Chocolate Chip-Tahini Cookies
Yield: 24 cookies
This is an Arab take on the classic chocolate chip cookie, but with a twist. Ultra-chewy in the center, crispy on the edges, and topped with toasted sesame seeds, flecks of halawa candy, and salt flakes, these cookies will seem original and, at the same time, deeply familiar. If you’re looking for a way to impress a vegan friend, the search is over.
Halawa is the Arabic name for the tahini-based candy known in the United States as halvah. It’s a crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth sesame fudge, dating back thousands of years all the way to the Byzantine period, originating in present-day Istanbul. A 13th-century book on Arab cookery, Kitab al-Tabikh, documents seven different variations of this beloved treat. You can have fun with halawa, swirling in nuts, chocolate or dried fruit.
Tip: To make a good halawa, you need to make the correct candy syrup. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, place a bowl of iced water next to your syrup. After a few minutes of boiling, test the syrup by placing a spoonful in your water. It is at the right stage when it forms a firm ball that can be rolled between your fingers and is slightly malleable when you squeeze it.
Reem Assil is the chef and owner of Reem’s California in San Francisco. This recipe was excerpted from her book, Arabiyya: Recipes from the Life of an Arab in Diaspora. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Photographs copyright © 2022 by Alanna Hale
- 1 cup/258 g. tahini
- ¾ teaspoon/2 g. kosher salt
- ¾ cup/150 g. sugar
- 3 tablespoon/44 ml. water
- ¼ cup/40 g. sesame seeds
- 2 ¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons/400 g. all-purpose flour
- 2 ½ teaspoons/9 g. baking powder
- 1½ teaspoons/6 g. baking soda
- 2 teaspoons/6 g. kosher salt
- 2 cups/340 g. packed light brown sugar
- ⅔ cup/144 g. coconut oil at room temperature (melt if mixing by hand)
- ½ cup/120 ml. oat milk
- 2 teaspoons/10 ml. vanilla extract
- 1 cup/160 g. 70% dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon/3 g. Maldon salt (optional)
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To make the crumble: Stir the tahini well and then combine with the kosher salt in a heatproof bowl. (Wrap a damp dish towel into a little nest and place beneath the bowl on a countertop to make stirring easier.)
In a small pot, combine the sugar and water over medium heat and stir continuously. Using a candy thermometer, take the temperature of the mixture. When it reaches 250°F, carefully drizzle the syrup into the tahini, while stirring the mixture constantly using a wooden spoon. Continue stirring until the tahini begins to look grainy and becomes difficult to stir, then on a tray spread in a ¼-inch layer, and allow to cool to room temperature. The mixture should look crackly on top and become dry to the touch, almost like fudge. Cool to harden slightly and then break it with your hands into small crumbles (around the size of chocolate chip morsels). You should have about 3 cups of the crumble. Reserve 1 cup for the topping.
Preheat the oven to 300°F.
On a small sheet tray, toast the sesame seeds for about 12 minutes or until light golden brown. Set aside.
Increase the oven temperature to 350°F.
To make the dough: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and kosher salt. Set aside.
In a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl, combine the brown sugar and coconut oil and, with the mixer on medium speed or with a mixing spoon, cream until homogenous, about 5 minutes. Add the milk and vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined. Gradually add the flour mixture to avoid spatter and mix until well incorporated. Fold in the crumble and the chocolate.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.
To form the cookies: Using a 2-ounce scoop, portion the dough (each should be about the size of a golf ball), and set 3 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Refrigerate for 10 minutes to chill to help the cookies keep their shape when they bake.
After the dough has chilled, coat the top of each cookie with a sprinkling of the reserved crumble, ½ teaspoon of the sesame seeds, and a pinch of Maldon salt.
Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, rotating the pan after 7 minutes, until the cookies are crisp on the edges and soft but not raw in the center. Let cool completely.
The cookies can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. These cookies can be frozen and thawed when ready to enjoy.