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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Kinako-Black Sesame Shortbread Wafers

This is the life: Hitchcock's Torn Curtain is on TV, and I have made cookies. Kinako and black sesame shortbread cookies, in fact, a recipe born out of failure, rock-hard cookie dough, and a little ingenuity/inspiration from the Japanese grocery store. Black sesame seeds are wonderfully nutty and complex in flavor, you'll often find them in Japanese and Taiwanese cuisine. Kinako is toasted, finely ground soy powder, it's a light-brown color and also can be described as nutty, buttery, and airy. In the summer in Japan, you'll see freshly made mochi and various kinds of candies coated in kinako powder. Both black sesame seeds and kinako pack a good protein punch for what they are--try mixing ground black sesame seeds or kinako into cold soy milk, or adding them to a smoothie.

The recipe is based on one from, unfortunately, Martha Stewart's website that I have found to be delicious and reliable, using matcha powder. I meant to make these as cookie-cutter cookies since I have a new cutter in the shape of an adorable fleur-de-lis, but the altered recipe makes a tougher dough after chilling. Spread out the making of these cookies over two days to give you time for clean-up, although these only take one or two bowls, two cookie sheets, and a rolling pin.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (you can also replace 1/3 of the butter with 1/3 cup of applesauce, but be prepared to cream the butter for longer)
1/3 heaping cup of confectioner's/powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup black sesame seeds
2-3 tbsp kinako powder

1. Cream soft butter in a bowl using a whisk for a few minutes until lightened in color. (If you are using applesauce for a lower-fat recipe, whisk them together until fully combined.) Beat in powdered sugar and vanilla until completely combined and no more lumps of sugar are in the butter mixter.
2. In a multi-cup measuring vessel, stir together the remaining dry ingredients (flours through kinako powder) until combined. The mixture will be kind of grey-ish. Don't worry, it's good for you.
3. Stir the dry mixture into the butter mixture gradually, in about three batches, until completely incorporated. The resulting batter will resemble pastry dough. Now, make sure your hands are clean and dry, and knead the dough into a smooth ball until it no longer feels dry or powdery. Pat this ball into a thick disc, wrap securely in plastic wrap, and put into the fridge.
4. The next day, pull the disc out, unwrap it and put it out on your workspace on top of a piece of parchment paper. It will be hard as a rock, but don't worry. Preheat your oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
5. Make sure those hands of yours are clean and dry again. Separate your dough into 12 to 15 equal pieces. Take a piece in your hand and knead it a little bit until it is warmed and soft, roll between your palms to make it into a small round ball, and flatten onto the parchment paper. With your rolling pin, roll it out into a thin, round wafer about the size of your palm. The edges will crack a little bit, but it adds to the charm.
6. Continue with the rest of the batter, rolling out into cookies. Bake at 275 degrees for twenty minutes until lightly browned on the edges. Allow to cool on the cookie sheets. The cookies will be light, flaky, crispy, oh, and DELICIOUS.

They're great with milk or tea--I've already eaten too many for one night! Enjoy!

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