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Sesame and spelt cookies
With prunes and white chocolate
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We are currently wrapping up the first week of birthday season here in our house. All my kids’ birthdays fall within two months of each other, so we’ve been making lots of exuberant treats, from a fluffy pink baked Alaska to a tiny three-tiered cake. I’m still sweeping up the sprinkles from the floor.
One of these days we’ll talk more about birthday cakes, but what I really want to share with you right now are chewy spelt and sesame cookies with prunes and white chocolate.
The inspiration for these cookies comes from one of my favorite bakeries in Toronto, Robinson Bread. They’re probably best known for their beautiful seasonal danishes and sourdough breads, but tucked away in the bottom of the pastry case are some truly delightful cookies. One of these is a spelt, sesame, and fig cookie that I’ve thought about often since trying it for the first time earlier this summer. Naturally, I had to take the combo for a spin myself!
When I started playing around with this cookie I didn’t have any dried figs stocked, so I went with dried prunes instead and haven’t looked back. Now, I know some of you may be raising an eyebrow — I could feel the skepticism through the screen when I teased these on IG a few weeks ago. Can I just say — give prunes a chance! They are not raisins (which I also love in baked goods, not sorry); they are less sweet but provide a wonderful chew when added as an inclusion. I also love blending prunes up and adding to cakes (similar to sticky toffee pudding) as they bring body and a more complex sweetness than straight sugar.
That being said, prunes are an inclusion and not critical to the structure of this cookie; so you can swap in another similar dried fruit if you don’t have them around. Figs or dried sour cherries would be my first choices, but raisins or dried cranberries should work too.
For the sesame elements of this cookie, I use toasted sesame oil and pre-toasted sesame seeds. Both these ingredients are readily available at my local Asian supermarket. You can toast sesame seeds yourself in a dry skillet, but they tend to fly out of the pan so I prefer the convenience of pre-toasted.
Other cookies to bake right now:
Small batch brown butter snickerdoodles (with sourdough discard!)
Use prunes that are soft and squidgy for the best texture. If they feel dry at all, you can revive them by soaking them in hot water or tea for ~15 minutes, then draining and patting them dry.
Sesame and spelt cookies with prunes and white chocolate
Makes 15 cookies
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g dark brown sugar
50g granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
4g (1 tsp) kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
15g toasted sesame oil
1 large egg, cold
1 large egg yolk, cold
125g spelt flour
100g all-purpose flour
90g prunes, chopped
30g toasted sesame seeds
100g good-quality white chocolate, chopped
30g toasted sesame seeds
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl using a handheld mixer, add the butter, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and vanilla. Mix on low to combine, then raise the speed to medium and beat until well blended and lightened in color, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the beater and bowl. Add the sesame oil and beat until well combined. Add the egg and egg yolk and beat on medium speed until homogenous, about 1 minute.
With the mixer on low, add the flours. When there are just a few streaks of flour remaining, add the prunes, sesame seeds, and white chocolate. Mix just until combined. Use a flexible spatula to stir from the bottom of the bowl a few times to make sure everything is well-mixed and there are no pockets of unincorporated flour. Cover and chill until just firm but still scoopable, about 45 minutes.
While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 375F with a rack in the middle. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Portion the dough into 15 equal pieces, about 57g each. At this point, you can bake the cookies straight away, or store airtight in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. (If baking from frozen, defrost at room temperature while preheating the oven; cookies may need an extra minute or two to bake.)
Roll each ball in toasted sesame seeds and place on the prepared baking sheets about 2 1/2 inches apart. Sprinkle each with flaky salt.
Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the edges are set and golden but the centers are still soft and pale, about 12 to 14 minutes. Rotate the sheet in the oven halfway through baking. As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, use a spoon or large round cookie cutter to nudge them into perfect rounds if desired, then use the back of a spoon or spatula to gently press each cookie to flatten (this yields perfectly chewy middles).
Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. These cookies are best enjoyed the day they’re baked, when the edges are crisp. Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to three days.