A few months ago, I embarked on a baking marathon and made cookies from a bunch of recipes that I had bookmarked for months. I baked a wide range of cookies from some of my favorite food writers, including a few gluten-free cookies and savory ones:
- Mantecaditos (Almond-Flavored Butter Cookies) from Marta Rivera Diaz of Sense & Edibility: I covered some of the cookies in sprinkles and filled others with strawberry or passionfruit + pineapple jam.
- Banana Espresso Cacao Nib Cookies from Sarah Kieffer in 101 Cookies (buy on Bookshop.org or Amazon, affiliate links)
- Gochujang Caramel Cookies from Eric Kim of New York Times
- Smoky, Cheesy Cookies from Dorie Greenspan in Dorie’s Cookies (buy on Bookshop.org or Amazon, affiliate links)
- Crinkle-Top Gluten-Free Molasses Cookies from Alanna Taylor-Tobin of The Bojon Gourmet
- Chewy Gluten-Free Chocolate Cookies from Sarah Menanix of Snixy Kitchen
- Miso Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies from Irvin Lin of Eat the Love
I enjoy cooking other food writers’ recipes because it gives me an opportunity to learn different cooking techniques and try new flavor combinations. For instance, I never tried Sarah Kieffer’s technique of banging the cookie sheet pans on the oven rack during the baking process to create ripples on the cookies. While baking Irvin Lin and Eric Kim’s cookies, I incorporated savory fermented pastes into cookie dough for the first time and loved the complexity of flavors these pastes added to the cookies.
Drawing inspiration from all the cookies I baked recently, I decided to develop a black sesame cookie recipe that incorporates my homemade black sesame paste. I used Sarah Kieffer’s cookie recipe as a starting point because I loved the rippled look of the cookies. For the most part, I’ve kept the same butter, flour, and sugar ratios that she used to make sure that these black sesame cookies rippled as well. However, I reduced the butter slightly for less greasy cookies.
I also wanted the cookies to be less sweet, so I borrowed Irvin Lin’s idea of adding miso to the cookie dough. From there, I played around with adding soy sauce and loved the additional complexity that the soy sauce delivered.
In these black sesame cookies, you’ll be able to taste the brightness of orange zest against the nutty aroma of the black sesame paste. The miso and soy sauce will not be prominent flavors in the cookies but they are very important in balancing out the sweetness of the sugars. I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from my family, friends, and husband’s co-workers about these cookies! I hope you get a chance to enjoy them, too.
COOKING NOTES FOR BLACK SESAME COOKIES
BLACK SESAME PASTE
When testing this recipe, I used my homemade black sesame paste. I highly recommend that you make my black sesame paste to get similar results. If you want to buy a black sesame paste, I recommend using one with a similar consistency to recently stirred natural peanut butter (not too thick and not too runny). The black sesame butter from Rooted Fare should work with this cookie recipe. One important note: their sesame butter contains peanuts, so don’t use it if you or someone you know has a peanut allergy.
MISO & SOY SAUCE
There are many varieties of miso paste and soy sauce out there, so let me explain the types I used.
For my everyday cooking, I tend to use this white miso paste from Miso Master. They also sell a “sweet white miso,” which contains slightly less sodium and will work for this black sesame cookie recipe. Other brands of white miso should work well for this recipe, too.
In terms of soy sauce, I used Lee Kum Kee’s premium soy sauce, which is a variety of light soy sauce (生抽). Other brands of light soy sauce should work, too. Most importantly, don’t use dark soy sauce for this recipe, as it has a funky fermented flavor that will be too strong in this cookie dough.
MIXING ORANGE ZEST WITH SUGAR
To brighten up the flavor of the cookies, I added orange zest to the dough. Orange zest can clump up very easily, so I like to work the zest into the granulated sugar by rubbing them together with my fingers. I got this idea from Billy Green’s Strawberry, Grapefruit & Poppy Seed Pie Bars recipe. The sugar becomes so lovely and fragrant during the process.
SWIRLING THE BLACK SESAME PASTE
The most difficult part of developing this recipe was figuring out how to incorporate the black sesame paste into the dough to yield visually appealing cookies. I wanted there to be distinct streaks of black sesame paste on the cookie. However, I quickly discovered that overmixing the paste into the dough will turn the dough dark gray.
After many test batches, I found that the best solution was to mix some of the dough with the sesame paste and leave some dough unmixed. To add black sesame paste to the dough, dot tablespoons of sesame paste over the dough and turn the mixer on low for 2 to 3 seconds. You do not need to mix the dough any longer than that! (By the way, I got this idea to dot the paste from Amisha Gurbani’s Black Sesame Chocolate Chip Cookies with Orange recipe.)
