Open (your mouth) says me!

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Today, we move away from the gluten free toward the exotic (not that the two have to be mutually exclusive).  All year I’ve been trying to make my way back to Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s cookbook Jerusalem.  Their chocolate krantz cakes remain one of my favorite recipes for 2013.  So, I was happy to  finally find some space to tackle one of the many recipes I’ve dog eared.

This recipe is all about the sesame.  Tahini to be specific.  Until now, I’d always associated the seed paste with savory–most notably as a key ingredient in hummus.  However, after experimenting with black sesame in ice cream and macarons, I knew these little seeds had the ability to transition like champs.  And so, by transitive property, should their paste.

I found tahini in a larger, local grocery store in the international foods section (a sort of antiquated descriptor that always brings to my mind 1970s housewives and canned chow mein noodles).  The recipe calls for light tahini paste but I could only find regular.  As a note–double check the ingredients before purchasing.  I assumed tahini paste and tahini sauce were the same thing. Not so much.  Tahini sauce has garlic in it.

This is a sticky dough that is  finished unusually by dumping it out of the mixer and kneading it a few times until everything is just combined.

I’ll admit, I used a food scale to get uniformly-sized cookies.

I wasn’t following directions closely enough and added the cinnamon with the other dry ingredients rather than dusting each raw cookie with a sprinkle.  Oops.  So, I improvised the garnish and sprinkled the tops of each with a few sesame seeds.

These cookies have a very mild, slightly nutty taste with just a touch of spice and a texture that begs them to be enjoyed with a cup of tea.

I have a sneaking suspicion that these little goodies will make their way into my holiday baking this year.

As for open says me.  Or, open sesame rather.  I remember learning the origins of this phrase in a folklore course I took in college.  I can remember the quarter I took the class, where I sat and the professor’s pointy beard.  I also remember the lecture was used as a way of demonstrating how certain phrases are mythologized well before their supposed first appearance, in this case in Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves from One Thousand and One Nights.  What I can’t remember of course, is the original story.  So, I went with Popeye and completely bastardized the magical words, a-ga-ga-ga-ga-ga-ga.

If you like this you might like these

Black Sesame Ice Cream

Black Sesame Macarons

Tahini Cookies

from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi


  • 2/3 C /130 g superfine sugar
  • 2/3 C/ 150 g unsalted butter at room temp.
  • scant 1/2 C/ 110 g light tahini paste (fully leaded worked well too)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 5 tsp / 25 ml heavy cream
  • 2 C  + 1 1/2 TBS / 270 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • sesame seeds to sprinkle on top if desired


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line 2 sheet pans with parchment.
  2. Cream together sugar and butter in a stand mixer or use hand mixer on medium speed for 1 minute.
  3. With the machine running, add-in tahini, vanilla and cream until combined.
  4. Add-in flour and mix for one-minute until the dough comes together.
  5. Transfer to a work surface and knead until smooth.
  6. Pinch-off 2/3 ounce / 20 g / 1 1/2 TBS dough and roll into a ball.  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 tine marks.
  7. Place on lined baking sheet and sprinkle with cinnamon and sesame seeds.
  8. Continue with the remaining dough, spacing cookies about 1 1/4 inches apart (they won’t spread much).
  9. Bake for 15-17 minutes until golden brown (watch the bottoms of the cookies).
  10. Cool before serving.  Will keep in sealed container for up to 10 days.

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