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Recipe: Tahini Shortbread

Friday, February 12th, 2010


about ½ cup sugar (or less)

¼ cup “butter”

1 cup tahini

½ teaspoon salt

about 2 cups flour (or more)

Makes one 8×8 pan.

Cream the “butter” with the tahini. Add the sugar and salt. Add flour in increments until the mixture is firm, but not all crumbly, using your hands at the end. Press into the pan (you can use a pie tin too), to about a ¼ or ½ inch thick. (I’ve discovered that the top of my pinky—from tip to first joint—is exactly one inch long, which is very useful in situations like this). Don’t worry if it doesn’t make it all the way to the edges of the pan.

Before getting this into your (preheated at 325°F) oven, mark the pieces by cutting about halfway down. This really does make it easier to get them out. Bake at 325°F for about 45 minutes, but be sure to check on the shortbread as early as 30 minutes in. If you wait for the thing to brown it will be overly hard, dry, and crumbly!

Some notes for making this shortbread how you like it:

Don’t worry about exact measurements here. Along with the simplicity of ingredients, this nut/seed butter shortbread is also surprisingly versatile. Make it vegan by just using a great butter substitute like Earth Balance. Not a fan of tahini? Use a fancy nut butter like cashew or almond; you can even mix in good ol’ peanut butter. I, however, prefer the delicate flavor that tahini imparts. It is also possible to make this without butter entirely by simply adding more tahini and using less flour. Also, try out using less sugar if you like or more flour if the consistency doesn’t seem right. The shortbread pictured was sprinkled with sugar after coming out of the oven.

And for the adventurous:

I like to add a few delicately sautéed slices of pear on top of the baked shortbread. So, get a pear, core it and slice it. Heat a pan to medium heat with a little butter or Earth Balance. Lay the slices in the pan and sauté for about five minutes, flipping the slices to get both sides. Throw on some sugar and spice if you like, cinnamon, nutmeg, even cardamom. Lay a few slices on top of each piece of shortbread for a delicious compliment to the tahini flavor, also making a lovely presentation.

This is my revision of a recipe from an old copy of the Tassajara Cookbook, my favorite cookbook ever.

Mia Ferm currently resides in Portland, Oregon where she is a collective member of Cinema Project. She is a writer, photographer, and videographer and holds an MA in Cinema Studies from NYU.