grains, nuts and seeds for the base (all highlighted is mandatory)

  • 500g to 1 kg barley grains (if not using the wheat grains)
  • 500g of wheat grains
  • 500g dried chickpeas 
  • 300g of melon seeds (any type)
  • 250g sesame seeds 
  • 250g flax seeds
  • 250g dried fava beans, skin off
  • 250g of dried corn
  • 200g millet or sargho seeds
  • 120g pumpkin seeds
  • 120g of sunflower seeds
  • 120g soybeans 
  • 120g of almond 
  • 70g of carob 
  • 70g jujube seeds 
  • 70g watermelon seeds

Herbs, spices and flavourings (all highlighted is mandatory)

  • 2 tbsp ground caraway 
  • 1 teaspoon mastic gum
  • 2 tbsps of dried pennyroyal powder
  • 1 whole nutmeg, ground
  • 1 tbsp ground aniseed 
  • 1 tbsp of ground fennel seeds
  • 2 tbsps of ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 3 tsps dried thyme 
  • 3 tsps dried lemon verbena
  • 3 tsps of dried marjoram 
  • 3 tsps of dried wild balm or Mentha suaveolens
  • 2 tsps of dried sage

To mix zemmita
Option 1: extra virgin olive oil and honey to taste, boiling water to bring to a thick paste,
Option 2: melted farmer’s butter and honey to taste
Option 3: extra virgin olive oil and/or water for a savoury version.

Fennel seeds and aniseed

 

Jujube, usually available in summer season in Morocco


Preparation

Make the zemmita powder

All seeds and grains should be pre-toasted in the oven for a few minutes. Some take longer than others so proceed by type. The same logic goes for the grinding process.

To toast the chickpeas properly, we usually heat a good amount of sands over medium heat and fold in the chickpeas then we stir until the chickpeas seem “cooked” (minimum 30 min). A strainer is used afterwards to separate the chickpeas from sand.

All herbs and spices should be finely ground.

You need a seriously strong food processor to grind all grains and pulses. In Morocco, especially in the remote places, a manual wheel grinder “tahouna” is used. In the cities, all these ingredients are sent to local mills.

First, sift this fragrant powder to avoid the presence of any grits in the final mix. Then rub with your hands to make sure all is blended.

Make the zemminta balls

Whichever option you choose, All liquids must be warmed to blend easily.

Mix the zemmita powder with enough liquid to form a ball. Either you mix ahead of serving day and you shape walnut-size balls or mix the amount of powder needed when you really need it then use a spoon to eat it.

 

Note:

I usually don’t endorse brands or anyone unless I believe in them. This is the reason behind me sharing Traiteur (caterer) Yazami’s contact details.

His shops can be found at the following addresses (both in Casablanca):

1 – 104 boulevard moulay idriss 1er quartier des hopitaux – Tel: +212 522 86 56 66
2 –   40, Boulevard Bir Anzarane – Tel: + 212 5 22 25 96 96

You can find a variety of couscous grains coming straight from women associations to promote their rights and financial independence in remote areas. All couscous grains (millet, wheat, barley, rice, corn…) are hand-rolled.

You can also find homemade-style Raib (Moroccan yoghurt), traditional Jben (white cheese), Khlii Fez-style, Moroccan sweets and breads and other Gluten-free and organic products.


Sellou or tkaout: Our Moroccan energy mix

Sellou is a kind of  mix which falls under the category of Moroccan sweets. It has various names: Zemmita (especially when it’s rather sandy than a paste-like), sfouf, tkaout..
I won’t call it cake although some might be tempted to label it so. The reason is that its presentation differs from a family to another: Some present it as pyramid , others as dome, or square, or even in individual portions . Each household makes it look different and women get really creative in this.
Sellou recipe has evolved over time and across regions. It has been upgraded from a scented flour mix to a nutty one. Made from almonds, sesame seeds, sugar, torrefied flour and some spices, sellou can be sandy or paste-like depending on the amount of butter used to bind the ingredients.

In recent years , sellou became a healthy nut mix gone from frying flour (yes, some families used to fry flour instead of toasting it) to drop the addition of clarified butter used to bind the mix. This trend in many big cities has gained notoriety and it’s not spread to further parts of the country. Good industrial machines are used to grind the mix and release the natural oils trapped in the almonds and sesame seeds to do the binding work.

