Happy 2019, friends! I hope January is treating you well so far. And I know we’re all supposed to be eating salads and carrots n’ stuff, but I’m over here making cookies, and I’ll be honest, I have no intention of stopping. I like to post a sweet-and-salty recipe around New Year’s each year because I think it’s a nice way to acknowledge both the good things and the challenges of the past year, as well as hope for sweetness in the coming year. The year 2018… well, 2018 was kind of a bitch. It was a year of huge upheaval for me personally: I made the decision to get divorced and take a year off from my very stable job, moved to Israel “for a year”, realized that a year wouldn’t work out financially, and moved back to California right before Christmas. So there was a tremendous amount of change, more than I dared anticipate; some of this was good and exciting, such as all the European travel that I got to do when I was so close to Europe (four new countries: Portugal, Malta, Hungary, Austria!), as well as enjoyment of some of the wonderful aspects of living as an Israeli. My name (Dafna) gets pronounced correctly there every single time, the hummus and pita are effortlessly delicious almost everywhere, yoga at the beach across from a Tel Aviv sunset every weekend was a religious experience, celebrating holidays with family for the first time was amazing, and so many other things! However, I also found that Israel was at the same time an incredibly difficult and harsh place to live in many ways: negotiating life in broken Hebrew left me susceptible to getting swindled multiple times, not knowing how systems work and not being able to read complex Hebrew was exhausting, the cost of living is astronomical compared to wages, some baking ingredients were difficult to find/adapt and grocery shopping was extremely stressful, aaaaand I could go on and on…
Anyway, my 6 months in Israel were definitely a great adventure, and despite the challenges, I’m glad I did it! My dream is to live abroad, so this was a baby step in the direction of making that my reality someday. What I look forward to in 2019 is finding more peace and reestablishing an ultra-functional baking kitchen. One of the absolute hardest things in Israel was that I didn’t have all of my regular, dependable equipment, and most of the time I didn’t have groups of people to bring baked goods to; this meant that I couldn’t bake as much I would have liked because I certainly couldn’t have tons of cakes and cookies loitering about my apartment just for me… No joke, it was literally distressing not to have people around with whom to share baked goods– it is THAT important to me. I just didn’t get into my baking groove there the way I would have liked; only at the very end of my time there did I meet and reconnect with sweets-lovers and baking buddies, but by that point, moving back was already set in motion. However, all in all, I don’t regret blowing up my life temporarily… and now, back to it!
One of the things I am thrilled with from 2018 is that I finally nailed down an original cookie recipe that I’d been working on before I left for Israel. I’ve grown to loooove baking with tahini and halva (sesame paste and “candy”, respectively), and I envisioned combining tahini and oatmeal in a chocolate chip cookie. I couldn’t find a recipe that matched the cookie living in my imagination, which was a thick, chewy number with a clear tahini flavor and a ton of chocolate. I looked at a number of recipes for oatmeal cookies and peanut butter cookies and tahini cookies, but nothing was quite right.
And so, I had to put on my big-girl pants and figure it out myself. This was a huge recipe development triumph for me. I’ve been trying for ages to make the leap from adapting recipes to creating my own, and apart from some loose ratios, this baby was all mine. And I couldn’t believe that it was 90% of the way there on the first try– I was shocked, really. The texture was almost there, but it was a touch too cakey for my liking. Two interesting things happened in the course of my experiments, one by choice, and one by circumstance: First, I used Soom brand tahini in these cookies, and the company also produces a chocolate tahini– yes, seriously! It’s a sweetened blend of tahini and chocolate, as you might guess, and since I had a jar that I needed to use before I moved away last spring, I tried the recipe substituting the chocolate product for the regular tahini. The chocolate gave the cookies the chewiness I was looking for! So you can absolutely use chocolate tahini here if you have it on hand or want to purchase it– this is a wonderful use for it.
