Going through the ‘Zahav’ Cookbook at the beginning of the month, I flagged so many recipes that I want to make. Quite a few seem to revolve around harissa, vegetables, chicken, tahini, and more tahini! There’s even one recipe that combines harissa and tahini! But some of the tahini recipes are sweet ones. There’s a halva, a semifreddo, and this cookie.
I just had to try this cookie. The recipe is sooooo easy. And Michael swears it is light and delicate. So I got out the ingredients I’d need to whip these up. And then suddenly I discovered that the tahini jar wasn’t where it was supposed to be. Did I use the last of it? I don’t remember doing so. I turned my cupboards inside out, but couldn’t find it. Rats! So close to having this adorable little Middle Eastern shortbread cookie melt in my mouth.
So I texted Jim. ‘Please pick up tahini on your way home. The grocery store will have it. Need.’ Everything was ready. My butter was at room temperature. My flour was measured out and sifted with baking powder. Just waiting for Jim. Waiting. Waiting. While I waited, I decided to make one more scan of all my cupboards, because I just couldn’t believe I had gone through all my tahini and hadn’t replaced it. Well, low and behold, right in front of my eyes, in with the oils and vinegars, was a new jar of tahini! How on earth had I missed it?? How did it get there!?
So I started on my cookies. They came together so easily. I got the dough into the fridge to chill.
And then Jim came home. I felt so bad because I had insisted that I needed that tahini. He handed me the bag and said, ‘The restaurant even included some pita bread.” He was so proud of himself. Here’s the thing. Jim loves to eat. He has gotten pretty adventurous as the years have gone by. But he doesn’t cook. He is happy to sneak in and taste as I cook, but he has no idea how dishes come together. So the fact that I mentioned that he could go to the grocery store for the tahini meant nothing to him. He only thinks of it as a savoury concoction that could be a dip or at least a part of hummus. “There’s tahini in the same aisle as the peanut butter? Really?” Well, wasn’t it a good thing that I had found that jar of tahini when I did! Or else I would have been waiting and waiting, for a savoury, garlicky tahini dip! Not really what I want in my sweet shortbread cookie.
Back to the baking. Placed rounded tablespoons of the dough onto the parchment lined baking sheets. They just kinda sat there, beige blobs, waiting to be baked. Something was missing. Not that I had left anything out from the recipe. It’s just that my eye, my gut, said it needs a little something else. Sesame seeds. Black ones. It needed some contrast. And since tahini is really just pureed sesame seeds, I wouldn’t be altering the flavour at all. So I sprinkled each little beige mound with some crunchy black seeds, and my eye was happy!
They baked up in 15 minutes exactly. And after waiting the required time, I bit into one. It melted in my mouth. And then Israeli neighbours popped by, so I gave them some. He bit into one, and said, “This is GOOD!” Well then. My work was done. If I had his approval, I must have done something right. Which was basically follow a really good recipe. ‘Zahav’ comes through again.
The next time I make these, instead of sesame seeds on top, I’m going to try pistachios- another classic pairing, right?
TAHINI SHORTBREAD COOKIES
- 1 3/4 sticks (7 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup tahini
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- 1 tbsp black sesame seeds (optional)
Combine the butter and sugar in a stand mixer on medium speed or in a large bowl with a hand mixer and mix until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Add the the tehina and continue mixing until well incorporated.
Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk together. Transfer to the tehina mixture and beat until just incorporated.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight. (This dough keeps well in the freezer for a few months.)
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop the batter by the heaping tablespoon onto the prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle each cookie with black sesame seeds if using.
Bake until the cookies are light brown around the edges and set, about 15 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
The cookies can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for 1 week.
You could easily substitute the sesame seeds for chopped pistachio pieces.
By Michael Solomonov
Adapted from Zahav, a World of Israeli Cooking