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Monkey Bread Sorbet
October 28, 2009  |  Ingredients, Recipes

If you asked me what the most interesting and unique ingredient I got to use in Senegal was, I would be hard pressed to choose between maad and bouye (monkey bread). That says something, because I only ever used bouye in a single recipe, not counting the traditional jus de bouye.

The powdery, fibrous, off-white contents of the baobob fruit, bouye has a flavor that is not easy to describe. Slightly sour, but not in a biting way like citrus; slightly sweet; and somehow slightly dry, even when made into a juice. Like the baobob tree itself, it seems to belong to some other order of things. It’s also very healthy, with as much vitamin C as citrus and as much calcium as milk. I would not be surprised at all if it started showing up in granola bars and fruit smoothies.

I must have walked past bouye for sale in the Yoff market a dozen times before I realized what it was. It looks like some kind freeze-dried root-vegetable, or maybe a type of building material. I only made the connection between the piles in the market and the drink that I loved after one of the neighbor children gave me a piece to suck on. (This was a common event that always resulted in mixed feelings on my part. On the one hand, it was almost always something good, or at least new. On the other, it was usually pre-chewed to some extent.)

Jus de bouye has a thick, creamy consistency that made me think of sorbet very first time I tried it. Like banana, it has a texture that seems to lend itself perfectly to freezing. Unfortunately for my sorbet aspirations, I had neither an ice cream churn nor a freezer, and it took me a while to come up with a plan to overcome those limitations


  • 1/2 kilo bouye
  • 2 cups sugar for sorbet. 1 cup with more to taste for juice
  • 2 litres of water, heated to 180 degrees (80C)


  • 1 wire strainer (they sell them at the market)
  • 1/2 kilo salt
  • 1 ice cream maker
  • 1 freezer

Or, without the ice cream maker and freezer:

  • 4 blocks of ice from a neighbor who has a freezer
  • 2 cheap aluminum pots that nest inside each other and 1 pot lid from the market. Bargain hard for these, the quality is terrible and they will leak in a few months.
  • 1 big wooden spoon
  • 1 plastic laundry bucket (preferably imprinted with a tiger or a dragon)
  • 1 large bath towel (ditto)

Also useful

  • 1 kid from the neighborhood to send out for more salt or sugar as necessary.

The first step should be done the day before. Pour the hot water over the bouye in the first pot and add the sugar. Cover and let stand. Come back and give it a stir occasionally until it cools to room temperature, then use your wire strainer to strain out the seeds and fibers. Put the strained mixture in the fridge overnight.

The next day, take the bouye mixture out of the fridge and taste for sweetness and adjust as necessary. If you have an ice cream maker, at this point you can just pour the mixture in and turn it on. But I will continue just in case you too are trying to do this the hard way.

Run over to your neighbor’s to pick up the ice. Plan some time for this trip: it will probably involve thieboudienne, or at the very least a few rounds of tea.  Return home and crush one of the blocks of ice into small pieces. This can be difficult. I did it by smashing it against the concrete wall, which worked wonderfully. Add a bit of water, the crushed ice, and one cup of salt to the second aluminum pot. This will create a slurry that cools down below the freezing point of water. Place the pot containing the bouye inside the pot containing the ice bath, and start to stir.

And stir.

And stir.

Remember to scrape the sides, and add more ice and salt as your slurry melts.

And stir.

It took about 45 minutes of stirring, though I imagine that had something to do with the fact that it was in the mid 90s, both temperature and humidity. You want to the bouye mixture to achieve the texture of soft-serve ice-cream, and hopefully before the muscles in your arm do.

When it has frozen, crush the remaining ice and add most (but not all) of it to the salt slurry. Put the lid on your ice cream and nest the pot back into the slurry to harden. Wrap both pots with the towel and nestle the whole bundle into the laundry bucket. Cover the lid with the remaining ice and pull the towel up over it.

In one to two hours it will be hardened. In two to three it will have melted again. Enjoy!

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