Tahini, the oily sesame seed paste typical of Middle Eastern cuisine, is one of the ingredients that is never missing in my pantry. Not only is it essential for recipes that I love, hummus and baba ganoush, but it is also unexpectedly useful as an alternative vegetable oil in baked goods like brownies and carrot cake.
For some time now I have been thinking about using tahini to prepare cookies; in Israel, people make some sort of shortbread cookies with tahini (perhaps you saw the ones in the book Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi), but I was looking for something healthier, ideally vegan and gluten-free, to give to friends for the Jewish holiday of Purim, which falls next weekend. I made a couple of attempts and… snap, these perfect honey and tahini cookies came out of the oven!
During the Jewish holiday of Purim, we recall the story of Esther, a very courageous Jewish woman who married Ahasuerus, King of Persia, and that of Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, a pious and virtuous Jew.
At the time, Haman, the prime minister of the king, an arrogant man who demanded that all the people bow before him, lived at Ahasuerus’ court. When the Jew Mordecai refused to bow to him, Haman decided to take revenge on the entire Jewish people and asked the king to order all Jews of his great kingdom to be killed.
Fortunately, on this occasion, the Jewish people survived persecution, thanks to the intervention of Queen Esther, who convinced King Ahasuerus to stop Hamans’ evil plan and convict the evil minister for his cruelty.
During Purim, the custom is to gift friends with a tray of homemade desserts called mishloach manot. This gift is made to make sure that those we love have enough food to celebrate Purim and share the joy of the holiday with the people close to us.
Mishloach manot desserts at my house always include orecchie di Aman (Haman’s ears), manicotti and sweet burik, but every year I like to experiment with some new recipes to add to the dessert tray we send to relatives and friends. If you also feel like experimenting, here are all the Purim recipes that I have tried in the past.
Today’s recipe for honey and tahini cookies (with minimal adjustments for the vegan version and overall cooking times) came from Food and Wine magazine.
Honey and tahini cookies
- 150 g almond flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 75 g tahini
- 110 g honey (or half maple syrup and half agave syrup, for the vegan version)
- a few drops of vanilla extract
- 75 g sesame seeds
- Prepare a deep dish with sesame seeds, preheat the oven to 365°F, and line a baking tray with some parchment paper.75 g sesame seeds
- In a bowl, mix the almond flour and baking soda; in a second bowl, mix the tahini, honey, and vanilla. Combine the liquid ingredients with the dry ingredients, and mix with a spoon or with your hands.150 g almond flour, ½ teaspoon baking soda, 75 g tahini, 110 g honey (or half maple syrup and half agave syrup, for the vegan version), a few drops of vanilla extract
- Form little balls with the dough obtained and roll into the plate with the sesame seeds, until each ball is completely covered with sesame seeds. I made about twenty large cookies because my little dough balls were 25 g each. If you reduce the size of the dough balls, you will get smaller-sized cookies.
- Place the balls on the baking tray, taking into account the fact that they will spread a lot while baking, and gently press them with the bottom of a glass or with the palm of your hand until they become rounds about ½ cm thick.
- Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for about ten minutes. If you take the baking tray out of the oven after 8 to 10 minutes of baking, the cookies will be ready but chewy (we like them like that!); if you lengthen the baking time, up to 12 minutes, you will get crunchier cookies.