Benne (pronounced benny) is the heirloom ancestor to modern day sesame seeds. Morgan McGlone, who worked with renowned Southern chef Sean Brock at Husk in Charleston (South Carolina), tells me that even raw they have the rich, nutty flavour of toasted sesame seeds. Slaves brought benne seeds with them from Africa, and initially they were only grown in their subsistence plots. Over time the African cooks introduced them to the plantation tables and eventually modern strains were developed with more of a focus on oil production than flavour. In the South the old strain survives and is used in all sorts of sweet and savoury dishes. One of the most popular are benne wafers – thin, bite-sized sesame cookies beloved all over the South, especially in South Carolina, where they’re popular gifts and party favours. Because benne wafers are so tiny, each recipe yields a lot, so they’re ideal for sharing. You’ll likely need to cook them in a couple of batches, but they don’t take long. They keep well in an airtight container for a week or two, softening slightly over time. Extend that southern feeling by sipping a Southern cocktail with your wafers!
Makes about 5 dozen
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