Last December, NYT Cooking (yeah I didn’t know that was a thing, either) released a video called “12 Christmas Cookies That Will Impress Everyone You Know” and sure enough it impressed me. Within the video, Susan Spungen walks through each of these stunning and what I assume to be utterly delicious cookies that have the looks and the taste. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched that video since, mostly because the cinematography is on another level- so much so that it made me super excited to try them out for myself. With my half full jar of tahini (always the optimist), I figured the best place to start would be with the Marbled Tahini Cookies which look like they’re ready for their next photo shoot. I went to several grocery stores looking for black sesame seeds and didn’t have much luck- which wasn’t much of a surprise considering how rare tahini seemed to be. On a whim, I looked into the Asian section of one of the larger stores and found a bag of Black Sesame on the lowest shelf with the most nondescript packaging I’d seen. It was a happy find and I was thankful I didn’t have to pull out any substitutions (my mind had already been spinning about using black cocoa powder or food coloring) but alas, that’s one compromise we didn’t have to make. Though great, NYT Cooking does require a subscription to get the full recipe. So I following along to a recipe from Gather Be, which is basically the same recipe, just re-posted.
The marble effect is made by swirling together two doughs each made of regular and black tahini. As you can guess, black tahini isn’t available here, so I went with a homemade version based on a recipe from Serious Eats. It simply blends up black sesame seeds with some olive oil until liquefied. I struggled in my mini blender, but eventually transferred over to a larger, high powered one and was able to get it to a consistency I could work with- not perfectly smooth but good enough for me. The base cookie dough is similar to a shortbread, starting off by creaming butter and powdered sugar together before an egg and vanilla are added. The dry fare then comes in consisting of flour, baking powder and salt. Once the dough comes together, it’s kneaded then divided in thirds. Two thirds of the dough gets brought back into the mixture to which our plain tahini is added in. That dough then gets replaced by our smaller amount before we add in our homemade black tahini. You gotta love a recipe that doesn’t call for cleaning the bowl in between. Each of those dough portions are then cut into four pieces then flattened and placed on top of each other so the colors alternate. You do a little more stacking, followed by a light knead and then it’s ready to be pressed into a plastic wrap-lined loaf pan and let chill for a couple hours. Once the dough is nice and solid, we brush it with egg white and then roll it in some black sanding sugar for that extra bit of crunch and flare. The loaf is then cut into cookies and baked for about 16 minutes.
Now these cookies look outstanding! I’ll admit that they don’t look quite as similar to Susan’s in that I seem to have more black dough than plain. However, I’d argue that you can mix these up in any way you want and they’ll still look amazing- so long as you don’t work it too much. The sesame flavor is very strong- likely from the freshly ground black sesame seeds. Overall, it eats a little savory- apart from the inclusion of sugar in the dough and edges. It reminds me of matcha- not so much in flavor, but how earthy and bitter it can be. I had several family members say it would be great with their morning coffee. The one flaw I had was that the black sanding sugar bled a little bit- leaving a slight brownish tinge at the edges (and on my fingers as I coated it). It’s likely that I used a cheap brand- but really only one store had black sanding sugar, and that was the only kind. If anything, I may leave it out for future attempts and swap it with sugar in the raw. With one under my belt, I’m excited to see which of Susan’s Christmas cookies I try out next.
Full Recipe } Method by Susan Spungen for NYT Cooking:
See Written Recipe on Gather Be:
Also see “12 Christmas Cookies That Will Impress Everyone You Know”: