Saturday, December 13, 2008

12 Cookies of Christmas: Day 11 ~ Benne Wafers

When I picked this recipe from among Gourmet's Favorite Cookies, I had no idea what I was getting into. It looked simple enough (it was), I thought I'd have all the ingredients (I did), and I imagined the cookies would be tasty ~ a nice departure from the sticky-sweet Coconut Bars and Pecan Tassies I'd recently made. But on this last matter, I woefully underestimated these little cookies. They were not "tasty." No ~ they were insidiously addictive. Crispy as a potato chip, with the sweet nuttiness of sesame-seed brittle, once again, I fell victim to an object of my own creation. Call me . . . Frankenstein.

Okay, so maybe a full-grown person such as myself should be able to reject the subtle seduction of a brittle-sugar cookie with buttery, caramel overtones that smells likes melting sugar and tastes like something you'd pick for the last bite of your last meal. In theory this is true, but in practice this is preposterous. Why do you think major snack food corporations use this principle ~ with great success ~ in their advertising campaigns? Of course you can't eat just one!

So consider that my warning, dear readers. These amazing little sesame wafers are powerfully addictive. Don't blame me if the surgeon general puts a warning on the recipe in 20 years. I told you so.

Benne (Sesame) Wafers

~Adapted from Gourmet magazine, November 1954, available online here
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter (yes ~ this is correct, it's not a type-o)

  • 1 cup light brown sugar

  • 1 egg, beaten (I used large)

  • 2 tablespoons flour

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 1/2 cup parched benne seeds (parched here means "toasted")

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or butter it generously. Cream together butter and brown sugar. (The original recipe claims it will become "light and smooth," but I wouldn't bet on it. I couldn't see 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar getting smooth or light with 16 tablespoons (1 cup) brown sugar mixed into it. I blended mine for a couple of minutes in my stand mixer on speed level 2, with the paddle attachment. "Grainy" is how I'd describe the result.)

  2. Add beaten egg, flour, salt, and vanilla. Beat till smooth. Pour in benne (sesame) seeds and mix until they're evenly distributed.

  3. Using 2 teaspoons (or see my method below), drop dough onto cookie sheet in small mounds, leaving at least 2 inches between them. Flatten the mounds with an offset spatula dipped in ice water. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 6 minutes, until wafers are honey brown and are no longer puffy. Let cool on sheet for a minute or two, then remove to rack to cool completely.

  4. Store wafers in an air-tight metal or plastic container.

Recipe Notes:

  • Although you can certainly "parch" (toast) your sesame seeds in a dry skillet, I didn't. I used plain unhulled seeds, untoasted, and they came out fine. Maybe next time I'll parch them, but I was in a step-saving mood when I made these.

  • I buy my sesame seeds (and plenty of other staples) at my local health food store. They're so much more economical that way. I don't think I'd ever attempt to make a recipe like this one, which calls for 1/2 cup of sesame seeds, with the seeds that come in those little jars from the grocery store. It would cost a small fortune.

  • I baked these until they were honey colored and the puffiness had abated. When they cooled, they were perfectly crisp, and stayed crisp for days after. Just for fun, I underbaked a batch. These were soft and stayed soft. They held their shape but had no crunch when you bit into them. The flavor was perfectly pleasant though, and the cookies didn't stick together, in spite of their softer texture. So, if you want to try a softer variation, just underbake them by a minute. But don't store the soft ones with the crispy ones or the latter will become soft too.

  • To make things easier, I spooned the batter into a Ziploc sandwich bag, snipped off the corner, and "piped" the batter into teaspoon-sized mounds. No mess, and the resulting cookies were fairly consistent in size and shape.

Now go see what my fellow bakers are up to today, on this 11th day of Cookies! Andrea of Andrea's Recipes, Claire of The Barefoot Kitchen, Kelly of Sass & Veracity, Courtney of Coco Cooks, Jerry of Cooking by the Seat of My Pants, and Judy of No Fear Entertaining are sure to have something yummy going on.


Zoe Francois said...

Love sweets with sesame! These are beautiful and so delicate looking!

Anonymous said...

Oh my these sound lovely. I like the idea of piping them w/ a zip lock so no mess. Thanks for the warning on the addiction....

Judy@nofearentertaining said...

What a great idea, to pipe them I mean!!! They look absolutely perfect!!!

Kiran said...

These look great, some very good shots, which make you want to have them. I am going to be trying this recipe for sure.

Andrea said...

They ARE addictive, though my husband would disagree. I can't get enough of these little cookies.

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