Benne (Sesame) Butter Cookies

So here’s a pretty neat achievement: while sitting on my couch Saturday night I scored as many points against Notre Dame as the Michigan football team.  Problem is, that number is 0.  After that tire fire of a football game I had to brush my teeth to get the awful taste out of my mouth (also, I was about to go to bed, but that’s a minor detail).  But good news, these cookies will cheer you right up and remind you of the sweet taste of victory that great games like the 2011 UM-ND brought.

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It was almost a year ago that I received a collection of flours from friends for my birthday.  I was completely baffled by what to do with the small bag of bennecake flour since I had never even heard of it.  After some searching around I learned it is ground up benne seeds, which is another name for sesame seeds.  Some sources said they have different oil contents, but ostensibly they are the same.  Benne is the name of the seed as it is known in countries in West Africa, from where it was brought to the U.S. with the slave trade in the 17th century.

This was one of the few recipes that I found where I could use a larger quantity of the flour at once.  I also used small bits of it in bread recipes as a low percentage addition to add a different flavor (it has no gluten so too much would not be useful).

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The cookies were everything you’d expect from a butter cookie.  Soft, sweet, dense, and nicely browned edges for just a little bit of crunch.  I don’t think there wasn’t a drastically different taste to these because of the type of flour but there was a certain subtle flavor that was noticeable if you were looking for it.

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I made these cookies a while ago, shortly after we got back from our honeymoon in France.  The placemat these are on we got at a store in Aix-en-Provence and while we haven’t actually used them as placemats during dinner yet, I have gotten plenty of use from them for food pictures!

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Perhaps even more remarkable is that after we found ones we liked we didn’t spend the rest of the day poking around in shops looking for others we might like more.  At some point we’ll start using them regularly and who knows, in the future we might move somewhere with a kitchen table big enough for a few of them!

Benne Butter Cookies (Makes about 2 dozen)

Ingredients

  • 10 T (1 1/4 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 C packed brown sugar
  • 1 C plus 2 T pastry flour (AP flour also fine)
  • 5/8 C (10 T) bennecake flour
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T milk
  • 1 t vanilla extract

Directions

In a medium bowl combine both flours, salt, and baking powder and whisk to combine.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer using the flat-beater attachment beat the butter for about 2 minutes on medium speed.  Scrape down the sides and then add sugar.  Beat for another 2-3 minutes on medium-high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy.

In a small bowl combine the milk, vanilla, and egg and beat until combined.  Add to the mixer while it is running on low speed.  Once incorporated gradually add the dry ingredients.  Mix until there are no dry bits, scraping down the sides as necessary.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line two baking sheets with baking mats or parchment paper.

After the dough has cooled for 10 minutes make approximately 24 dough balls and space evenly between the two baking sheets.  Each dough ball will need a large spoonful of dough (they will be like a small golf ball).  Flatten the dough balls and if you would like press some decorative prints into them.

Bake in the preheated oven for 13-15 minutes, until the tops are light brown and the edges a bit darker.  When finished cool on the silpat or parchment paper (but take off the baking sheet) for 15 minutes before moving the cookies directly to a cooling rack.

Recipe courtesy of Anson Mills.

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