The second discovery happened in Israel. I had a hard time finding appropriate baking flours there, as they are labeled and categorized very differently than in the U.S. When I first started working on the recipe, I used a combination of all-purpose and bread flours, because several of my favorite cookies use both or in some cases only bread flour. All-purpose flour was hard enough to locate there, and among the challah flour, cookie flour, focaccia flour, self-rising flour, and many others, none of which were labeled with protein content, I had no idea what to use for “bread” flour. So when I made them for my friends before I left Israel, I used only regular flour (the closest I could find to all-purpose); I was surprised that this eliminated the cakiness issue! The other possible variable was that I didn’t grind a portion of the oats because I didn’t have a food processor. While I was very happy with that batch, I wanted to make them one more time back in the States to test out those latter two ingredients, so I used all-purpose flour only, and I did revert back to partially ground oats. The result was a thick, chewy, craggy cookie, laced with chocolaty striations (thanks to chopped chocolate rather than chocolate chips), and sprinkled with a touch of flaky sea salt on top to complement all the cookie’s flavors. I am so happy to share these Triple Sesame Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies as my first recipe of 2019! Why triple sesame, you ask? There is one more small addition that I remembered afterwards– when I was in London last month en route to California, I had a chocolate chip cookie where sesame seeds were folded into the dough, which I had wanted to try here, but I forgot. I’ll update my photos the next time I make them with the sesame seeds included. I really hope you enjoy these, and I wish you a happy, healthy, and delicious year ahead!
A few recipe/ingredient notes:
- Tahini: I recommend using a high-quality pure tahini here. I happen to like Soom brand, which can be ordered on their website or from Amazon. However, it’s not necessary to buy something fancy since tahini can be found in many supermarkets nowadays.
- Halva: Halva can be found in any Middle Eastern market or online. My favorite place is Seed + Mill in New York– I always pick up a few slabs when I’m there, though I was lucky to be able to bring some back with me from Israel last month. However, as with the tahini, you needn’t use high-end halva here. I’ve used Seed + Mill, Israeli brands, and the common Joyva brand found in a lot of stores, and I didn’t notice a difference.
- Salt: This is a rather salty cookie. Not savory by any means, but there are 2 teaspoons of kosher salt up in here, which cuts the sweetness considerably. If you prefer your cookies a little sweeter, feel free to reduce the salt by ½ – 1 teaspoon.
- Chocolate: You can use chocolate chips here, but you will not get the gooey chocolate pockets and thin strata of chocolate that chopped chocolate imparts, so I do recommend using hand-chopped good-quality chocolate. I use Guittard 61% Lever du Soleil couverture wafers.
UPDATE 1/21/19: GUYS! I added in the sesame seeds, and I liked the cookies even more than expected. I thought that they would be more of a decorative touch, but even the mere 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds added a really nice extra layer of warm sesame flavor. You can certainly make a “double sesame” version without them that is perfectly delicious, but I highly recommend the third sesame addition. 🙂
Triple Sesame Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Yields 24-30 cookies
See recipe/ingredient notes above.
- 1¼ cups (100g) old-fashioned rolls oats, divided
- 1½ cup + 2 tablespoons (200g) all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 8 tablespoons (4 ounces/1 stick) unsalted butter, cool but not cold, cut into cubes
- ¾ cup (180g) pure tahini, well stirred
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- ¾ cup (160g) firmly packed light brown sugar, lumps broken up
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons (75g) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1¼ cups (215g) bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped (including the “dust”)
- ½ cup (70g) halva (vanilla/chocolate/marble), chopped into small pieces
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon brand, to taste
Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper– a ¼-sheet will fit these nicely if you place them close together.
Place ¾ cup (60g) of the oats in a food processor and pulse until they are broken down into crumbs and dust. In a medium bowl, whisk the whole and ground oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
Combine the butter, tahini, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until the butter has blended into the tahini and the mixture is ribbony, about 2 minutes. (Keep mixing if you’ve got stubborn bits of butter until it’s smooth.) Add the brown and white sugars and beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy, another 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and blend again for a few seconds.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition just until incorporated. Add the flour-oat mixture all at once and mix on the lowest speed just until incorporated. Fold in the chopped chocolate, halva, and sesame seeds with a rubber spatula. The dough is softer and looks more oily than traditional chocolate chip cookie dough, but this is normal due to the tahini, and the cookies will bake up just fine after chilling.
Using a medium-sized spring-loaded ice cream scoop, portion the dough into mounds on the prepared sheet pan and cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap. Chill the dough in the fridge for 24-72 hours. (I found that the cookies came out chewier after a 72-hour nap than after 24 hours.)
Line two rimless cookie sheets with parchment paper. Preheat an oven to 350°F and place a rack in the center. Transfer the dough scoops to the cookie sheets, spacing them 2″ apart. Sprinkle the mounds with flaky sea salt and bake one sheet at a time for 13-15 minutes, or until the cookie edges are golden brown. (Keep the unbaked dough in the fridge while it waits to go in the oven.)
Set the pan on a wire cooling rack for 5 minutes, then slide the pan out from under the parchment and let the cookies cool to room temperature on the rack.
Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2019.