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Tehina Shortbread Cookies From Michael Solomonov's Zahav

Last month I splurged on a Zahav pop up dinner in DC with my friend Mary. After all, the dinner, including the book, was less expensive than the trip to Philadelphia to the well known and hard-to-get-reservations restaurant.

The dinner was fantastic. The hummus was one of the smoothest I've ever had. I did my best not to lick the plate. The lamb was tender and served with fragrant rice. And then there was dessert. As soon as I put the tehina shortbread cookie in my mouth, my childhood memories rushed in. Growing up in Russia, I often ate halvah with tea and lemon. My parents still keep this tradition. These shortbread cookies, which melt in your mouth, taste exactly like halvah because both use tehina (tahini) as one of the key ingredients. I knew these cookies will be the first recipe I made from the cookbook.

Text excerpted from ZAHAV, © 2015 by MICHAEL SOLOMONOV and STEVEN COOK. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. 

Tehina Shortbread Cookies

Makes about 30 cookies 

It may come as a surprise, but tehina is perfect in desserts because, in addition to adding nutty flavor, it helps modulate sweetness and leaves you wanting more. For me, there’s nothing as comforting as these shortbread cookies enriched with tehina. They are ridiculously easy to make and extremely satisfying. Because the tehina replaces some of the butter in a traditional shortbread, they are actually quite light. (Or at least that’s how I rationalize eating ten of them in one sitting.) I love to crumble them on Turkish Coffee Ice Cream or layer them with Tehina Semifreddo to make the ultimate ice cream sandwich. But these cookies are perfectly delicious simply dusted with confectioners’ sugar and served with coffee.

1¾ sticks (7 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup tehina
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch kosher salt

Combine the butter and sugar in a stand mixer on medium speed or in a large bowl with a hand mixer and mix until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add the tehina and continuing mixing until well incorporated.  Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk together. Transfer to the tehina mixture and beat until just incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight. (The dough keeps well in the freezer for a few months.) 

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop the batter by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are light brown around the edges and set, about 15 minutes.

Let cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. The cookies can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for 1 week.

These were incredibly easy to make. The hardest part was scooping the cookies because there were so many of them! I used a little cookie scoop, which made the job easier. I also ended up freezing about half of the scooped (unbaked) cookies, and they baked beautifully directly from the freezer at 350F for about 25 minutes. 

I've eaten quite a few of these unassuming looking cookies and brought some to share to a few good friends, and even baked a batch to bring to Seattle last weekend when I flew to surprise my dad for his belated birthday. These were truly a hit!

Have you cooked from Zahav cookbook yet? What should I make next?