I had been wanting to make these traditional confections, popular throughout the Middle East; I was hoping to avoid using the sugar syrup this time. Several videos on youtube offered the Iraqi version which is made with date syrup and flavored with cardamom. Date syrup sounded too pronounced of a flavor and I settled for a combo of mild honey and light brown sugar. The pitfall here is toasting the sesame seeds, which requires attention and a bit of time. Otherwise, the syrup cooks in minutes and the rest of the technique is extremely simple.
Sesame brittle (Semsmeeyeh)
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Passive Time: 30 minutes
2 1/4 cups raw sesame seeds
1/4 cup pistachios (shelled, roasted) (optional)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1. Preheat the oven to 290F or 300F; pour the sesame seeds in two cookie sheets and roast in the oven until they are uniformly golden and release their flavor. You can also toast them over medium/low heat in a large skillet on top of the stove. It is critical to check on them every 10 minutes if in the oven, and stirring them frequently if on top of the stove. If they burn, they have to be tossed out, so watching them is critical here. Meanwhile, grease two pieces of parchment paper with a spray or a brush dipped in oil, (sesame oil works well here if you have some) and set aside.
2. Remove the toasted sesame seeds from the oven; transfer them to a large bowl and let them cool on the counter. At this point, you can add about 1/4 cup pistachios if you like or some other type of nut like walnuts.
3. Transfer the sugar and honey into a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat; add the lemon juice and stir to combine. The mixture will froth and bubble-up after about 5 minutes, stir it frequently and check the temperature with a candy thermometer, it should register about 225F.
4. Remove from the heat and pour gradually over the sesame seeds while combining them gently with a large spoon. When all the seeds have become glued together with the syrup, pour the mixture onto the parchment paper and flatten it with gently with the back of the spoon.
5. Cover the seeds with the other paper, and roll it gently with a rolling pin to flatten the dough as much as possible and even it out.
6. Cut the irregular sides of the dough and shape into balls, and then cut the remainder into even squares or rectangles. Keep the sesame bars covered with the greased paper in a tightly closed box. These will keep for two or three weeks.
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