Chill both types of dough in the fridge for several hours or overnight. When it’s time to shape the cookie dough, use a large cookie/ice cream scoop and alternate between scooping up dough with black sesame paste and dough without paste. By layering the different types of dough inside the cookie scoop, you can see the black sesame swirls more clearly, as it contrasts with the unmixed dough.
To create the ripples in Sarah Kieffer’s cookies, you need to bang the sheet pan inside the oven several times during the baking process. When the edges of the cookies puff up and you bang the cookie sheet against the oven rack, the cookies will deflate and create a ripple or wrinkle line in the cookie. Repeating this process at 2-minute intervals creates multiple ripples in the cookies. Warning: the banging process is quite noisy, which my cat Loki did not particularly enjoy.
I wanted to replicate this rippled effect in my cookies, so I’ve used similar cooking times as Sarah Kieffer. These black sesame cookies won’t have quite as many defined ripples as Sarah’s cookies because I added miso paste to the dough and used less butter. Nevertheless, you should see ripples on the cookie.
IS THE BANGING NECESSARY?
In short, no, it is not necessary. You can still get delicious, chewy cookies without banging the cookie sheets at all.
USING FOIL VS PARCHMENT PAPER
Sarah Kieffer suggested using foil in her cookbook (affiliate link) to get cookies with better ripples. I tested these black sesame cookies on foil and parchment paper. Cookies baked on both surfaces had nice ripples, but I preferred cookies baked on foil.
The cookies baked on foil rippled a little better and puffed up more in the center. The puffier center meant the cookies were chewier. Cookies baked on parchment paper tended to be 1/4 to 1/2 inch wider. Having said all this, unless you do a side-by-side comparison, it’s difficult to tell the difference between cookies. In a blind taste test, I would not be able to tell which cookie was baked on foil or on parchment paper.
One important note: the cookies tend to stick to the foil, so you’ll need to slide a large flat spatula under the cookies to lift it off the sheet. It shouldn’t be too difficult to do. If you want to err on the side of caution, line your baking sheet with parchment paper.
CAN I MAKE THE DOUGH AHEAD?
Yes! As a matter of fact, I like to make the dough a day ahead to break up the work. You will need to bake the cookies within 2 days though. I noticed when I baked cookies with dough that’s been sitting in the fridge for 2 days, the cookies didn’t spread and ripple quite as well.
CAN I FREEZE THE DOUGH?
Yes, you can shape the dough and freeze it. Transfer the cookie dough into a bag and store for several months. Because these cookies are pretty big, you’ll want to let the dough sit on the counter for 30 to 45 minutes to defrost slightly before baking.
Orange & Black Sesame Cookies
- 2 cups + 1 tablespoon (250g) all-purpose flour, measured with spoon-and-sweep method
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon (6g to 7g) orange zest, from a medium to large orange
- 11 tablespoons (156g) unsalted butter, at room temperature and sliced
- 1/2 cup (100g) packed dark brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons (60g) white miso paste
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/3 cup (90g) black sesame paste, if possible, use my recipe (see note 1)
- 3 teaspoons white sesame seeds, divided
- In a bowl, whisk together the flour and the baking soda. Set the bowl aside.
- Add the granulated sugar and orange zest into another bowl. Use your fingers to work the zest into the sugar, until you can no longer feel any large clumps of zest. The sugar should take on a light orange hue at this stage.
- Fit your stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Add the butter, sugar and zest mixture, brown sugar, and miso paste to the bowl of the stand mixer. Mix the dough on medium-low speed until the dough is light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. The dough should stick to the sides of the bowl at this stage, so scrape down the sides with a silicone spatula. Add the egg, soy sauce, and vanilla, and mix on medium-low to incorporate, about 30 seconds.
- Add the flour to the bowl and once and mix on low until just incorporated.
- Scoop out 1/3 of the pale yellow cookie dough and put it in a bowl or tupperware that you’ll use to chill all the cookie dough later. Set it aside. Scoop out another 1/3 of the cookie dough and set it aside (you’ll add this back into the mixing bowl very shortly).
- Dot 4 heaping tablespoons full of the black sesame paste on different parts of the dough.
- Return the portion of pale yellow cookie dough you just set aside by placing it on top of the dough with the sesame paste blobs. Then, dot the remaining sesame paste over the cookie dough.
- Mix the dough on low for 2 to 3 seconds (see note 2). Do not overmix. It is okay if the black sesame streaks are a little uneven.
- Carefully transfer this black sesame dough into the same bowl/tupperware as the unmixed dough. It's okay to place the two types of dough side-by-side (see photo below). Chill the dough for 3 hours or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC). Position an oven rack to the center position of the oven. Line 2 large half-sheet baking pans with foil (dull side up) or parchment paper. (See note 3 for more notes about baking on foil vs parchment paper.)
