It was a treat to spend a tasty afternoon in Tel Aviv with Natalie Levin, of the blog Oogio.net, who is a passionate baker. Upon meeting, one of the first things Natalie did was hand over a bag of homemade treats, which included a sack of these Tahini and Almond Cookies. Although I didn’t dive in right away (to be polite), after we visited the outdoor market, when I got back to my hotel, I opened the bag and found myself in love with the crumbly, buttery texture and the slightly exotic taste of smooth tahini (sesame paste) – which I’d never had in a cookie. There was also a bag of Sahlab Cookies, made from powdered orchid root, which were equally divine, as well as a few other goodies.
These are simple little cookies that would go perfect alongside a fresh fruit salad or a bowl of sorbet, or during tea-time. I asked Natalie if she would share the Tahini and Almond Cookie recipe here on the site, which she was happy to do.
Thanks Natalie! – David
Tahini and Almond Cookies
There’s something exciting about baking. Combining all kinds of tastes and textures, putting it in the oven, and waiting for that moment when the scent draws you back into the kitchen – is probably why I love it so much. This is my true passion in life, and ever since I began baking professionally, it felt as if I found my destiny.
Regardless of whatever is on the baking list for the week, fresh cookies are a must, as I always try to keep my cookie jar full of new tastes and ingredients. My friends and family just know that whenever they come for a visit there will always be something sweet next to their coffee, and they enjoy eating it almost as much as I enjoy baking it.
Tahini is one of the most popular spreads in Israel. People here eat it with just about everything: inside their pitta bread, as a simple sauce for vegetable salad, as a falafel dip, and I’m pretty sure you would also find people who eat it with their cereals; the love for this spread is that intense.
I have to admit that it took me years until I started liking tahini myself. My spouse is crazy about this smooth sesame spread, and his passion gradually broke my resistance. Nowadays, tahini is a regular member of our dinner. Having a sweet tooth, I also love using tahini in cookies and cakes, and that’s how I created these very easy and lovable Tahini and Almonds Cookies.
Tahini and Almond Cookies
Recipe by Natalie Levin of Oogio.net
This is one of the most Israeli recipes I have, and I think it represents Israeli cuisine in a nice way: simple, fragrant and very tasty. Making the dough is quick, and in a matter of minutes you can enjoy these melt-in-your-mouth cookies. The combination of the tahini and almonds makes these cookies addictive, so once it’s out of the oven try not to eat the whole baking rack. Please note that you can find Tahini in supermarkets around the world, but make sure you buy raw tahini and not the ready-made spread.
(David’s Notes: The tahini I brought home from Israel were very smooth, without a trace of bitterness. The brands were Achva, Har Bracha, and Techina Gold. Check out markets in your community that specialize in Middle Eastern foods – or a natural foods store – to find a brand that you like, which you can turn into your “house” tahini. If you don’t have a food processor, you can make the dough by hand, with the help of a pastry blender. Or you can use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. For those who like to tinker, these might be nice with a hint of cinnamon, ground cardamom, or powdered espresso added to the dough.)
1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (140g) whole wheat flour
2 1/2 ounces (70g) ground almonds (see note)
5 1/2 ounces (150g) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons water
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (200g) raw tahini paste
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF (175ºC) degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a food processor, blend the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, ground almonds, butter, sugar, vanilla and salt, and process until the mixture looks crumbly.
3. Add water and tahini and process until a smooth dough begins to form. Remove the dough from the food processor bowl and knead it a few times on the counter until smooth. (If the dough feels very dry, dampen your hands and knead the dough slightly.)
4. Create small balls of the dough, place them on the baking sheet, then flatten each one slightly with your fingers.
5. Bake for about 12-14 minutes, or until golden brown.
Cool completely and serve.
Note: Ground almonds are also called almond meal, almond flour, or almond powder. They’re available at specialty markets, stores such as Trader Joe’s in the United States, and online. If you can’t find them, grind ¾ cup (70 g) of sliced blanched almonds in the food processor with the flours, until powdery.
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