I love to invite myself over! Rude isn’t it? But don’t worry, I never come empty-handed. So here I am on 196 flavors today! And guess what? I am bringing dessert!
I discovered the blog 196 flavors during the French Golden Blog Awards competition. I immediately clicked with the tone of this blog and the variety of its recipes.
Somehow, I found myself chatting with Mike on Facebook, telling him all the good things I thought about his blog. Of course, he answered with a cynical friendly joke. At the end of the conversation, we decided to have a virtual cup of tea at 196 flavors. That means that I would write a recipe that meets the editorial guidelines of the blog.
One last thing! Vera has to agree with my intrusion. Although Mike plays the macho role perfectly, he knows that ladies always get the final word. After checking my blog Les Trois Madeleines, Vera approves my visit. She even left me a kind message stating how much she likes my sweet world and what I do. Then, Mike came back and took the control back! (a macho! I just told you…) Then, he adds that he has high expectations regarding the writing, the photos, the spelling…
Oh boy! We didn’t even start the project!
Today I am making a cake! This is the most traditional dessert served in Yemen: bint al sahn. Bint al sahn or “daughter/beauty of the table” is a honey cake which reminds of baklava, considering the presence of butter and the superposition of thin layers of dough, as well as French Kouign-amann, for the flaky texture.
The cake is topped with egg yolk and black seeds, usually nigella seeds or black sesame. Finally, in addition to the rather large amount of butter in this traditional recipe, it is traditional to drizzle a good amount of honey on top of the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven.
For the record, bint al sahn is usually served during the meal and not at the end, which may surprise most of us. Also, keep in mind that the higher your social status is, the higher quality and therefore the more expensive the honey served with your cake will be.
Although bint al sahn contains simple ingredients, the thin layers of dough are quite tricky to prepare. The layers of dough must be as thin as paper, but when you get to master how to open up the dough, then you are all set!
There is a serving ritual for this cake. The host serves a traditional bint al sahn as a hospitality ritual. He generously pour honey in a circular motion on top of the cake and makes sure he pours a generous quantity of it on the guest side of the cake. Thus, the guest won’t feel shy to take more of it if he wants to.
This hospitality ritual is intended to make the guest feel comfortable in the house of the host. As a sign of gratitude, the guest must absolutely prevent the host to pour too much honey on the cake – or at least fake it. Remember: honey in Yemen is a sign of wealth and social status.
I will definitely bake this cake again! I was nervous about the amount of salt in the dough. However, the salt ultimately perfectly complements the honey, which can be too rich in large amounts. As I mentioned, the difficulty lies in opening up the layers of dough. I make baklavas regularly so I had a chance to master this technique. But don’t worry, the more you practice, the faster you will be at making this cake. Let me now serve you a generous slice of bint al sahn.
Consider yourself lucky : honey can’t reach you behind the screen. Enjoy !
- 3 eggs
- 3 cups flour
- ½ cup butter , melted
- 1 tablespoon dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ¼ cup butter
- 1 egg yolk
- Sesame seeds (or nigella seeds)
- Honey (warm)
- Dissolve yeast in ¼ cup of lukewarm water (80 F).
- Set aside for 10 minutes until it gets foamy.
- In a large bowl, combine, the dry ingredients: flour, salt.
- Add 3 eggs, melted butter and activated yeast.
- Knead the dough for about 15 minutes until the dough starts to hold up. Cover with a dry cloth and set aside 30 minutes.
- Separate the dough into small balls of 2½ oz each. Keep a 3 oz ball for the top layer of the cake. You will get between 10 to 12 balls.
- Let rise another 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400 F.
- Generously grease a 10-inch pan.
- Using a rolling pin, roll the first ball of dough as thinly as possible: you must see through.
- Place the layer of dough in the pan.
- Using a brush, drizzle melted butter over this layer of dough.
- Continue this process for the rest of the dough sheets. For the final layer, coat with egg yolk and sprinkle with black nigella seeds.
- Bake for 25 minutes until the cake is golden.
- When the butter is still oozing, drizzle generously honey on top of the cake. Serve warm.