Savory Sesame & Fennel Cookies - Ka'ach & A Tahini, Yogurt Herb Dipping Sauce

As if I didn't love Jerusalem: A Cookbook already so much, but I fell in love with it even deeper...I will explain in a second.

I have been obsessed with these cookies, or at least the commercially made version in Israel by Abadi. When I get to the Kosher Market in MD, I seek out a bag, usually sitting at a bottom shelf hidden in the shadows and dark. I would cruise up and down the aisles, with a rickety cart, I always fall on one, until I find them in the somewhat disorganized market shelves. Though I must say the owner is real nice. The minute I upload my groceries into the trunk of my car, I fetch the Abadi cookie bag, and rip through it, to munch on a few more than necessary cookies, while I drive. It's a predictable scene, without fail, every single time.
Problem was, I knew my Tunisian, Algerian and Moroccan friends make similar versions, so what is the cookie's origin? Abadi sounded Iraqi to me, but turns out he isn't, his ancestors are from Aleppo, Syria, but how did I find that out? In my frustration of researching the origin of this cookie, I turned to Twitter and tweeted @Ottolenghi and @SamiTamimi, the authors of Jerusalem, last night. This morning I woke up to an answer. That's the beauty of the London-DC time lapse. All along it was right in front of me, if only I would have turned to the page before the recipe. It's a fascinating read on pages 267-8 about the cookie and through and through.
Coincidentally, like Ottolenghi and Tamimi, I was also born in Jerusalem but I don't have an affinity to the city as they do, We move to the coast shortly after I was born. I am more of a tourist, revere Jerusalem, the city, from afar and when I visit the holy city.
On to the recipe, Ottolenghi and Tamimi say the Syrian version here is the most flavorful out of all the other versions. I wished to replicate the Abadi version. Am not sure if the ingredient list on the bag has cumin listed or not, but I didn't use it. I listed it as optional. I mixed 1 tablespoon of white sesame seeds in half the batch. In the other half, I mixed in 1/2 the fennel seeds from amount stated in the recipe. When I mix in the fennel seeds, I do not sprinkle sesame seeds on top. I only sprinkle, either white or black, sesame seeds when I use sesame seeds in the dough. These cookies are best the day of. They resemble Abadi's in flavor but not in texture. They have some crumble to the edges the day of, but lose the crumble the next day.

You can be playful, you can sprinkle the cookies with a mix of both black and white sesame seeds. When I make the next batch I will try to sprinkle some with zaatar. Am curious how it will turn out. In the book they also brilliantly suggest to serve these addictive, crumbly cookies at cocktail parties or as an appetizer with a tahini and yogurt herb dip. I simply like my savory cookies along with tea, but I will definitely make the dip for one of my Chanukah parties or bring it to a Christmas party during the season.

This book has been sent to me as a review copy, as I mentioned in my Burnt Eggplant with Garlic Lemon and Pomegranate Seeds post, but I've been obsessed with it for months before it arrived. When I received it, I felt like I hit the lottery. The little pleasures that make me so happy!

Savory Sesame and Fennel Cookies - Ka'ach
adapted from Jerusalem, A Cookbook
makes about 30-40

4 cups all purpose flour
6 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 1/2 tablespoons butter, softened at room temperature
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 1/2 tablespoon water (300ml)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons fennel seeds, slightly crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)

1 egg for brushing, whisked
Black and white sesame seeds to sprinkle on top
Zaatar to sprinkle on top (optional in sesame seed dough instead of sesames as a sprinkle)
Fennel seeds (optional in fennel seed dough)

Tahini, Yogurt Herb Dipping Sauce
1 1/4oz flat leaf parsley
1 clove garlic
Scant 2 tablespoons tahini paste
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
5 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pinch of salt

For the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 400F.

In a large bowl add the flour, salt, sugar, yeast, baking powder and sesame seeds or fennel seeds and mix. Make a well in the middle of the flour and into the well add the oil and butter. Gradually add the water and mix until a dough forms. Knead for a couple of minutes.

Line 2 cookies sheets with parchment paper. Form 1oz dough balls into a 3/8inch thick, 5-5 1/2 inch long ropes. Form each rope into a ring and line on a parchment paper lined cookies sheet, approximately 3/4 inch apart.

Instructions in the book say to let cookies at this point proof for 30 minutes. I didn't. I proceeded directly to bake them.

Brush the cookies with the whisked egg and sprinkle the sesame cookie dough only, with either black or white, or both, sesame seeds.

Bake for 22-25 minutes (ovens vary, took me 25min) until lightly golden on top. Let completely cool at room temperature and store in an air tight container for up to 10 days.

For the dipping sauce:
Blitz all dipping sauce ingredients in a food processor until uniformly colored and smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of water if sauce is too thick and refrigerate before serving.