Saturday, August 21, 2010

Open Sesame: Using Tahini Paste

I recently bought tahini, a paste or butter made from ground sesame seeds, to make the red pepper hummus I shared with you a few weeks ago. Glaring at the 15 ounce cans lined up along the the grocery store shelf, my first thought was that they must have got a deal on gargantuan cans of tahini; apparently, that was all they had in stock. I’d never dipped into tahini for more than few tablespoons, so almost a pound seemed like a huge amount to go through. Walking away with what then felt like a jug of sesame paste in tow, I sensed that there was going to be a lot of hummus in my future.

Writing the hummus post, I thought of how unversed I was in tahini and the possibilties for what was basically still an entire can of sesame paste sitting in my fridge. Looking to my readers for ideas and inspiration, I learned that although it is most famous for adding flavor to hummus, tahini has a lot of unrecognized potential. Suggestions included incorporating it into soups, salad dressings, and desserts. A great piece of advice that I found to be particularly helpful was a comment from Adelina from the blog, My Tasty Handbook. “Just think of it as peanut butter with sesames,” she said. If you’re not familiar with tahini, this is a really unintimidating way to look at it since with its creamy nuttiness it is essentially, peanut butter with sesames. Thanks to everyone who commented with an idea. I really appreciate your feedback!

The tahini Gods must have been watching. Thursday, when I signed onto my AOL account, what coincidently (or miraculously), shows up right on the home page? Tahini cookies! In an episode of AOL KitchenDaily’s the Pantry Project, a series of short cooking videos hosted by Top Chef Judge Gail Simmons, Gail demonstrates her own hummus and provides two other recipes that specifically showoff other ways to use tahini: Tahini Cookies and Roasted Eggplant with Tahini Dressing. Before you could say “tahini” I was in the kitchen measuring out ingredients for the cookies.

Much like peanut butter, the tahini worked great as the main profile in a sweet cookie, and tasted very similar too. I substituted light brown sugar for dark, and sprinkled granulated sugar on top instead of the Demerara sugar (a natural, crystallized brown sugar made from sugar cane), that the recipe calls for. The cookies came out nutty and delicious. Right out of the oven, they were heavenly, but even after being cooled, they retain a little bit of a soft chewiness which is always a nice quality to have in a cookie. I’m not a certified cookie connoisseur, but I’ve eaten enough in my day to be considered a legitimate cookie monster. You can take it from me when I say that they were really good! Don't you love when the house smells like fresh baked cookies? It reminds me of Christmas.

Turns out, tahini is often sold by the pound or more, and its enormity was apparently all in my head; I now see how useful it can be and just how fast it can go. I have a bit more left, and while I still sense more hummus in my future, I’m also seeing it in soups, sauces, dressings, and sweet dishes too. With so many newly discovered options, who knows what it might end up in next!

Tahini Cookies:
Recipe by Gail Simmons, AOL KitchenDaily

Yield: about 42 cookies

- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup well-stirred tahini
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup (loosely packed dark brown sugar)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- Demerara sugar for sprinkling

• Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
• In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat butter, tahini and vanilla on medium speed until no streaks of butter are visible, about 3 minutes. Add both sugars and beat to combine. Reduce speed to low and beat in half of flour mixture. Add egg and beat to combine, then beat in remaining flour mixture.
• With lightly floured palms, roll dough into balls about 1 1/4 inches in diameter. Place them about 1 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. With two fingers, gently but firmly press each dough ball to flatten slightly and create indentions. Sprinkle liberally with Demerara sugar.
• Bake, rotating the sheets halfway through, until cookies are golden on bottom, about 14 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let cookies cool completely.


Koci said...

Oooh these look cool! I've always wondered what to make with tahini, too. I totally want to explore this new world of tahini-osity. :D

Kath said...

That is my favorite brand of tahini! I usually use all of mine up in batches of hummus, but your cookies look delish!

Chef Dennis said...

my tahini at school comes by the pound as well, but when your making hummus using #10 cans of Chick peas, it goes faster than you cookies sound delicious! I will certainly have to try them!

Healthy Mamma said...

What a great idea! I too have a big can of tahini sitting in my fridge. I will make some of these cookies tonight with the kiddos... they thnk you!
Just an idea, I am going to be making a peanut dipping sauce with my tahini for my eggplant-ground chicken lettuce wraps tomorow. Check my blog soon for the recipe if you'd like!

Healthy Mamma said...

Oh, p.s. if your up for a sweet variation of hummus, try sweet potato hummus! Yum!
recipe also on my blog, but it's pretty basic, just add a sweet potato. ;-)

Cookin' Canuck said...

What a fantastic idea to make cookies from the tahini. Great variation on a classic!

Adelina said...

I enjoyed reading your post. AOL must have psychic reading powers! I am so happy that you are getting hang of tahini. I think now you should try falafels and or some sandwich. If you mix the tahini with some yogurt, lemon juice and garlic, you will have a spread for your sandwich... :) I am just kidding... the sky is the limit and I am glad you had some tasty cookies!

Fashion Meets Food said...

what a great idea! must try.

Lazaro Cooks! said...

Love the idea for the tahini cookies. Must give these a try. Well done!

Megan said...

Hi Marisa! I love tahini... I went through a big phase in my early 20s. I would always mix it with a bit of maple syrup to spread on bread... loved it. I have not been using it so much in my diet as of late... no particular reason.

But.... this cookie really intrigues me... because I personally prefer my tahini on the sweet side as it normally has a bit of a bitter taste. Delicious... glad you had this recipe sitting in your inbox! Megan

Pacheco Patty said...

What a great recipe, I will give this a try, I love tahini and I bet these cookies are fabulous:-)

Marisa said...

Thanks everyone!

Koci, tahini-osity--I like it!

Kath, I liked it too. I usually associate the Joyva brand with chocolate jelly rings--they are also really good!

Chef Dennis, I can imagine! lol At first, the big can just seemed so large to use at home.

Healthy Mama, Thank you! I'm excited that you are going to make them. I will definitely check out your blog!

Adelina, you have so many great tahini ideas! Thanks!

Megan, Hi! That's true--tahini can be a bit bitter so it does work really well in the cookies. That maple syrup spread you make sounds so interesting!

Thanks Cookin' Canuck, Lazaro, Fashion Meets Food, and Patty!

Za said...

What an interesting use of tahini! Never thought I'd see it in cookies. :)

Btw, thanks for the friend request.