In college, being on a very strict budget and also still having that lingering teenage metabolism that allowed me to eat and drink whatever I liked, one of my greatest pleasures was stopping by the coffee shop, grabbing a mocha and a vanilla biscotti and plunking down to study, all the while slowly dunking the crunchy cookie into the coffee and nibbling away. It was a luxury, a treat and something I knew I couldn't indulge in every day, or even every week but when I did it was wonderful. Sesame seeds I just plain enjoy. They're tasty, and versatile. Can be added to both savory or sweet items and are just that finishing touch that can make a dish stand out. Also excellent on bagels, as a shout out to my adopted city.
So when I saw this recipe from Nancy Gaifyllia by way of Luisa from The Wednesday Chef, I had to try it. It had that just right combination of being unique, a little challenging, but also the kind of thing a moderately versed baker like myself could handle. And the combination of citrus and spice seemed perfect to keep up the holiday scents, long after the trees been taken down. What turned out was wonderful! I know it looks like a laundry list of instructions, but once you get into it it takes no time at all. The only thing I wasn't sure of was if I had kneaded the dough for long enough but my co-worker/taste testers gobbled them up in no time.
My only regret was that I wasn't able to enjoy in a serene setting such as a weekend afternoon at home, engrossed in a good book and with a pot of slightly sweetened black tea steeping and ready to dunk away. But luckily I had the foresight to hide a few away in the freezer, and since there is no dairy in them they do freeze excellently, to save for a rainy day if you will. And I'll bet they're perfect for a snowy weekend too!
Note: Adapted from Greek Food at About.com by Nancy Gaifyllia
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons pulp-free orange juice
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
3 1/2 cups (14.88 ounces) flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large mixing bowl, dissolve the baking soda in the orange juice.
3. To the orange juice, add the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon peel, water, cinnamon and sesame seeds. Beat with the whisk attachment or using a hand mixer at medium speed until thoroughly combined, 3 to 5 minutes.
4. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and baking powder.
5. Add the dry ingredients to the liquid in the mixing bowl slowly, using a dough hook or a wooden spoon. Then knead with your hands in the bowl until the dough holds together. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and soft, about 10 minutes, adding more flour as needed.
6. Divide the dough in half and knead again until it is dense and holds together lightly. Form each half into a loaf about 14 inches in length and one-half to three-fourths inch high and place on the cookie sheet. Using a floured knife, partially cut the dough into one-half inch slices (slice almost to the bottom but not all the way through each slice). Repeat with the remaining half of dough, forming a second log and leaving a few inches between each as the loaves will expand as they bake.
7. Bake the loaves until the bottom of each loaf is golden and the tops are just starting to brown, about 15 minutes. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 200 degrees. When the dough is cool enough to handle, cut the slices all the way through. Place them upright on the cookie sheet, leaving a little space between each cookie. Return to the oven and bake until very dry, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
8. Cool completely before storing in airtight containers or in the freezer.