These were my favorite candies growing-up (called semsemeeyyeh from semsem for sesame) ; we used to buy them from street vendors who kept their carts right in front of the one and only public park in Beirut. Shaped into tiny bars or thin circles, wrapped in cellophane, shiny and crispy and crunchy, they were the best treat!
The good news is they are very easy to make, provided you have a candy thermometer. The candy thermometer will keep you from cooking the syrup too long; cooking the syrup to the softball stage (marked on the thermometer) is going to make the candies firm enough yet still a tad chewy.
These candies are popular all over the Arab world, and in some countries like Iraq they are made using date syrup and flavored with ground cardamom. Feel free to use the caramel agents you like or have in your cupboard and flavor them with cardamom or cinnamon or just keep them plain sweet. I used sugar, brown sugar, grape molasses, cardamom, and am open to experimenting next time with date molasses (which is very sweet and yummy).
The only time-consuming step in this recipe is toasting the sesame seeds. This can be avoided altogether by buying them already roasted!
Sesame seed candyJoumana Accad Mediterranean, Middle Eastern May 8, 2020 Candy, caramel, brittle, sesame seeds, candy,
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
See note below for a slightly different recipe.
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.
I made it using different ingredients and it worked. As long as cooking the syrup to the right temperature is respected (around 225F softball stage). Here is what I used yesterday
2 cups sesame seeds (previously toasted)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup grape molasses (3 tablespoons)
1 tsp white vinegar
pinch of cardamom
Cook this mixture over medium heat and insert a candy thermometer after 3 minutes or so to check the temperature; when it reaches 225F (softball), add the sesame seeds and remove from the heat. Mix well to combine and transfer to a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Place a paper on top and roll out with a rolling pin. Cut into shapes when it cools a bit, a couple minutes later. Keep in a container in the fridge.
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