These Tahini Sesame Cookies are a shortbread with a middle eastern twist to them. They are easier to make than Scottish shortbread and very addictive. Once you have tasted them, it is incredibly hard to stop at one.
I have always really enjoyed the flavour of crushed sesames which is what tahini is.
Sesame is hailed as nutrient dense, with more protein than nuts and milk. Also, it’s rich in vitamin B and E. It’s always good to know that those calories you are about to ingest are working for you!
The Guardian wrote an article, it hails the little sesame seed as a winner and explains the differences between pale and dark tahini. And believe me, there is a big difference between them. Personally, I only ever bake with light coloured tahini, as I find the dark tahini too bitter. But that’s just me.
SPOILT FOR CHOICE
I had recently been to a cafe and been given a tiny morsel of a Tahini Sesame Cookie with my coffee and just could not get that cookie out of my head. I was determined to have more; quite desperate in fact. I decided I would need to make some myself.
I did some web surfing on Turkish cooking sites, looking for the highest reviewed recipes and came up with two. As I couldn’t decide which one to make, I decided to make both.
The beauty of making both was that since the ingredients were similar, I could use the same mixing equipment and bowls and only have to wash one set up! I also would have the oven all primed to go and it wouldn’t need to heat up again.
The tahini paste mixed into the dough does give a rather lovely shortbready texture, but it is definitely something very middle eastern in flavour, especially as topped with sesames. You do need to expect something quite different from a normal biscuit or shortbread. I am sure you will like it. It’s hard not to. It’s incredibly good.
You will also see that I topped some with sunflower seeds as it’s in my nature to experiment. When I pulled them out of the oven my first thought was that it was a mistake, but actually we enjoyed those ones very much.
FULLY ACCEPTED BY THE NEIGHBOURS – PHEW!
Our neighbours certainly think the Tahini Seasame Cookies are great and believe it or not, they can be the toughest critics. They are not ones to mince words or thank you for something they didn’t enjoy.
Our villagers are the kindest people but were never schooled in niceties and would never tell you they liked something if they didn’t. They will outrightly tell you that your dish needed more spice, less tomato paste or should have been made with completely different vegetables. They are not always as gentle as you would like but they are albeit honest.
TAKE A LOOK AT THIS VIDEO – And don’t be shocked. It’s realism. I love it.
Searching for the tahini recipe, I looked for the highest rated ones on a very popular Turkish website called NefisYemekTarifleri.com
The recipes come with videos (links below) and you will see the lady up to her elbows in egg yolks and sugar gleefully mixing away. (No utensil needed! Go straight to 50 seconds if you just want to look at that.)
I love these Turkish videos that have no pretences. This is how they mix – forget using a wooden spoon or spatula, nothing works better than fingers! Bare ones at that. Just don’t lick them in case somebody is looking!
Here is the first video. At 50 seconds you will see her mixing with her hands.
Another point to remember is that both recipes state that the dough should have the texture and feel of your earlobe. Soft and springy. There are no precise measurements for the flour. This is the case in many Turkish recipes and especially when concerning using ingredients such as tahini which can vary a lot in thickness and liquidity and affect the denseness of the dough.
OLDER TAHINI – IS YOURS A SOLID MASS?
If your jar of tahini has been sitting in the cupboard a while, it is quite likely going to separate with the sesame oil rising to the top. Mix it up as best as you can and if you feel the job is near to impossible, then rather than mixing with a spoon, use a blender for the job and sort out the whole jar whilst you are at it.
It may need a bit of gentle heating to get a knife down the side of the thick paste and pull it out of the jar! In that case, sit the jar in a pan of hot water and wait a little while for it to ease. It will not visibly change but you may then be able to maneouvre your knife or spoon down to the bottom. It’s either that or buy a new jar. But just remember, tahini is not likely to go off for years.
TOASTING NUTS FOR A STRONGER FLAVOUR
When using nuts in recipes, I have found that if I toast the nuts in an ungreased non-stick pan over a high heat for around 5 minutes, the flavour is heightened and it enriches a recipe. Make sure the pan is large enough to accommodate the nuts in a single layer. Stir them around often. As soon as the toasted nut smell arrives, stir the nuts half a minute longer and then turn off the heat and leave in the pan to cool.
As with both recipes, the cookies should not be disturbed after they come out of the oven until they have completely cooled down. The tahini in them causes them to be very fragile when hot. Also, strangely enough, they do not taste great until they have cooled down properly.
Tahini is an oily substance and the trays do not need to be greased.
- 1 cup tahini
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1½ cups sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- About 3½ cups flour
- 1 egg white in a small bowl
- About 1½ cups sesame seeds in a shallow bowl / plate
- Heat the oven to 160C
- Mix the first 4 ingredients together (tahini, oil, sugar and egg yolk)
- Then add 3½ cups flour and mix well.
- The mixture should feel like the softness of your ear lobe (in Turkish speak)
- Add a little extra tahini or flour to get to the right consistency as seen in the video
- Roll the dough into small flat circles
- Dip one side of the cookie into the egg white
- Then dip the wet side of the cookie into the sesame seeds
- Place the cookies, sesame seeds up onto a silicone mat or greaseproof paper on the baking tray
- Bake for 20 mins or until just starting to take on colour
- Remove tray from oven
- Do not touch cookies until completely cool
And for the second recipe we have Tahini Cookies with Nut Filling – the far left cookies are filled with a walnut mixture in this photo.
- Biscuit centre:
- 1 cup chopped, toasted walnuts or hazelnuts
- 1½ cups castor sugar
- 1 cup tahini
- Biscuit mix:
- 125g butter
- 85 ml vegetable oil
- 100 ml yogurt
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp baking powder
- About 3 cups flour
- Heat the oven to 180C
- Cover a baking tray with a silicone mat or baking paper
- Mix the 3 biscuit filling ingredients together well in a bowl (nuts, sugar and tahini)
- In a separate bowl add all the biscuit ingredients except for the flour.
- Mix well and gradually add the flour until you have a nice earlobe consistency.
- Once the dough is forming a nice soft ball, put it on the counter and divide into 3 parts
- Roll out the first third, into a long thin flat line about 8cm wide
- Take a third of the filling mixture and spread it gently down the dough as seen in the video
- Carefully fold the pastry over the filling and cover the seam.
- Slice the roll and place on the baking tray leaving a little room for spreading
- Bake until they take on a little colour, around 12 to 15 minutes
- Remove from oven but do not touch them until completely cool
- Sprinkle with icing sugar before serving if desired
At 1.00 minute exactly on the second video you will see the highly advanced mixing equipment in action and if you move on to 1 min 30 you will see how she rolls out a third of the dough and spreads the nut filling.
We really enjoyed both these Tahini Sesame Cookie recipes and just could not choose which one was our favourite. We also found that they improved with time. They are now two days old and if lucky, we might even be able to see what they are like at three days old …. if I can successfully hide the cookie jar!
I do hope you will enjoy making these Tahini Sesame Cookies. I found them truly therapeutic to make and shape on an otherwise boring, rainy day.