Large ” mathanas ” or traditional Public mills (widely available in Morocco) offer this service to their customers for a few dirhams: the women bring the ingredients, the guy in the mill will places them in a special mill allocated for the job and the women will have a lighter sellou paste in the blink of an eye.

Sellou is to the Moroccans what the Energy bar is to the rest of the world. It is also one of the sweets served to women after giving birth (to provide strength and more milk for the baby in case they’re nursing). It is also offered to the guests coming to visit, as a ” favor” in a packaging specifically designed (or purchased ) for the occasion. Finally, this is one of the essential recipes during Ramadan, especially in Fes.
Properly prepared, Sellou keeps well for months. In fact, it is even good food for long trips. Before the invention of cars and planes, it seems that Muslim pilgrims went to Mecca relied on it during their journey to Mecca.
The oil you see here topping Sellou and protecting came a couple of days after compacting the mix. No butter has been added to bind the paste, this was only oil from the almond and the sesame used for the recipe.
Loaded with calories, sellou is usually consumed in small quantities at a time, anywhere from 1 to 2 tablespoons per serving. It’s usually served along with Moroccan tea or a cup of coffee.
Since I have not been raised in the country of Corn flakes and muesli , I like to start my day with sellou for a kick.
Sellou’s recipe can be one of the healthiest things to make and even gluten-free: Just replace the regular white flour with another one which can be torrefied ( i.e chickpea, whole wheat flour ) . As for sugar, you can use the powdered version that suits you. I’m not keen on using too much honey has it makes it somewhat tough. Clarified butter can be replaced with oil/olive oil/argan oil or just omited like I mentioned.
Ingredients
For a disc of 20 cm by 7 cm approx
Prep Time: 60-90 min (including torrefaction and kneading if this option is used)
 
  • ½ kg of torrefied flour until in its colour turn to hazelnut
  • ½ kg of golden sesame seeds , toasted
  • ½ kg of almonds blanched and dried, torrefied or fried
  • ¼ kg sugar (powdered, or unrefined fine sugar)
  • 1 generous tablespoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 generous tablespoon of aniseed, torrefied
  • ½ teaspoon of mastic gum
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 100-200 g of clarified  butter, clarified and cooled ( optional for a light recipe , read full details)
  •  Options by region : fennel seeds , caraway, chickpea flour , nutmeg, linseeds, millet..
  •  Options for a crunchy mix: 200 g of torrefied blanched almonds, crushed.
 
Preparation
In a moderate oven (180 degrees C), torrefy flour. After the first 15 minutes, start stirring every 5 minutes so the flour does not burn and it is evenly turning to a hazelnut tone.
On the left, a regular white flour. On the right, the same white flour torrefied but only halfway.
Toast the sesame seeds for a few minutes. Blend finely.
Toast the aniseeds. Set aside to cool then grind them finely.
Grind the mastic gum.
Fry or torrefy the blanched almonds. Set aside to cool then grind them with sugar to a fine or just slightly coarse texture.
In a working surface, mix all the dry ingredients. Add the honey (slightly warmed) and butter (you may not need all the quantity). the flour, mix with almonds , sesame seeds and ground anise, cinnamon, nutmeg and gum arabica .
Using a meat grinder: you just need to pre-mix all the ingredients and let the grinder do the work. Pack the paste in a container and you’re done. You may not need butter for this.
Using a normal food processor: Put all ingredients and keep mixing until you get a crumbly paste. Finish off by kneading it. If you knead longer, you may not need to add butter or maybe just a bit. Besides, the more you ” knead ” the mixture by hand the better.

 

Once all ingredients have been mixed, add the roughly crushed almonds for an extra crunchy texture.
Present Sellou as you wish, decorate with sesame seeds or fried almonds and a dusting of icing sugar.

 

Sellou gets better after a couple of days of its preparation , he will gain in flavor and texture as it ages.