- Grab a large #16 ice cream scoop (about 1/4 cup capacity, see note 4). Scoop about a tablespoon of pale yellow cookie dough into the scoop. Next, scoop out some of the swirled black sesame dough (about 2 tablespoons). Continue alternating between the pale yellow dough and the swirled black sesame dough until you have filled up the scoop with cookie dough. (See note 5)
- Release the cookie dough from the scoop. I don't usually weigh the cookie dough, but for reference, each cookie should be about 80 to 85 grams. If there's too much pale yellow dough at the top, pinch some black sesame dough and spread it over the pale yellow portion. This will make the top look more marbled.
- Add 1/4 teaspoon of white sesame seeds into a small bowl. Roll the rounded top of the cookie dough in the bowl with the sesame seeds until the surface is covered in seeds. Transfer the cookie dough to a lined sheet pan. Continue shaping 3 more portions of cookie dough and topping each portion with 1/4 teaspoon of sesame seeds.
- These cookies spread quite a bit, so bake 4 cookies at a time on a half-sheet baking pan. You'll also bake these cookies one sheet at a time, so chill the remaining cookie dough as one batch of cookies are in the oven.
- After shaping several cookies, I like to use a silicone spatula to scrape off the dough from the inside of the scoop.
- Bake the cookies for 8 minutes. Wearing oven mitts or using pot holders, grab onto the baking sheet and lift it several inches above the oven rack. Bang the cookie sheet onto the rack to bang the cookies. The cookies should deflate slightly and create a ripple around the edges. Rotate the baking sheet to ensure even baking. Bake the cookies for another 2 minutes. The cookies should have puffed up again. Wear oven mitts or use pot holders to bang the cookies again. Continue baking and banging the cookies at 2-minute intervals 2 more times, until you have baked the cookies for a total of 14 minutes. The edges of the cookies should be a golden brown color. If the edges are not brown enough, bake for another minute.
- Take the cookies out of the oven and let them cool for 15 minutes. The centers of the cookies are very soft at this point. The cookies need to cool on the sheet so the centers can set. If you baked the cookies on foil, slide a large flat spatula under the cookies to lift it off the sheet and transfer to a cooling rack. If you baked the cookies on parchment paper, they should come right off the parchment.
- As one batch of cookies cools, prepare another batch of cookies and bake them using the cooking times specified above. Continue until you've baked all the remaining dough.
- These cookies taste best once they have cooled completely. Store the cookies in a container for up to 3 days.
- Black Sesame Paste: I tested this recipe using my homemade black sesame paste. I highly recommend that you make my black sesame paste to get similar results. If you want to buy a black sesame paste, I recommend using one with a similar consistency to recently stirred natural peanut butter (not too thick and not too runny). The black sesame butter from Rooted Fare should work with this cookie recipe. One important note: Rooted Fare’s sesame butter contains peanuts, so don’t use it if you or someone you know has a peanut allergy.
- Mixing Speed: I am mixing the sesame paste and dough on the “stir” speed of my KitchenAid stand mixer.
- Foil vs Parchment Paper: You can bake the cookies on either foil or parchment. During my recipe testing, I found that cookies baked on both surfaces had nice ripples. However, I preferred cookies baked on foil because they rippled a little better and puffed up more in the center. The puffier center meant the cookies were a little chewier. Cookies baked on parchment paper tended to be 1/4 to 1/2 inch wider. Having said all this, unless I did a side-by-side comparison, it’s difficult to tell the difference between cookies. In a blind taste test, I would not be able to tell which cookie was baked on foil or on parchment paper.
- Cookie Scoops: Although these cookie scoop manufacturers say that a #16 cookie scoop only holds 1/4 cup, I found that it’s actually closer to 1/3 cup. Each portion of cookie should weigh about 80 to 85 grams. If you do not have a cookie scoop, you can use a 1/3 cup measuring cup. However, don’t pack the dough in too tightly because the dough will be very difficult to release.
- Shaping Cookies: You can start filling the cookie scoop with either the pale yellow or the black sesame dough. Just make sure some pale yellow dough ends up at the top of the cookie (after you release the dough from the scoop).
- Refrigerating the Dough: The dough will keep in the fridge for 2 days. I noticed when I baked cookies with dough that’s been sitting in the fridge for 2 days, the cookies didn’t spread and ripple quite as well.
- Freezing the Dough: Freeze the cookie dough on a large parchment-lined plate. Once the dough is hard, transfer the cookie dough into a freezer bag and store for several months. Because these cookies are pretty big, you’ll want to let the dough sit on the counter for 30 to 45 minutes to defrost slightly before baking.