Open Sesame...

Now, I know I said yesterday that I was trying to branch out a bit in terms of my new dessert experiments, but let's be real here -- did you really think I could stay away from cookies forever? Especially when you take into account the fact that my copy of Alice Medrich's new cookbook, Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies just arrived from Amazon late last week? No, I think not.

After stalking my mailbox all week long, the first thing I did when the package finally arrived was tear it open and pour over the book from cover to cover. Although I had high hopes for Medrich's new book after finding great inspiration in Pure Dessert, I found myself a little disappointed in her latest outing. First of all, it contained several recipes that I'd seen in her other books, like the Nibby Whole Wheat Sabl├ęs that I baked not more than a month ago, and the Golden Kamut Shortbreads also from Pure Dessert. Honestly, recycling recipes from her old books seemed a little cheap to me, no matter how good they were in the first place.

Also, the organization of Medrich's new book, if you couldn't tell based on the title, is based on cookie texture, which seemed like a blatant rip-off from my usual go-to cookie cookbook, Martha Stewart's Cookies: The Very Best Treats to Bake and Share. In fact, the books are even approximately the same size, and come in the same paperback format. The recipes from Medrich seem a bit more gourmet, with ingredients that are harder to locate in regular stores, though not necessarily any less labor intensive than Martha's. However, Martha's book has significantly more pictures, which actually makes it much more inspiring, in my opinion. It has a beautifully-styled photo of every single recipe that tempts you to make every last cookie, whereas Medrich relies on the powers of description alone.

One of the limited photos did capture my interest though, for long, skinny cookies speckled with toasted sesame seeds. I'm more or less indifferent to sesame as a flavor, but the technique was unlike anything I'd seen before in a cookie: a crumbly, pie crust-like dough gets pressed into the bottom of a loaf pan, creating a thin layer that is then sliced crosswise to create strips of dough. It was an innovative riff on the classic slice-and-bake cookie, and I wanted to give it a spin. Plus, Justin likes sesame seeds, so I figured he, at least, would be a fan.

The cookies, which were found in the "Crispy" chapter of the book were definitely more crunchy than crispy, but that might have been because the exceedingly crumbly dough was nearly impossible to cut into sticks as thin as those pictured in the book's photo. That said, they were still quite good, with a a pleasantly nutty flavor and a buttery finish. They weren't overly sweet, so I think they would make a nice accompaniment to a cup of tea, or perhaps a dish of ice cream.

Sesame Sticks
adapted from Alice Medrich

1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. lightly toasted sesame seeds
1/3 c. ground blanched almonds
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cold water

Put the flour, sugar, sesame seeds, almonds, and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk to blend. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender until butter is reduced to small pieces. With the fingertips of both hands, lightly toss and rub the mixture together until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Combine the vanilla and water in a small bowl. Stir the flour and butter mixture with a fork while the water and vanilla into the bowl. Continue to toss and stir lightly with the fork or your fingers until all the dry ingredients are slightly damp. The dough should remain crumbly and stick together only when pinched.

Dump the mixture into a 5x9 inch loaf pan lined with aluminum foil, and spread it evenly. Press it very firmly, making a thin layer. Fold the foil over the dough and wrap it tightly. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Unwrap the dough and transfer it to a cutting board. Use a long sharp knife to cut the dough crosswise into 1/4-inch (or thinner, if possible) slices. Use the knife to transfer each slice to a parchment-lined baking sheet, placing the slices 1 inch apart. The slices will be fragile and require the support of the knife in transit.

Bake for 12-18 minutes, until the cookies are golden with golden brown edges. Transfer the cookies to racks to cool completely before eating or storing.

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