Happy Halloween and TGIF!! No Halloween themed goodie here today--but these Sesame Sticks are definitely a treat!
For my 8th edition of Famous Fridays, I turn to Alice Medrich, an incredible baker and prolific cookbook author who has 8 award-winning cookbooks to date. For some reason though, she's slipped through my fingers and I've never baked any of her fabulous confections. But all that is over and I am now her new #1 fan! Seriously! I am currently obsessed with her cookie book, Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy (some title, huh?!) and you will be too! These simple but unusual Sesame Sticks are part of the reason why!
Did you ever have one of those sesame honey candies? You know, the little rectangular ones wrapped in clear plastic where you can see the sesame seeds sort of suspended in a crystallized sugar shell? I never really liked them as a kid, but my dad loved them. These cookies sort of remind me of those candies in a nostalgic way and I know my dad would love these. Wish he could be here to taste these!!
These cookies are like nothing I have ever made before. They are incredibly thin and crunchy and have that sweet/savory thing going on since the dominant flavor is sesame. They're put together in a rather unusual way too, which is a perfect example of Alice's style. She not only reinvents traditional favorites, but also uses scientific explanations to demonstrate why one technique works better than another. Take a look at one of her cookbooks when you get a chance--they read really well. Anyway, back to the cookies--
First you toast a batch of sesame seeds--
Then you mix together flour, sugar, ground almonds, salt and the toasted sesame seeds and cut in the butter--
And when everything's mixed together, you press the mixture down into a foil-lined loaf pan and chill it till firm.
When you're ready, you carefully (and I mean, carefully or they will fall apart) cut very thin slices of the loaf and then transfer them to lined cookie sheets and bake.
And soon after, you wind up with these golden, nutty, crunchy, sesame little slabs! Look at all those seeds! When you bite into them, you are rewarded with such an interesting amalgam of tastes: butter, almonds and sesame seeds. They go wonderfully with a cup of tea and it's hard to stop at one!
Now that the kids are old enough to go out trick or treating on their own, I am going to stay home, and eat, I mean, hand out candy, munch on some of these delicious cookies and pore over Alice's wonderful cookie book. Isn't Halloween the greatest?!!
Alice Medrich's Sesame Sticks-Famous Fridays
Makes about 35-40 cookies
Prep Time: 20 minutes (plus at least 2 hours of chilling, preferably overnight)
Bake Time: 12-18 minutes
- 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup lightly toasted sesame seeds
- 1/3 cup ground blanched almonds
- Scant 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons cold water
1. Toast the sesame seeds in a small heavyweight saucepan over medium low heat until light brown, stirring continuously for a few minutes. Watch carefully. You don't want them to burn. Remove from heat as soon as seeds begin to color as they will continue to cook a little. Set aside to cool.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, seeds, almonds, and salt.
3. Cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry blender or two knives until the butter is in small pieces. Using your fingertips, gently toss and rub the mixture together until it looks like a coarse meal.
4. Mix together the vanilla and cold water in a small cup and drizzle over the flour mixture mixture using a fork until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Don't overmix. You want the dough to stay crumbly and only come together if you squeeze it.
5. Line a 9x5 inch loaf pan with aluminum foil. Dump the mixture into it and press down with your hands to make a very thin layer, about 1/2 inch thick. Fold the foil over the dough and chill it for at least 2 hours or overnight.
6. Preheat oven to 350ºF and position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
7. Unwrap the dough and put it onto a cutting board. Use a sharp knife and cut dough crosswise into 1/4 inch slices, using the flat of the knife to transfer the slices to the pan (they are very fragile and can easily fall apart when moving if you don't take care.
8. Bake for 12-18 minutes, until cookies are golden and edges are golden brown, rotating pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking time.
9. Cool the cookies on the pan on a rack until fully cool. They harden as they cool
10. Cookies keep in an airtight container for up to one week.
Note: Recipe from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy by Alice Medrich.