Benne Wafers (i.e. sesame seed brittle cookies)

I have to say, I was completely dubious about this recipe. Not the concept (courtesy of some European travel, I really like sesame seed desserts), but the execution – this calls for 1.5 TABLESPOONS of butter.

That seemed like a typo or some bizarre oversight. But it wasn’t. And the resulting crispy, thin, caramelly wafers are quite unique and very tasty.

I got the recipe (and idea) from a post on Food 52 that was actually one of the inspirations for this blog. It catalogues 46 cookies from around the world (why 46? I have no idea). The post circulated on my facebook page last fall, and I joked it would make a great blogging project for 2016. Then I looked at the list, and, frankly, a lot of the cookies don’t sound particularly good to me. But these Benne Wafers caught my eye both because they’re made with sesame seeds and they’re apparently a South Carolina thing.

Since I’m now a South Carolinian, I figured I needed to give these a try. So they’d been on my mental “to bake” list for a while, but I hadn’t looked closely at the recipe. A colleague had an end of the semester BBQ this weekend, and I figured that was reason enough. Then I read the recipe and didn’t believe it.

I googled around and found crazy variations on how one makes Benne Wafers (including a recipe from Paula Deen involving 2 cups!! of butter). But The Wednesday Chef had blogged about using this exact same recipe (originally from a Gourmet cookbook), and she convinced me to give it a try. I encourage you to check out her post if you’re thinking of making these, as she’s got helpful pictures and details.

For my part, I had to make four batches before I fully figured out how long these needed to be in my oven. Ovens are finicky, and in mine, the cookies took closer to 7.5 minutes to turn the nice caramelly brown that they ought to be. The recipe calls for 6 minutes in the oven, and at 6, they came out chewy and pale. Still tasty, but not right. (You can see in the picture the progression of figuring out how long they needed to bake).

2016-05-06 Benne Wafer progression

Also important to note – these spread out A TON, even on my Silpat. So the first round were gooped together and not fit for distribution (left-most stack in the pic). I found that I could comfortably fit 5 columns of 3 dollops of dough each on a half sheet sized pan. I’m kicking myself for not taking pictures to share with you and future me, and for not writing down the details when I actually baked these four days ago…

I didn’t toast the sesame seeds beforehand, but I think I will next time. It will add a depth of flavor that will make these even nicer.

These are a delicate and rather finicky cookie, but pretty neat once you get the hang of them. And one batch made like 4 dozen cookies, so you get good bang for your buck in terms of quantity.

Benne Wafers (check out the Wednesday Chef’s post of the same recipe)

Grade: A- (’cause they’re fussy)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup hulled sesame seeds, toasted

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

With an electric hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and well-combined (though this is only sort of creaming, since there’s so little butter). Add the egg and beat until combined. Add the flour, salt, vanilla extract and sesame seeds and switch to a wooden spoon to mix until all the ingredients are combined.

Drop teaspoonfuls of dough onto a parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet (the liner is very necessary!). Flatten the wafers with a knife dipped in ice water.

Bake for roughly 6-8 minutes – watching to see as they change color. The cookies should be a golden brown with deeper golden edges. Pull the parchment paper off the sheet pan onto a cooling rack. After about 5 to 8 minutes, gently pull the cooled cookies off the parchment. Reuse the parchment for the next batch.

Cool completely and store in a tin for up to 2 weeks.

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