All The Small Things...

One of the fundamental aspects of learning to live together is compromise, and in our household, the kitchen is no exception. I've been begrudgingly trying to consume more vegetables and integrate them into our meals, as per Justin's preferences, and my hot sauce collection has gone from zero to five different bottles in the nearly two months we've been living together. Meanwhile, Justin has been trying to cope with a smaller range of snack food choices, and a decreased emphasis on noshing between meals. Still, this merging of culinary traditions has been fruitful; I'm constantly confronted with new items in my pantry and refrigerator that need to be used, and that forces me to get creative with some of my ideas.

For instance, Justin, a huge fan of hummus, purchased a glut of tahini about a month ago when he found it on sale. Tahini may have a long shelf life, but it was taking up valuable cabinet space, so I looked to a recipe I'd spotted in last year's Food & Wine anthology, which I recently acquired from Grandma Betsy, who'd decided she was unlikely to make any of the recipes from it. (It's not exactly easy to source specialty ingredients in a rural town of under three thousand people.) Unsurprisingly, the recipe that caught my eye was for cookies, and the idea of using a ingredient usually associated with savory dishes in a dessert intrigued me.

I haven't made cookies yet since we moved, in part because I'm still a little leery of our oven, and partially because I hadn't quite gotten over the post-Cookie Bonanza burnout that afflicts me every year. Still, without any pressing distractions like a turn at Cake Day or celebrating Pi Day, it seemed like it was time to finally christen my oven with its first batch.

These tahini cookies came together very quickly, with a bare minimum of ingredients. The most difficult part was rolling out the dough into a 1-inch log, as all that fluid tahini made for a very, very soft dough. I also made somewhat of a mess trying to roll the squishy dough logs in sesame seeds, which I likened to making a craft project with glitter -- the tiny seeds went everywhere, and I just know I'll be finding them all over my kitchen for weeks, regardless of how much I vacuum and wipe.

The resulting cookies turned out unlike anything I've ever made. They are exceptionally tender and soft, to the point where you can score them with a fingernail, but still sandy, like a shortbread cookie. The tahini gives them a nutty, toasted flavor, while the sesame seeds along the edges give them a bit of extra crunch. They almost have an addictive quality to them, and their ultra-petite size gives you the illusion that it's okay to eat a handful of them, even though tahini is a fairly calorie-dense food, and they also feature a decent amount of butter.

Because they're little and the recipe makes over 100 cookies (I got 139), it seems like these should make a good gift, but they're also so delicate that it would be hard to pack them without them crumbling. I think they'd make a perfect dainty bite at a bridal or baby shower, if you were hosting one at your house and didn't have to take them very far. Since I don't have any of those coming up on my social calendar, I'm at a bit of a loss for what to do with this recipe, but I'll certainly file it away for future use, as these tahini cookies are definitely worth revisiting.

Tahini Shortbread Cookies
adapted from Food & Wine

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 c. tahini, stirred
3/4 c. powdered sugar
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. sesame seeds

In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter with the tahini, confectioners' sugar and salt at medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and beat until incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead just until it comes together. Divide the dough in half and roll each piece into a 15-inch log, about 1 inch thick. Scatter the sesame seeds on a sheet of parchment paper and roll the logs until completely coated. Roll each log in parchment and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour. 

Preheat the oven to 325° and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Unroll one log and slice it 1/4 inch thick. Arrange the slices on the baking sheets. Bake the cookies in the center and lower-thirds of the oven for about 25 minutes, or until golden, shifting the pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking. Slide the parchment onto a rack and let the cookies cool completely. Repeat with the second log of dough.

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