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Better than the Bulk Aisle: Crunchy Sesame Sticks

Those little crunchy, salty sesame sticks one can buy in the bulk bins at health food stores are absolutely one of Mr. T’s very favorite snacks. While undeniably tasty, however, they’re probably the least healthy thing one could buy in a health food store. So oily, so salty, so probably full of preservatives. Problematic. Of course, I tend to view anything that doesn’t really seem to have a homemade analogue that is superior as something of a challenge.

So, obviously, I’ve been mulling how to make these at home for some time, and that time ended up being last weekend. Several thousand sesame seeds and five versions later, I am quite happy with what we came up with.

No preservatives, less oily but still crunchy, and still salty but not throat-searingly so. Still not health food, but better. And with a more pronouncedly sesame taste, what with the tahini, sesame oil, and two kinds of sesame seeds. Imminently nom-able with your favorite bevvy, and perfect for whatever sport you’re watching this fall.

As you’ll see, the mix of plain and black sesame seeds adds a bit of visual interest. Black sesame can be found in Asian markets, particularly those catering to Indian and Japanese clienteles. In the former, though, be sure you’re getting black sesame and not kalonji/nigella, which looks very similar. Squeezing the sticks out onto the gets a little wrist-breaking after a while, particularly as the batter stiffens, so it might make sense to do batches of this size one at a time if you want to make lots.

Sesame Sticks
Yield: about 2 1/2 c

75g all purpose flour
1/8 tsp baking powder
40g sesame seeds*
1/2 tsp table salt
25g tahini
50g water
30g medium sesame oil
1/2 tsp (heaping) flaky finishing salt

Preheat the oven to 375°F, using two racks to divide the oven in three. Line two cookie sheets with parchment. Fit a pastry bag with a #8 tip.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sesame seeds, and table salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine tahini, water, and sesame oil, whisking till combined and completely smooth. Switch to a wooden spoon, and stir in the dry ingredients to make a stiff, oily batter. Stir in the flaky salt.

Pack the batter into the prepared pastry bag and pipe 1 1/2″ twigs onto the prepared cookie sheets, leaving about 1/2″ between each one. The dough will be stiff and slippery, but persevere. When coming to the end of a twig, use the hand that’s holding the top to flick the twig free if it’s not releasing from the tip.

Distribute the twigs evenly between both cookie sheets. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-22 minutes, till lightly–but evenly–golden. (Don’t be tempted to bake longer; the tahini will burn and turn everything bitter.) Remove pans from oven and let cool slightly. Remove to a paper towel-lined rack to finish cooling.

Once totally cooled, keep in an airtight container at room temperature.

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