Regular readers of this blog know that I am not a terribly accomplished baker.
I prefer to think of recipes as a guide, a series of suggestions that one may or may not choose to follow. In cooking, this approach yields mixed results. I suffer through some disasters, but most my inventions turn out alright, or at least salvageable.
However, the "Jackson Pollock" approach is not well suited for baking.
Take, for example, the pistachio madelines attempted at Christmas. I didn't have madeline molds, so I used a cookie sheet. I didn't have baking powder, so I used baking soda and 3 spoons of greek yogurt. And instead of sticking to the pistachio meal and sugar like christmascookie.com insisted, I heaped in lemon zest, nutmeg and a splish splash of rose water, so much, in fact, that my poor father's kitchen smelled like a syrian baklava factory.
The end result was a single merged sheet of cratered green sponge cake that tasted strangely akin to sour patch kids, those movie theater gummies that burn your mouth with citric acid and red 40.
I tried to ruin these sesame tea biscuits. I really did. I almost used whole wheat flour [hard as rocks and impossible to chew]. I almost substituted the sugar for an anise-infused simple syrup [sticky and cloying]. I almost used tahini instead of butter [heaavvvyy].
But these were a housewarming present for some friends and I couldn't risk a cookie catastrophe. I looked up every sesame cookie recipe I could find, weighed the options, and chose a simple, no-fuss, Italian recipe. I followed it almost exactly. And the results were quite successful!
These were a lot of fun to make, and I think they look adorable. They are exactly what I wanted, not too sweet, not quite as crispy as biscotti, but stand up to a dunk in a cuppa tea.
Sesame Tea Biscuits
Adapted ever so slightly from Paula Laurita
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk
flour for kneading dough
oil for cookie sheets
Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl, Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the eggs and vanilla to the sugar-butter and mix well until fluffy. Add the flour 1/2 cup at a time to the egg-butter mixture. Mix well after each addition.
Place the dough on a floured surface and knead until smooth. Take small amounts of dough (about 1 Tbs) and shape into little loaves. Dip each cookie loaf into the milk and then roll in sesame seeds until well coated. Place on oiled cookie sheet and bake at 350F for 15 minutes or until browned. Remove from the tray and allow to cool.