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Benne Butter Cookies

Don’t hate us because we’re not beautiful.
difficulty:
yield:

22 (3½-inch) cookies

time:

10 minutes to make, 20 minutes to bake

introduction

If you enjoy the lush simplicity of a fine peanut butter cookie, you’ll do a 360-degree spin over these. Yes, they, too, have a humbly homemade appearance. They, too, offer an immoderately rich, simple satisfaction. They, too, are crisp and buttery, and get pleasantly stuck in your teeth. But benne butter cookies grab your attention by virtue of their delicacy, by what they hold back. They’re a bit like a plain girl with a gorgeous smile: you want another smile; you long to make her smile; you think about the smile. They’re like that.

Benne butter cookies are also lighter than peanut butter cookies. And this makes sense, because bennecake is a flour, not a paste. Thus, their crumb isn’t overly burdened with fat. Like the Middle Eastern confection, halvah, the flavor of these cookies trips over itself again and again: Am I this? Am I that? Am I this? Am I that? Hypnotic.

One final metaphor. If a peanut butter cookie is an orthopedic sandal, a bennecake butter cookie is an elegant slide. You’ll want more than one pair of these.

To read more about benne, click here.

equipment mise en place

For this recipe, you will need a digital kitchen scale, a stand mixer with the flat-beater attachment, a rubber spatula, a mixing bowl, a whisk, a liquid measuring cup, a fork, two heavy baking sheets, parchment paper, wooden skewers or toothpicks to decorate the cookies, a metal spatula, and a wire cooling rack.

  1.  

    Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat-beater attachment until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the mixer running on medium-low speed, add the sugar, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is light and aerated, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl once or twice. Meanwhile, turn the flour, bennecake flour, salt, and baking powder into a medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Crack the egg into a liquid measuring cup. Add the milk and vanilla and beat lightly with a fork until combined.

  2.  

    With the mixer running on low speed, add the egg mixture 2 tablespoons at a time, beating between additions, and scraping down the bowl once or twice. With the mixer running on low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix until completely incorporated. Detach the bowl from the mixer and scrape down the sides. The dough will be quite soft. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

  3.  

    Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

  4.  

    Using a digital kitchen scale, weigh out twenty-two 0.8-ounce bits of dough, roll each bit lightly between your palms into a ball, and arrange them on the prepared baking sheets, spaced evenly apart. (If you do not have a scale, pull off and roll bits of dough to form 22 evenly sized balls, each one slightly smaller than a golf ball.) Flatten the balls slightly with moistened palms and press decorative prints onto the surface with a fork and wooden skewer or toothpick. Bake 1 baking sheet at a time until the cookies are light brown on the tops and deep golden on the bottoms, about 15 minutes, rotating the pan from front to back halfway through. Slide the parchment paper with the cookies onto a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes, and then transfer the cookies directly to the rack to finish cooling. Meanwhile, bake the remaining tray.