 

Recette en Français
 
 
Sellou est une sorte de préparation sucrée qui peut être sableuse ou pâteuse, ou même entre les deux. Je ne le mettrai pas sous la rubrique « gâteaux » vu que se présentation diffère d’un foyer a un autre. Certains le présentent en tant que pyramide, d’autres en tant que dômes, ou carré, ou même en portions individuelles. Enfin, les ménagères excellent dans ce domaine et innovent constamment.
La recette de Sellou a évolué avec le temps et selon les régions. Composé d’amandes, de graines de sésames, de farine précuite au four et de quelques épices, le sellou peut être sableux ou pâteux dépendant de la quantité de beurre utilisée pour ramasser les ingrédients. On n’oubliera pas bien sur le sucre qui balancera tous ces ingrédients.
Durant les dernières années, la nouvelles mode dans les grandes villes Marocaines veut que le beurre soit omit. Les grands « mathanas » -ou moulins traditionnels publics- offrent aux clientes averties le service d’hacher ces ingrédients au point d’avoir une pâte qui se ramasse avec les huiles émanant des graines de sésames ainsi que des amandes. Le beurre n’est donc plus nécessaire pour avoir la texture désirée.
Le Sellou pour tous les Marocains est ce que l’Energy bar pour le reste du monde. C’est aussi l’une des sucreries servies aux femmes qui viennent d’accoucher ainsi qu’aux invites qui l’auront en tant que « favor » dans un emballage spécialement conçu (ou acheté) pour l’occasion. Enfin, c’est l’une des recettes incontournables lors du Ramadan, surtout à Fès.
Bien préparé, le Sellou se conserve très bien. En fait, c’est même un bon compagnon de voyage. Parait-il qu’autrefois, les pèlerins qui partaient à la Mecque en prenaient pour le manger pendant leur route à destination de la Mecque.

Assez calorique, le sellou se mange en petites quantités à la fois, disons 1 ou 2 cuillères à soupe tout au plus, accompagnée (s) d’un simple verre de thé à la menthe ou de café. Vu que je n’ai pas été élevée au pays du Corn flakes et des mueslis, j’aime bien commencer ma journée avec sellou pour le boost.
 
Avant de passer à la recette que vous pouvez facilement reproduire chez vous, je vous ferai remarquer que Sellou peut être une recette à 100% healthy et gluten-free. Il suffit de remplacer la farine blanche pour une qui peut être torréfiée au four (pois chiche par exemple pour les allergiques au gluten, farine complète). De même que pour le sucre, vous pouvez utiliser la version en poudre qui vous arrange. Le beurre peut être remplacé par de l’huile ou même omit comme j’ai déjà expliqué.
 
 
 
Ingrédients
Pour un disque de 20 cm sur 7 cm.
Prépa : 60-90 min
  • ½ kg de farine torréfiée jusqu’à devenir couleur noisette
  • ½ kg de graines de sésames golden, torréfiées
  • ½ kg d’amandes émondés et séchées, torréfiée ou frites
  • ¼ kg de sucre en poudre
  • 1 cuillère à soupe (généreuse) de cannelle en poudre
  • 1 cuillère à soupe (généreuse) de graines d’anis
  • ½ cuillère à café de gomme mastique
  • 2 cuillères à soupe de miel
  • 150-200 g de beurre bien clarifié et refroidi (optionnel pour une recette légère, lire la recette)
  • Options selon les régions : graines de fenouils, carvi, farine de pois chiche, noix de muscade, graines de lin, millet..
  • Option pour avoir un crunch de plus: 200 g d’amandes torréfiée ou frites, grossièrement hachées

 

Préparation
Dans un four moyen (180 degrés C), faites dorer la farine. Passées les 15 premières minutes, remuez chaque 5 min afin que la farine ne brule pas et qu’elle prenne une couleur uniforme.
 
Faites torréfier dorer les graines de sésames pendant quelques minutes. Passez-les au mixeur.
 
Torréfiez Les graines d’anis. Un fois refroidies, il faudra les moudre ainsi que la gomme mastique.
 
Faites frire les amandes mondées à l’huile ou alors passez-les au four pour une 10aine de minutes. Ensuite, passez-les au mixeur avec le sucre jusqu’à obtenir une pâte très lisse.
 
Mélangez tous les ingrédients en poudre avec le beurre et le miel. Remuez constamment jusqu’à obtention d’une pâte bien lisse. En fait, le plus vous « pétrirez » ce mélange à la main le mieux c’est. Au contact, les amandes et les sésames dégagent leurs huiles et vous n’aurez pas forcément besoin de tout le beurre.
 
Tasser dans une boite ou un grand bol.
Présentez le Sellou selon vos envies, décore de graines de sésame ou d’amandes frites et de sucre glace.
 

 

Sellou est encore meilleur après quelques jours de sa préparation, il gagnera en saveur et en texture.