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Benne wafers, ethereally light, snapping-crisp sesame cookies, are native to the "low country" of South Carolina. Sesame, a plant with a long history of cultivation, was probably first grown in Africa; West Africans, brought to this country as slaves in the 17th and 18th centuries, called sesame "benne" and legend had it that eating sesame seeds brought good luck. Interestingly, Middle Easterners also called sesame seeds "benne;" there must have been trade routes that brought together buyers from the Middle East with African sellers. Food, as usual, seems to have been a key component in bringing cultures together.
These rich brown cookies, sweet and nutty, have an interesting texture: solid and crisp on the bottom, crunchy-light on top.
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup toasted sesame seeds
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, baking soda, and egg. Add the flour and mix till smooth. Stir in the sesame seeds.
Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls (our tablespoon cookie scoop works well here) onto parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheets. Bake the wafers in a preheated 350°F oven for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they're golden brown. Remove them from the oven, allow them to cool for 1 minute on the pan, then transfer the wafers to a wire rack to cool completely. Yield: 3 dozen 3-inch wafers.