Sunday, June 18, 2017

Tahini Cookies with Halva, white Chocolate & Sesame Seeds - Time for a Sweet Treat


The other day when our youngest daughter went shopping for groceries with me, she took one look at the items that were stacked high in our shopping cart. Her smile signalling content - did you ever realize, she asked me in a hushed voice, that the things weee buy are always sooo different from the things that a lot of other people buy. I nodded. I smiled. I looked at the halva, the tahini and other lovely things that I was about to put in front of the cashier and, don´t get me wrong, but her remark made me feel proud. She is nine years young. She knows a thing or two about food, about eating well and tasting lots of different foods - all with an open mind. All those foods and baked goods and all those explanations of known and new ingredients are bearing fruits, a thought filling me with joy that day.




With that feeling I realized that it was high time for a treat at the end of a busy day and my daughter went home with me and happily helped me bake one of our favorite cookie recipes. She knows how tó bake cookies, she knows the things we need, she knows how to whisk the dry ingredients, mix the wet ingredients and fold in the add ins. She knows not to overbake them and watch those cookies while they are in the oven and she knows that I always love to serve seasonal fruits or berries alongside freshly baked cookies. And right now I have another two trays of Tahini Halva Cookies in the oven that I usually take out of the oven before they appear fully cooked, so the very heart of these cookies remains slightly chewy.

To me baking cookies is like strolling through my comfort zone, when better to do something familiar than on a day when you are in dire need of feeling comfortable. These days it is something I rarely get the chance to do. Sitting down to coffee or tea and a plate of homemade cookies seems such a luxurious recreational pursuit when we have so much to do.




This is a lovely recipe, just right. Because these treats are baked with rice flour and soft brown sugar, they are tender enough to crumble a little, but well-behaved enough to put in a lunch box. They are studded with creamy white chocolate chunks and sweet halva, with a bit of a salty taste from the sea salt, hints of vanilla and cinnamon as well as a nice amount of black and white sesame seeds for added flavor and texture.




Tahini Cookies with Halva, white Chocolate &  Sesame Seeds  alongside wild Strawberries

Ingredients
  • 100g tahini paste*
  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 125g light brown sugar
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla (I like to use 2 tsps homemade vanilla sugar)
  • 1 egg (M), free-range or organic
  • 250g rice flour
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon
  • 200g plain halva, broken into pieces**
  • 150g white chocolate, broken into pieces (use the very best quality you can find)
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds, for topping (optional)




Preparation
  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F).
  2. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment or silpat non-stick baking mats. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the tahini, butter and sugar until fluffy.
  4. Add the salt and vanilla (or vanilla sugar), then beat in the egg.
  5. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the rice flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.
  6. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating just until combined. 
  7. Add the halva and white chocolate pieces, and carefully mix these through the dough.
  8. Scoop portions onto your prepared baking sheets and sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional).
  9. Bake in the oven for 15 to 18 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges.
  10. Transfer the baking sheets to cooling racks.
  11. Let rest a few minutes on the baking sheets until cool.
  12. Transfer cookies to serving platter.
  13. Serve straight away (which is what I do) or store in a cool place in airtight container/cookie tin between layers of parchment paper for up to three days.

*NOTE: for tahini check out markets in your community that specialize in Middle Eastern foods  or try a natural foods store – to find a brand that you like.
**NOTE: for those of you unfamiliar with halva, as this is a Middle Eastern confection typically made from tahini paste, nut butters and sugar, you may have to go to a specific shop to find it but generally, it is available at larger grocery stores and at Middle Eastern markets. While there are many different varieties of halva available, such as the chocolate-marbled one, you should try to use plain or vanilla Arab-style sesame halva for this recipe. Arab-style halva is said to be the best tasting.




There are tiny wild strawberries also called wood strawberries growing in our garden - these berries are incredibly fragrant and taste amazing. So much better than those large varieties that are sold at most markets these days. And so pretty too. When they are in season, like now, I like to add a sprig or two to my serving platters brimming with freshly baked cookies, still a bit warm from the oven.




So, today turned out to be a day that smells of baking cookies, of warm sugar, chocolate, vanilla and cinnamon all set against a warm Sunday afternoon with lots of sunshine. These treats are sending wafts of delight through our house. Yes, this just could be the day I have been waiting for.