Day 2 of our Gourmet cookie extravaganza thing, and for today's cookie I chose benne wafers from 1954. These have a short list of ingredients and are very easy to make, and though those are not the primary reasons I chose this cookie, it certainly made the decision easy. I happen to really enjoy benne wafers and now my boys do, too. I haven't made them in years, so this was a fun way to introduce them to my family.
Benne, or sesame seeds, were brought to America by African slaves, and the plant is common in the South. Olde Colony Bakers in Charleston, SC claims to have the only existing original recipe for benne wafers, and they sell plenty of them. I haven't had the opportunity to taste some, but I'm going to check them out the next time I'm in Charleston. In the meantime, this recipe will do quite nicely.
The first batch didn't come out so well. Instead of benne wafers I had benne puddles and amoebas that ran together and stuck to the parchment, a sure sign they weren't cooked thoroughly. The second batch worked better because I slightly cut back on the amount of dough for each, spaced them further apart, and left them in the oven 4 extra minutes (my oven tends to run a little cool). Under those conditions, the cookies came out perfectly brown and slipped right off the parchment.
They taste appropriately sweet and nutty and have a perfect snap. I will definitely make these again, though with the mentioned modifications to avoid the Amoeba Syndrome.
I have one tip for acquiring ingredients. Buying sesame seeds in small spice jars at the grocery store will become expensive quickly, so check other places where you can buy in bulk, such as warehouse clubs, coops, or Asian grocery stores.
Be sure to visit all the other members of our cookie clan to see what cookies they chose as well as the Gourmet website to see all their favorite cookies from 1941-2008.
The Rest of Our Cookie Baking Clan
- Kelly of Sass & Veracity
- Courtney of Coco Cooks
- Judy of No Fear Entertaining
- Sandy of The Baker’s Bench
- Claire of The Barefoot Kitchen
- Jerry of Cooking By the Seat of My Pants
- stand mixer with paddle attachment, or hand mixer and large bowl
- baking sheets, buttered or lined with parchment
- drinking glass with flat bottom
- small bowl with ice water
- 1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1 egg (beaten)
- 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup dried sesame seeds (benne)
- Preheat the oven to 350° F/175° C.
- In the bowl of the stand mixer, mix together the butter and brown sugar until the mixture is light with no lumps.
- Add the beaten egg, flour, salt, vanilla extract, and sesame seeds. Mix until all the ingredients are combined and the seeds are well distributed. If the mixture looks runny, sprinkle on a little more flour.
- Drop the dough by the teaspoonful onto the prepared baking sheet. Dip the bottom of the glass into the ice water and press down on each ball of dough.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 6 minutes or longer (mine took considerably longer). The cookies should be a dark golden brown and slip right off the pan. If they are stuck, pop the baking sheet back into the oven for a few more minutes.
- Rest baked cookies on the sheet pan for a couple minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Cool completely and store in a tin away from other cookies (to keep them crispy) for up to 2 weeks.