Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Ablos steamed Beninese semolina bread

Ablos /Abolo/ steamed Beninese semolina bread: Failures and success finally !

I already told about all my attempts to cook steamed Beninese breads called Ablos. 
They are originally cooked to the term of a long process in Africa (Togo/Benin/Cameroon…). 
Corn grains are soaked for a few day then they are drained and finely ground. Water and sugar are then added to the paste to form a smooth batter. 
This batter is fermented for hours until it doubles in volume. 
Some Banana leaves or small molds are filled with the batter and the bread is steamed 15 minutes. 
They are enjoyed with grilled meat, chicken or fish and tomato sauce for example. 
Since this process is too long, The Beninese people living in Europe or in the US have simplified the recipe. 
The result is just as good and quite similar to the Chinese steamed honeycombs cakes (Bánh Bò) or Indian ground rice dumplings (Idli)

I definitely adopted these breads since some friends have made me discover them. 
I usually buy them to Beninese women who perfectly cook them
I have really struggled in my attempts to succeed in having fluffies and yummies ablos. I was desperate.

A couple of week ago I decided to try again. I didn’t get the result I was expected to but I was close to it. 
I tried again but I added more water. And… I got light and delicious steamed bread. 
I took them to my sister’s home for lunch. I told her: “I bought some ablos” do you want to try?” 
She tasted them and said “they are good, let’s eat them with the oxtail stew and okras that I cooked”. They were really good with the stew, so yummy.
I finally and proudly confess to my sister that I made the ablos by myself.

These Beninese steamed buns can be made with rice flour or fine semolina or both. 
They can also be made with a mix of corn flour and tapioca. 
The possibilities are endless if the rules are respected. 

Here are all the details to succeed these delicious muffins steamed...

For Fine Semolina and rice flour Ablos:

Ingredients you’ll need (make about 15 ablos):

  •  1 cup fine semolina
  •  1 cup rice flour (not glutinous rice)
  •  1 cup potato starch
  •   2 ½  cup lukewarm water
  •   ¼ cup lukewarm water to dissolve the yeast
  •   2 Tbsp white sugar
  •  1 tsp and ½ tsp yeast
  •   ½ tsp baking powder
  •   A pinch of salt
  •   Oil for the molds
You will also need:
  • A food processor (if you choose to but not necessary)
  • A large bowl and a spatula
  • A steamer
  • A cup and spoons to measure
  • Small molds or ramekins (about 4/5 cm diameter)

The preparation takes about 15 to 20 minutes. The batter should rest about 1h20 min in a warm place (winter time), about 40 minutes summer time. You will need about 45 to 50 min to cook all the ablos (15 mins for five molds in the steamer).
Let's go!


Dissolve the yeast and ½ Tbsp sugar in ¼ cup lukewarm water and set aside for 10 minutes. 
If you don’t use a food processor, in a large bowl pour fine semolina, the rice flour and the potato starch, 1 ½ Tbsp sugar and baking powder. 

Stir dry ingredients well (You can also sift them together).

Make a well and add the yeast mixture. Slowly add water by handfuls, mix and knead after each addition. 
Stir with a spatula. The batter should have a French crêpes consistency (it should cover the spatula). Stir for about 7 to 10 minutes. 

Add a pinch of salt and stir again for 2 minutes.

If using a food processor add the flours, sugar, baking powder, a pinch of salt and start mixing. 

When the dry ingredients are well mixed, add the yeast dissolved in lukewarm water and slowly add water until you have a French crêpe consistency. 

Mix for 5 to 7 minutes. 

Pour the batter in a large bowl and cover with a clean cloth.

Let the batter to double in size in a warm place for about 1h20 min. 

Prepare your steamer with enough water. 
Wait until the water boils.

Lightly grease the molds. The batter has risen and bubbles appear on the surface. Stir the batter for 5 minutes, this step is important. 

Then pour the batter in slightly oiled molds (about 3 ½ Tbsp each).

Before putting the lid, put a clean cloth over the pot to prevent water from falling on the dough.

It should take 15 minutes to cook about 5 breads in the same time. Don't overcook.

Let the breads cool a little bit and remove from the mould. 

Enjoy them lukewarm with grilled chicken, fish, lamb/ some skewers and a good tomato sauce or a stew.

Just give it a try it’s so good and a real alternative to rice and pasta!

I’ll be so glad to get your comments about it.

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