I was thinking of calling this post Why I can’t bake and possible solutions, but I thought that would be off-putting. But I’ll be honest upfront, I can’t bake. Keep this in mind when I say I made tahini biscuits today, under the very straight-forward instructions of Galia, my Israeli workaway host and mother of this little scamp.
As you are probably well aware, tahini is a pretty big deal in this part of the world (pronounced thina – with a guttural H). The backbone of any good hummus or sweet halva, tahini is most often served straight up with a little lemon juice and hunks of bread for dipping. Supermarket aisles and entire shops in Jerusalem’s central market are dedicated to the stuff. You can see sesame seeds pressed in huge old-style machines, the raw tahini dripping out the sides. Tahini is my new love. Or maybe an old love rediscovered. Never have I enjoyed it so bare bones, so naked on bread. It’s bloody amazing.
And then there are biscuits. Be under no illusion. This is a simple and delicious recipe and tahini a clever addition. Its oily nuttiness make butter or oil obsolete, so you just mix in syrup (maple, date, agave), flour, salt and baking powder to make it. Galia likes to add dark chocolate, but chopped dates are equally good. White chocolate even better I think. Or nothing at all.
You need only a cup or mug to measure your ingredients, or indeed any vessel (my grandma’s yoghurt pot cake is my favourite example of this). To a bowl, add a whole cup of tahini and one-third of syrup. At this point, stop and eat the sticky remnants from the cup/mug. Tahini mixed with syrup – be it maple or date – is tasty as hell. Once you’ve licked that clean, you may continue. Half of flour, a teaspoon of baking powder, a pinch of salt, mix, done.
Bake at 180ºC and keep an eye on it, for Christ’s sake! As usual, my biscuits baked and carried on baking until charred but not quite inedible. Ideally, you should take them out the oven after 10 minutes, when they’re still a bit soft and just turning golden. They’ll harden as they cool into delicious little chewy bites. In the meantime, I ate a few burnt biscuits until I decided they really weren’t very nice and took to Google for some answers. If this happens to you, in any manner of cake, muffin or biscuit, the trick is to grate the black bitter burnt bits off.
Burnt biscuits can be saved! Grate them, don’t throw them. Although a bit drier than I’d have wanted, they were still good just like that with a cuppa tea. Alternatively, bash up what’s left for the base of a makeshift cheesecake or crumble them into this rocky road recipe or into ice cream. I made another batch. Almost burnt them again and gave up. I’m sure you can do better.
Makes about 20
1 cup or mug tahini
⅓ cup or mug syrup, such as date, maple or agave
½ cup or mug plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch of salt
optional: chocolate or dates
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Get a cup or mug and use it to measure out the tahini and syrup. Place into a bowl and stir. Use the same cup to measure the flour, then add the remaining ingredients. At this point, feel free to chop in some chocolate or dates. Stir well and shape into little balls (about a teaspoon’s worth). Place onto the baking tray, spacing them out evenly, then place in the hot oven. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until just starting to brown but still soft to the touch. Remove from the oven, leave to cool, then eat.
Till the next time…
I always save my baking paper for another use or two. It’ll have a bit of biscuit fat on them but worse things have happened. Store your biscuits in an airtight tin so they keep for longer.