Awwamaat on Saint Barbara’s Day

AwwammatbyMayaOryanOn Saint Barbara’s day or Eid-il-Berbara, Lebanese children disguised in costumes roam the streets, knocking on the doors, collecting candies and treats and singing Heyshleh Barbara. A yearly celebration very similar to Halloween, but celebrated on the 3rd of December.

The Lebanese story says that Saint Barbara escaped her pagan father who refused to let her convert to Christianity. She disguised herself in different costumes (thus the tradition of dressing up and wearing masks) to hide from her father who was persecuting her.

I grew up in a neighborhood where they gave coins on Saint Barbara’s day instead of sweets. Can you imagine what a happy child I was on that day!

My dad used to cook “awwamaat” (or ouwaymet) as a traditional food for the occasion. A true delish!

Awwamaat are small balls of dough, the size of a walnut, deep-fried to a golden browned crisp and then soaked in sugar syrup.

I fondly remember my dad in the kitchen frying these doughnuts, while I’m waiting for him to finish to gobble it all up. There’s no way to eat just one!

Other sweets for the occasion include Atayef, they’re like pancakes stuffed with walnut and a rich cream called Ashta, and sweetened boiled barley.

Awwamaat are also part of the traditional celebration of Ghtas, Christ’s baptismal night, but were mostly famous at our house on Barbara’s feast. The perfect treat to enjoy on that day!

And this is how my dad made them:

Middle Eastern Awwamaat on Saint Barbara’s Day

Ingredients:

Donuts

  • 3 cups flour
  • ¼ tsp dry yeast
  • 2 ½ cups water, lukewarm
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Oil for deep frying

Syrup

  • 2 ½ cup of white sugar
  • 1½ cup water
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2tsp rose water

Preparation

1.To make the syrup, dissolve sugar in water, add the lemon juice and bring to a boil. Remove the foam on the top. Simmer for 10mn while gently stirring and until it becomes thick. Add rose water and set aside to cold.

2.To make the dough, mix flour and sugar in a large bowl. Dissolve yeast in warm water and slowly add it until dough forms. Knead well. Cover the dough with a wet cloth and leave to rise 1 to 2 hours.

3.Heat oil and drop mixture using a wet teaspoon or form ball shape with hands and drop in oil. Remove from oil when golden brown and drain on absorbent paper. Dip with syrup when still warm. Serve hot or cold.

Mama’s Sfouf

I’m back to my kitchen, to my bed and most importantly to my family. Gosh! I missed my hubby and daughters. Four weeks away from home felt very long and slow. I felt the time freezing, as if the Earth was not rotating, but Thanks God, there’s a bright side for every story, because I was working with a wonderful team, on a very big brand, learning splendid recipes from a gifted chef.

I came back a week ago! I miss cooking so much that we had different menu everyday for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert. My family and I are overwhelmed.

The first item I want to share with you after my return is Sfouf cake.

Sfouf are fun! It’s a Lebanese dessert known for its distinctive yellow color coming from the addition of turmeric. Sfouf can be enjoyed with milk, tea or coffee. It contains no eggs or no butter, mix the ingredients the way you like and make sure you will get a superb cake flavored with aniseed and turmeric spices; two of the healthiest spices available. Like many recipes, the quantities varies from a kitchen to another, but my mom’s recipe is simply the best☺

Sfouf (Sfoof)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups Semolina Flour
  • 3 cup Flour
  • 1cup Vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp Turmeric (a.k.a Curcuma)
  • 2 tsp Baking powder
  • 2 tsp Aniseed (ground)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 21/2 cups Milk (or water)
  • 2 tbsp Tahina (sesame paste)
  • Sesame seeds, Slivered almonds or Pine nuts, to garnish

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 180C

2. In a bowl, mix semolina, flour, turmeric, baking powder, aniseed and vanilla. Add oil and stir to make a paste.

3. In a separate bowl, melt sugar in cold milk. Add gradually to the flour and spices paste and mix using an electric cake mixer.

4. Grease the baking dish with Tahina and pour batter. Make sure it’s flat and even. Sprinkle with sesame, pine nuts or decorate with almonds.

5. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until golden-brown. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. Cut in pieces like you do for brownies and serve.

Please note, this same recipe can be done without milk. Just dilute sugar and aniseed in water and add it to the flour and spices mixture.