Saturday, February 13, 2010

Rhett Butler and Charleston Benne Wafers

Rhett Butler: I'm going back to Charleston, back where I belong.
Scarlett: Please, please take me with you!
Rhett Butler: No, I'm through with everything here. I want peace. I want to see if somewhere there isn't something left in life of charm and grace. Do you know what I'm talking about?
Scarlett: No! I only know that I love you.
Rhett Butler: That's your misfortune.
[Rhett turns to walk down the stairs]
Scarlett: Oh, Rhett!
[Scarlett watches Rhett walk to the door]
Scarlett: Rhett!
[runs down the stairs after Rhett]
Scarlett: Rhett, Rhett!
[catches him as he's walking out the front door]
Scarlett: Rhett... if you go, where shall I go, what shall I do?
Rhett Butler: Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.
[Rhett walks off into the fog]
Gone With the Wind

I am a Yankee who has been living in THE SOUTH for over 15 years.I love the weather, and culture. I mean OLD SOUTH...not stupid RED NECK SOUTH. I have visited Charleston, many times, and it is your classic southern city, full of grace and charm. I could live there easily.

I had never heard of Benne Wafers . My therapy colleagues and I were discussing my next b aking adventure. Brian(PTA),in his best Rhett Butler accent, mentioned I bake Benne wafers from Charleston. They are his favorite. HMMM.. I never heard of them?...and for sure do not have a cookbook with a recipe. How could I not bake them?. His accent and already won me over.

History of the Benne Wafer

Over 300 years ago, West Africans were taken from their home country and forced into slavery, they managed to bring a very small amount of “sesame” seeds with them. Only a few handfuls made the journey but it was considered very lucky. They used the seeds for may things including breads and the oil was used for cooking. They actually introduced the Sesame Seed into the Charleston area for the first time and it was considered Extremely lucky.

They named the Sesame Plant “Benne Plant” because “Benne” was the West African word for Good Luck. The recipe for Benne Wafers began to spread and it is known that when Plantation Owners had Large Parties, their Guests took Benne Wafers home as a sign of good luck. To this day people that travel to Charleston make it a point to bring back Benne Wafers as a sign of good luck caring on this wonderful tradition.

Benne Wafers - Sesame Seed Cookies

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup lightly-packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 drop of toasted sesame oil-scant!
1/4 to 1/2 cup sesame seeds, toasted*

* Toasting Sesame Seeds - Heat the sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium-low heat, or on a baking sheet in a 275 degree F. oven, until golden and fragrant, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Watch carefully so the seeds do not burn.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Adjust oven rack to the middle position. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.

In a medium-size bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

With an electric mixer at medium-high speed, beat the butter and brown sugar together until fluffy, approximately 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and beat in the egg and vanilla extract until combined. Add the flour mixture and beat until incorporated. Fold in the cooled toasted sesame seeds.

Drop heaping teaspoon-sized portions of dough onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart (this is important as the cookies will spread).A silpat works well.

Bake until the tops of the cookies bubble and the edges turn deep brown, approximately 8 to 9 minutes. Remove from oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes (As these are paper-thin cookies, this allows the cookies to finish baking from the residual heat of the baking sheet, as well as letting them set up enough so that they don't fall apart when transferred.) Then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, about 15 minutes.

The cookies may be stored in an airtight container.

Makes 35 cookies.

With all my trips to Charleston, I never have eaten a real Benne. Brian reported My cookie taste was correct, however, my texture was a little off. Too crispy. I had failed Rhett ! He graciously offered to bring me some next time he "goes back to Charleston"...........ahhhhh the SOUTH :)

****Dedicated to Rhett and Scarlett for Valentine's Day*******

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