I never imagined that I will be writing a review on bread... More so 'markouk' bread. While visiting a new hotel in Bhamdoun, someone recommended that I continue up the highway to Sawfar to find a place known for its Nutella and banana sandwich in markouk bread. I thought, 'weird' at first, but I guess ones should not underestimate some of the simplest things in life...
Up the old Sawfar road, facing the entrance to Chouf or the road known as Sharon village road is a place called "Makhbaz el Nabil" as in Nabil, the son of Hayat el Ahmadieh the woman behind these tasty thin loafs.
FYI: Saoufar, also known as Sawfar or Sofar, is a town in the Aley District, Mount Lebanon Governorate in Lebanon. It is located at an altitude of 1320 m and beside a main road linking Beirut and Damascus in Syria.
We stopped in front of Makhbaz el Nabil and asked for the Nutella Mankoushe. Hayat was working her bread with a large smile on her face, removing the loafs from a side to another while her son stood behind the counter to prepare the sandwiches. Enjoying such a rich smell of fresh bread and watching the family in action, I couldn't but order some more of their homemade preparations as well, the kechek.
What makes the 'markouk' bread loafs special is that they are produced a 100% from Australian pure wheat, without any additives. Salt, water and wheat with a hint of yeast. The dough is prepared 12 hours in advance, and left to rest before moving on to making the markouk the next morning. An art mastered for decades allows Hayat to spot any unseen imperfections in thickness. She makes one homogenous markouk with light borders after the other. Mouthwatering paper-like bread that's light brown in color, fresh and delicious.
"I create one of the finest Markouk bread in town and challenge you to keep the bag of bread at room temperature for 13 days and be able to enjoy it the same way like day one," Hayat confidently tells me as she aerated the bread to allow the evaporation of unneeded water.
"All is homemade, planted in our gardens or cooked by the family... Zaatar, kechek, cheese... What do you feel like trying?"
Despite the fact that I had just finished lunch an hour earlier, I couldn't resist tasting some of their food. I started by a kechek sandwich: a paper-thin dough that's crunchy like a French crepe topped with a rich ingredients.
But we came for the Nutella sandwich: Of course I had some. Yes, it was worth the trip up to Sawfar. A thin light dough, crispy and fresh with such a super enjoyable feel reminded me of the Galette de Sarasin famous in Brittany, France.
FYI: Galette, or more properly Breton galette is also the name given in most French crêperies to savory buckwheat flour pancakes, while those made from wheat flour, much smaller in size and mostly served with a sweet filling, are branded crêpes. Galette is a type of large, thin pancake mostly associated with the region of Brittany, where it replaced at times bread as basic food, but it is eaten countrywide.
Back to the nutella...The bread is first baked then topped off with a generous portion of Nutella followed by bananas which they mash like purée. What an awesome sandwich... Let's call it, simplicity redefined.
Before leaving, I asked for a of couple loafs to take back home. After all, I had to put what Hayat said to the test. The bag contains 6 loafs and costs LBP3,500. Today is officially the 12th day and yes, the bread is still the same, same taste, same consistency and same softness. Bravo!
Yes, it's worth it to go up the mountain to Sawfar to buy some bread for the month. Healthy bread, homemade and natural, without any preservatives and most importantly tasty. I'll be back on a weekly basis.