Tahini cookies: Taking matters into my own hands

Tahini Tales: Hummus was my gateway dish to tahini. I really like the stuff and it’s more versatile than it might suggest when simply used as one of the ingredients in hummus. A paste of roasted sesame seeds, tahini is quite similar to nut butters in taste and also quite nutritious. One of the most compelling features of  Jerusalem: A Cookbook is the lovely stories that they tell about each recipe. For this cookie recipe, they explain how, “when it comes to food, Israelis can be very fickle” and describe how cookies were super-popular and trendy in the country a few years ago (similar to the cupcake craze, I imagine). One of the most popular types of cookies there at the time were tahini cookies. I have had tahini in the context of dessert a few times but have never made anything with it other than hummus, so these cookies sounded pretty enticing.

dry ingredients

A Crumby Situation: I followed the instructions pretty religiously but after mixing everything for even longer than I was supposed to, the dough would not form into a unified whole. The crumbs just kept moving around but wouldn’t play nice and just get along. So I decided to play around buy adding little extra spoonfuls of tahini and dashes of vanilla but it still would not form into a dough. Finally, deciding to live on the edge a bit and take matters into my own hands, I decided to add one large egg in a last-ditch attempt to get it to form. That worked perfectly! Typically, I post links to the recipe from other blogs or websites, but since I adapted this recipe so much, I’m including my adapted version of it below.

crumby dough

Well, that’s just crumby.

bonded dough

Much better. Thanks, Mr. Egg!

Recipe for Tahini Cookies (Adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook):

  • 2⁄3 cup / 130 g superfine sugar*
  • 2⁄3 cup / 150 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2⁄3cup / 150 g light tahini paste**
  • 1 tbsp / 14 ml vanilla extract
  • 5 tsp / 25 ml heavy cream
  • 2 cups plus 1.5 tbsp/ 270 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg
  • cinnamon
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C. Place the sugar and butter in a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment (or use a hand mixer) and beat on medium speed for about 1 minute, until just combined but not aerated much.
  2. With the mixer running, add the tahini, vanilla, cream, and egg, then add the flour and beat for about 1 minute or until the dough comes together.
  3. Pinch of 2⁄3 oz / 20 g of the dough and roll into a ball between your palms. Use the back of a fork to push down lightly on top of the ball so that it flattens just slightly and takes on the marks from your tines.
  4. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (you my need to bake in 2-3 separate batches, depending on the size of your baking sheet). Sprinkle a little cinammon on each cookie and then bake for 15 to 17 minutes, until golden brown.
  5. Transfer to a wire rack to cool before serving. They will keep in a sealed container for up to 10 days.

*Only have regular granulated sugar and not superfine sugar on hand? Not a problem. Check out this video from America’s Test Kitchen to learn how to make your own.

**The better-quality tahini paste that is commercially available doesn’t contain emulsifiers so you should definitely mix the tahini well before measuring it out. I use my hand mixer for this.

ready to bake

Twist on an Old Favorite: As they mention in Jerusalem, tahini is basically the local take on peanut butter in Jerusalem and the surrounding region. Therefore, I think of these cookies as a tasty spin on the classic peanut butter cookie, only more shortbread-like and significantly less sweet. Even though I added an egg to mine (not called for in the original recipe), these are very similar to shortbread in consistency and totally melt in the mouth after all of the little crumbs break up. Personally, I like the fact that they are not super sweet because, though I do enjoy sweets, a lot of desserts are just cloying for my taste.  I have a hunch that these would go very well with tea.

P.S. I found this recipe on Scribd for some other tahini cookies that have a tasty-sounding twist: incorporating almond paste and dried cherries. I might have to also try these!