If not already before, at least ever since I became my family’s “Christmas Dinner Chief Hummus Maker” (a responsibility I did not take on lightly), tahini has been a staple in my fridge. But I must admit, until very recently, I did not pay much attention to the brand of tahini I was buying. Most of it came from my local organic supermarket, a greyish and quite bitter paste. Unsurprisingly, I never understood how anyone would want to eat tahini with not more than a spoon and simply thought tahini was one of those condiments that is horrible on its own but works its magic when combined with other ingredients.
Yet there is no shortage of people telling you that the brand of tahini matters: a quick google search yields recent articles from Saveur, Epicurious, The Kitchn, The Telegraph, Food and Wine, The Independent, Bon Appetit etc. all weighing in with their views on the best tahini to buy (and what to make with it). The two brands that keep on coming up and that are internationally available are Al Arz (the one recommended by Ottolenghi) and Al Taj.
I recently started doing my weekly shop at a larger supermarket and when I discovered that they stock Al Arz tahini, and having read so much about it, I was curious to try it. And I am glad I did. The difference to other types of tahini I have used over the years is remarkable: the Al Arz tahini is much thinner and smoother, darker in colour and is addictive in taste – just like peanut butter. Worlds apart from what I have been using until now and I feel like I have rediscovered my love for this wonderful ingredient.
I am forever looking to make the most of whatever ingredients are lurking in my kitchen, both to find interesting new flavour combinations but also to avoid waste. So now that I have located a source for Al Arz tahini not far from my house, I am incorporating tahini into more and more dishes. There is obviously hummus and baba ghanoush, but then there was also this Pistachio and Tahini sauce from the Samarkand book (the book is a treasure and that sauce is delicious on roasted meat), a millionaire’s shortbread of sorts using a tahini and date ‘caramel’, a tahini and garlic yoghurt sauce to dip poached and roasted cauliflower florets into, the list goes on and on and on. My favourite recent discovery? Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies!
When I first came across recipes for Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies, I made a mental note to try this as soon as possible and I am glad I did. I looked at various recipes to see what ratio of butter to tahini was used. Typically, this was 50:50 (or slightly more tahini than butter), so that is what I did as well. And while these cookies are in no way ‘sesame forward’ in flavour they are some of the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever tried. They have a perfectly smooth and almost sandy texture with crisp edges and a chewy centre and they lack some of the richness of pure butter chocolate chip cookies which can actually be a bit much with all that sugar and dark chocolate. And when I took a tray to a dinner party at my friend Gabbi’s place and they disappeared in no time (to a soundtrack of squeals of delight and my friend Sara, who was too full from dinner, stashing one in her handbag for breakfast) and the same happened when I took a further test batch to work, I knew this was a winning recipe.
Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies
Notes: Before we get to the recipe itself, here are a few tips to ensure chocolate chip cookie success:
- Let the dough age, 3 hours as a minimum, ideally 12-24h. As cold dough is difficult to portion, I portion the dough before putting it in the fridge – an ice cream scoop is ideal for this job as you will get evenly sized cookies;
- Don’t use chocolate you would not happily eat as is, but consider a slightly higher cocoa percentage – I like 70 per cent as a minimum but 80 per cent is even better (the cookies themselves are plenty sweet);
- Sprinkle each cookie with a small pinch of sea salt before baking; and
- Remove the cookies from the oven when they are still slightly under done – this will ensure that perfect textural contrast between a crispy edge and a chewy centre;
- Leave the cookies to cool (and firm up!) before carefully moving them to a cooling rack to cool down completely – they are too fragile to lift up when you take them out of the oven, plus you don’t want to loose any of the chocolate oozing out of the cookies when they are hot!
65g brown sugar
65g caster sugar
175g all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
Generous pinch of salt
200 dark chocolate (min. 70 per cent cocoa content), chopped coarsely
Sea salt to sprinkle on the cookies before baking (optional: toasted sesame seeds to sprinkle on the cookies before baking).
In a bowl beat together the tahini, butter and both types of sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat to incorporate.
Whisk together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and, together with the chopped chocolate, fold into the wet ingredients until well amalgamated.
Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Using an ice cream scoop or a tablespoon portion out generous tablespoon-sized dollops of dough, making sure not to crowd the cookies as the cookies will spread in the oven (6 cookies per tray is ideal). Cover and place in the fridge for at least 3h and up to 24h.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Bake cookies for ca. 12-14 minutes. The cookies will rise in the oven but will buckle once they start cooling down.
Best eaten on the day they are made they will keep for 3-4 days.