Monthly Archives: April 2013

Recipe: Baobab Pancakes

Baobab Pancake

I make baobab pancakes by replacing two tablespoons of white flour with baobab powder. The resulting flavor and chew reminds me of pancakes with yogurt or buttermilk in the batter.

I have been using the same standard pancake recipe for four or five years. I found this recipe on, I think. As you can see in the recipe below, I no longer measure the milk that I add though it’s probably about two cups. I start with a cup or so and then add more, a tablespoon or two at a time, until I have the consistency I want. The thinner the batter, the thinner the pancake. I prefer my batter to have a consistency of a drinkable yogurt or just slightly thicker than Hershey’s chocolate syrup. At this thickness the batter will cook into pancakes between a quarter and a half inch thick.

Resting the batter helps the batter blend so don’t worry if there are some lumps in your original mixture. It also tends to thicken the batter a bit, thus I start with the batter a little thinner than I want to cook with. After the initial mixing, let the batter rest on the counter for five to ten minutes while you make a cup of coffee, fry up some scrapple or check the score of last night’s game. Then stir the batter and check the consistency. Adjust by adding a little milk or a little flour, a tablespoon or less at a time. If you use a hot non-stick or well-seasoned cast iron pan, no grease is necessary. Though butter makes ‘em better.

Baobab Pancakes: 4 servings

2 2/3 C             white flour^

1/3 C                baobab powder^

4 t                    salt^

3t                     baking powder^

2 T                  sugar^

2                      eggs^

2 T                  vegetable oil^

2 – 3 C             milk ^

  1. Mix the dry ingredients together.
  2. Mix the wet ingredients together.
  3. Combine the wet and dry ingredients. The batter should be the consistency of a drinkable yogurt. Let the batter rest for 5 – 10 minutes.
  4. Add a little milk if its too dry or a little flour if its too wet.
  5. Heat a non-stick or cast iron pan until hot but not smoking. Add some butter or oil if you want. Or don’t. Put a ladle full of batter in. When small bubbles have formed and burst all over the pancake, flip it. Cook for another 30 seconds to a minute. Enjoy.

^          Ingredient purchased in our town and used by locals on a daily basis.

^^        Ingredient purchased at supermarkets in Porto Novo or Cotonou that cater to wealthier Beninese and foreigners.

^^^     Ingredient sent courtesy of friends and families in care packages.



Superfood: Baobab Powder

Superfood: Baobab Powder

Added to a smoothie, mixed into a glass of water or stirred into your morning oatmeal, many tout baobab’s status as a superfood: it’s rich in Vitamin C, calcium, fiber and potassium. Here is an article about baobab from

Baobab fruit are cracked open to reveal chunks of fruit held together with stringy, fibrous stems. The rather dry fruit has an interesting sweet/tart balance that is frequently ground into a fine powder. Beninese make a tart drink by dissolving the powder and lots of sugar in hot water and then letting it cool. I use the powder, sparingly, as a flour substitute. The baobab adds tang and a chewy bite to pancakes, breads, pizza dough and other baked goods.

Baobab fruit.

Baobab fruit.

Baobab fruit are cracked open to reveal chunks of fruit held together with stringy, fibrous stems.

Baobab fruit are cracked open to reveal chunks of fruit held together with stringy, fibrous stems.


Baobab Trees

Baobab Trees

Though rarely found in southern Benin, baobab trees grow in abundance in northern Benin’s dry, dusty climate. Massive trunks that can hold up to 32,000 gallons of water, branches sticking out at odd angles and bark that appears to droop into folds of fat combine to make a tree fit for a Tim Burton movie. The trees in these photos are in and around the tiny village of Tayakou in northwestern Benin.




Profile: Pierre Adamon

Pierre in the barber's chair in his shop.

Pierre in the barber’s chair in his shop.

Name: Pierre Adamon
Age: 25
Occupation: Barber
Lives with: Lives by himself.
When I think of America, I think: I don’t know much about the U.S.
Americans should know about Benin: Beninese people are friendly and warm. We like meeting people from all countries. We want to improve ourselves. We aren’t looking for money but for training that can help us improve.
Languages spoken: Goun, Torri
Education: Completed one year of schooling in Nigeria.
Standing outside of his barber shop.

Standing outside of his barber shop.

Profile: Geoffroy Haunkanrin

Geoffroy Haunkanrin

Name: Geoffroy Haunkanrin
Age: 23
Occupation: Tailor’s Apprentice (in 5th year of 5 year apprenticeship)
Lives with: Mother, age 39; Father, age 50; 5 brothers and 5 sisters
When I think of America, I think: Barrack Obama is the president.
Americans should know about Benin: We cultivate the land and raise animals. Both are very important here. Vodun is also very important. That is the religion and tradition of our ancestors.
Languages spoken: French, Goun, Torri
Education: Through 7th grade.


Learning a Trade in Benin

Learning a Trade in Benin

Compulsory schooling does not exist in Benin. Many who are unable to attend school learn a trade instead. Some of the most common trades in our area of Benin include tailor, auto mechanic, hair stylist, barber, metal worker, carpenter and mason. The trades are divided along gender lines. Auto mechanic, barber, metal worker, carpenter and mason are all men’s jobs. Hair stylist is a woman’s job. Tailor is a unisex position with men making men’s clothing and women making women’s clothing. The skilled trades are learned through an apprenticeship system. A family asks an artisan known for his or her quality to apprentice their child. If the apprenticeship is accepted, apprentices pay the host artisan a series of fees and work for free during their three to six year apprenticeship. Here is a breakdown of the typical fees:

  • Apprenticeship Agreement Fee: 5,000 cfa ($10) plus a bottle of rum ($5)
  • Training Fee: 30,000 – 60,000 cfa ($60 – $120)
  • Graduation Request Fee: 5,000 cfa ($10) plus a bottle of rum ($5) and a duck ($20)
  • Diploma Fee: 10,000 cfa ($20) plus an optional graduation party that costs between 100,000 – 150,000 cfa ($200 – $300)


Profile: Mathieu Toviehou

Mathieu Toviehou

Name: Mathieu Toviehou
Age: 29
Occupation: Teacher
Lives with: Father, age 59; mother, age 42; sister, age 33; brother, age 17; father’s second wife, age 40; half sister, age 22; half brothers, age 25, 19, 12
When I think of America, I think: The US is a world power that uses its diplomatic force to help Benin and the rest of the world.
Americans should know about Benin: Our lifestyle in Benin is traditional. Families have solidarity. If someone in the family has a problem, that is the concern of the whole family.
Languages spoken: French, Goun, Torri
Education: Graduated from university.