Blog Benne Wafers

Blog Benne Wafers

A Southern specialty whose home is the South Carolina lowlands, benne wafers are thin brown sugar cookies chockfull of sesame seeds. Sesame seeds came to America in the 18th century with slaves from West Africa and their word for sesame—benne—is what gives these cookies their name.

Though most of us probably think of them as a topping for hamburger buns or bagels, or mixed into hummus (in the form of tahini), sesame seeds work well in sweet foods, too. Especially when lightly toasted, they have a mild, almost bitter smokey nuance that lends depth and interest to desserts and sweet snacks.

The hallmarks of a good benne wafer are its thin, crisp texture, its caramelized brown sugar flavor, and of course, the delicate crunch and smoky nuttiness of lightly toasted sesame seeds. Fortunately, all those qualities can be reproduced in a rolled-out cookie. Though this recipe contains more sugar than my other cookie recipes, the sesame seed flavor tempers the sweetness from the sugar, so the final result is just right—and quite addictive. Try it; you'll see what I mean.

My favorite shapes for Benne Wafers include the Cardinal cookie cutter, the Fleur de Lis cookie cutter, and the Loon cookie cutter.