Benne Wafers

These ethereally light, snapping-brown sesame cookies, both sweet and nutty, have a unique texture: solid and crisp on the bottom, crunchy-light on top. With their centuries-old history (see "tips," below, for their story), they're a longstanding tradition in the American South.

Prep
20 mins
Bake
8 to 9 mins
Total
30 mins
Yield
3 dozen 3" wafers
Benne Wafers

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, baking soda, and egg.

  3. Add the flour and mix until smooth. Stir in the sesame seeds.

  4. Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls (our tablespoon cookie scoop works well here) onto the baking sheets.

  5. Bake the wafers for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they're golden brown.

  6. Remove them from the oven, allow them to cool for 1 minute on the pan, then transfer the wafers to a wire rack to cool completely.

  7. Store in a closed container for up to a week. Freeze for up to a month.

Tips from our Bakers

  • Benne wafers are from the "Lowcountry" of South Carolina. Sesame, a plant with a long history of cultivation, was probably first grown in Africa; enslaved West Africans in the 17th and 18th centuries called sesame "benne" and legend had it that eating sesame seeds brought good luck. These West Africans carried the seeds with them to the American South, where they made these wafers. Interestingly, Middle Easterners also called sesame seeds "benne;" there must have been trade routes that brought together buyers from the Middle East with African sellers. Food, as usual, seems to have been a key component in bringing cultures together.