Tahini Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Tahini chocolate chip cookies, bold nutty flavor, lightly salted oozing dark chocolate. They’re crispy, they're chewy and they're DELICIOUS. These are unequivocally the BEST cookies you will ever make.
Tahini I love you
Some months ago my stepbrother came to visit us. He does the same pit stop every year. He visits his brother (my other step-sibling) in Israel during late summer and then stays for a night or two in Paris before heading home to Bogota.
This year he called me up from Tel-Aviv to ask me if there was anything I would like for him to bring me. The choice was clear: “YES, TAHINI PLEASE!!!
A month before that I had tried some amazing sesame pastries in Boston and was thinking about making tahini (or halva) financiers, but always seemed to forget getting extra tahini to make them.
Finding decent tahini in Paris is a bit of a struggle. One that I never thought I would have to encounter, you know with such a diverse population. But let me tell you guys, the tahini struggle is real.
Anyways, Jacky showed up with the most AMAZING jar of tahini and a box of pulled halva. It's a box that I don’t even let Frenchie get near to, but pulled halva is a whole other story, but just in case you're wondering about what it is let me tell you it’s as if cotton candy and tahini had a love child. OMG, it's so good!
The tahini I got turns out to be a premium tahini from Galilee, and it was so good that I kind of felt I would not do it justice by baking with it. That being said I also decided I would moderate how much of it I ate so I wouldn’t run out.
I used it to make a delicious variation of my peanut salad dressing. And all I have to say is that despite how much I like my peanut sauce, tahini makes it just so much better. I also made tahini sandwiches with it, I mean who needs PB&J when you can have Tahini & Honey toast, but mostly I have to admit I just had it with a spoon straight out of the jar.
But it was a BIG jar and despite all my efforts I was still not done with it a couple of months later – tahini has a very long shelf life so no judgement please – so I finally decided to bake with it a bit.
As I was thinking about what to make with my amazing tahini, other than the financiers, I had a genius idea, why not switch up my peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and turn them into tahini chocolate chip cookies? I thought it was a sheer stroke of genius, I patted myself on the back, pulled out a spoon and my tahini jar.
Now as usual, when I have one of those brilliant ideas, I head over to the internet and see if anybody had had the same idea before me, surely I'm not the only one who does this. Turns out, I was not the only one obsessing over tahini. I forgot that anyone like me, with Sephardic ancestry or let's face it with any kind of Middle Eastern ancestry, is obsessed with the golden paste.
Turns out this amazing chef called Danielle Oron from www.iwillnoteatoysters.com came up with the idea waaayyy before I did. Her recipe inspired David Leibovitz, amongst many others. And while I found her recipe really good, it was a bit too sweet for my palate. Like I’ve mentioned before, I just can’t deal with too much sweetness in my sweets, if that makes any sense. I like my flavors really balanced and find that too much sugar just masks all those beautiful subtle flavors.
So I started working on a recipe of my own. Granted, taking hers heavily into account.
You must be wondering what’s with all this tahini craze and this woman's obsession over it. Well, let me explain a little context. Tahini and sesame have always been a part of my diet, a key part of my diet.
Sure I know that by now tahini has made its way into western culture, granted via hummus. It’s as if everybody and their mother is obsessing over hummus, in all the shades of the rainbow. But before there was hummus (full name hummus bi-tahini, because hummus just means chickpeas people!) there was tahini. Good ol' fashioned, super nutritious tahini.
Let’s delve a bit into that.
Tahini is made from sesame seeds, you know like the ones decorating your burger bun. But modest as they seem, sesame seeds are one of the world’s most ancient crops if not the first. It ’s used for its oil, as food and medicine all over the Middle East (and the Far East too) and has been a staple of that regions diet for well over 4 millennia.
And let me tell you, not an inch of the plant goes to waste. The leaves are used for cooking (although the consistency is slimy when cooked so if you’re not a fan of okra, like me, I would advise you to stay clear of sesame leaves). The flowers are lovely, very similar to foxgloves and make beautiful floral arrangements, they’re also great for attracting bees.
Sesame is a self-seeding plant. Which is great if you want your garden full of the beautiful plant but if you’re harvesting the seeds it can be an issue. Therefor harvest must occur before the pod that contains the seeds fully matures because once the pod is ripe it bursts open making a clicking sound that resembles a lock being opened and scatterers the little seeds all over the place. Hence why Ali Baba and his 40 friends referenced the humble sesame as the code word for their treasure-filled cave. But they weren’t the first to be in awe with the nutritious seed.
The first recorded description of sesame – that we know of– lies in the Assyrian creation myth. According to the myth, the creation-gods got drunk on sesame wine. It was during this merrymaking that decided to go out and create the cosmos. (Click here if you would like to read the whole myth) Now I’m not sure what sesame wine would taste like, or how thick it would be, but I’m just going to pretend they were having tahini instead.
Many centuries later Herodotus explained that sesame oil was the only oil used in Mesopotamia and that it was being produced in the area for over 3000 years. So out of this little crop, they were making oil, food, and wine.
Excavations conducted in the Punjab region of Pakistan suggests that the site’s inhabitants were consuming large quantities of sesame between 3050 and 3500 BC. Later Ancient Indian scripts called the Vedas also reference sesame seeds often.
Back in Egypt, archeology has also uncovered how important sesame was for ancient Egyptians. Descriptive papyruses and magnificently painted tombs tell us that Egyptians not only baked with sesame seeds but used sesame oil in cosmetics and as a treatment for asthma. And just as a side note Ancient Egyptian medicine was EXTREMELY advanced. It’s what enabled Egyptians to be so long-lived despite their poor diets.
In fact, the name sesame can be traced all the way back to early Egyptian. Sesame is a loan word from the Arabic simsim (akin to the Hebrew sumsum) which was in turn also a loan word from the early Egyptian semsent.
But it wasn’t only the Egyptians who put the tiny seed to big use. The crop was well known to ancient Greeks and Romans alike. Greek soldiers carried rations of them mixed with honey as powerful energy balls and Romans ground it into a paste with cumin seeds, not unlike tahini.
I guess that adds a bit more clarity into the whole tahini and hummus feud that has been ravaging the Middle East for ages. Questions of cultural appropriation seem a little dull when one can trace tahini so far back. In fact, I would go so far as to say that everybody should keep their mouth shut about the issue because it all seems like Roman cultural appropriation to me.
In fact, I’m quite positive that if you were to pass these delicious tahini cookies lightly sprinkled with sea salt featuring those amazing dark chocolate puddles, not only would the tahini feuds end, but maybe some more pressing ones too, because if there is something all that region has in common is big love for the little seed and all it’s sub-products.