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These Black Sesame Shortbread Cookies are not your average cookie. Black sesame seeds and orange zest give them an exotic flavor and striking appearance. Great on their own or dipped in chocolate!
So this was going to be a pre-Christmas “cookies for a cookie exchange!” post. Then it was going to be a “fancy cookies for a New Year’s party!” post. Now it’s basically an “ooof it’s hard to get back into the swing of things and why can’t we all just get paid to read novels all day?” post. Yes, 2015 might be a year we need to ease into slowly.
If we have to be back at the daily grind, then I insist we have some cookies to help us ease the transition. And not just any cookies, but black sesame shortbread with orange zest, cardamom, and a sexy chocolate houndstooth suit.
This may sound backwards, but the flavor of these cookies was actually inspired by the decorations. I went on a mad chocolate transfer sheet-buying binge one night (look out, y’all, I party hard) and picked up a few sheets of this super-cute houndstooth pattern. I was instantly smitten and started thinking of fun ways to incorporate it into my Christmas New Year’s unrelated-to-any-holiday cookie plans.
Chocolate transfer sheets are really easy to use, and they instantly make any dessert look fancy! They’re basically acetate sheets with designs printed on them with cocoa butter. When the sheets come into contact with wet chocolate, the cocoa butter pattern transfers to the chocolate, and when it hardens the sheets can be easily peeled off. To decorate cookies, you just have to cut the sheets into squares and press one on top of each chocolate-dipped cookie. Simple, right?
Underneath all that fanciness is a buttery, orange-scented shortbread flecked with black sesame seeds. I love the way the black and (not-quite) white coloring of the cookies reflects the black-and-white pattern of the houndstooth. It all felt very modern and sophisticated, and I made sure to eat these with my pinky held high in the air like the classy dame that I am.
After consulting my trusty Flavor Bible, I decided to add a bit of cardamom to the dough, in addition to the black sesame and orange zest. It was subtle, but it added a nice warm, spicy undertone. If you don’t have ground cardamom, you can substitute cinnamon for a different, but also delicious, flavor combination. And if you don’t already have black sesame seeds available, best of luck, because it took me about 5 different stores before I finally found some. (After which I promptly bought about 2 pounds of them. I will be adding black sesame seeds to my food until the day I die.)
I thought the speckled dough was too pretty to hide entirely, so I dipped some cookies completely in chocolate, dipped others half-way, and left a few entirely plain. It’s a beautiful cookie assortment that would make a great gift, or a fancy Valentine’s Day present. (Too soon?) And you didn’t hear this from me, but I think they would also make a great “screw the resolution, I want dessert!” treat. In case you know anyone currently in that situation. Ahem.
Chocolate transfer sheets can often be found at cake and candy supply stores, and in many places online. I bought the ones pictured here from Global Sugar Art.
🍪More Cookie Recipes You’ll Love
- Fudge-Striped Shortbread Cookies
- Gourmet Homemade Oreos
- Clemen-Thyme Chocolate Chunk Cookies
- Raspberry Almond Chocolate Chunk Cookies
- Chocolate-Pistachio Sandwich Cookies
Black Sesame Shortbread Cookies
- 12 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 4 oz powdered sugar, 1 cup
- 1 large orange, zested
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom, can substitute cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 15 oz all-purpose flour, 3 1/2 cups
- 1 1/8 oz black sesame seeds, 1/4 cup
- 1 1/2 lbs chocolate candy coating melts, or tempered chocolate, optional
- Chocolate transfer sheets, optional
- Combine the butter, powdered sugar, and orange zest in the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix them together on medium-low speed just until the sugar is incorporated and the butter is smooth. Add the cardamom, salt and flour, and mix on low speed until only a few flour streaks remain. Add the black sesame seeds and mix them in. Stop the mixer and finish stirring with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl and making sure the seeds are well-distributed.
- Scrape the cookie out onto a piece of cling wrap, form it into a disc, and wrap it tightly. Put the dough on a flat tray, then refrigerate it until firm, at least 30 minutes.
- Once firm, preheat the oven to 350 F (176 C), and cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough in half and keep the half you’re not working with well-wrapped in the refrigerator. Roll out the remaining half between two sheets of lightly floured parchment or waxed paper, until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Cut shapes out of the dough, or cut it into squares with a sharp knife. Arrange the cookies on the baking sheets. The cookies won’t spread very much while baking, so you don’t need to leave too much room between them. When you’ve cut out all the cookies you can, press the dough together, re-roll it, and return it to the refrigerator to chill while the first batch bakes.
- Bake the cookies at 350 F for about 12 minutes, until they’ve lost the raw shine in the middle and the edges are very slightly colored. Remove the tray from the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Roll out the second half of the dough just as you did the first, and continue to roll, cut, and bake the cookies until all are baked. Let them cool completely before dipping them in chocolate.
- Melt the chocolate candy coating in the microwave, stirring after every 30 seconds to prevent overheating. If you want to use chocolate transfer sheets, cut your sheets into squares that are a little larger than the cookies. Dip a cookie into the chocolate using a fork or dipping tools, and let the excess drip back into the bowl. Set the cookie on a baking sheet covered with parchment or waxed paper, and while the chocolate is still wet, lay the transfer sheet on top, with the rough side down. Gently slide your finger across the top to press it down onto the entire surface of the cookie. Repeat with the remaining cookies. You can vary your cookies by dipping some completely and dipping others only halfway.
- Once all of the cookies are dipped, refrigerate the tray to set the chocolate, for about 15 minutes.
Our recipes are developed using weight measurements, and we highly recommend using a kitchen scale for baking whenever possible. However, if you prefer to use cups, volume measurements are provided as well. PLEASE NOTE: the adage “8 oz = 1 cup” is NOT true when speaking about weight, so don’t be concerned if the measurements don’t fit this formula.Click here to learn more about baking measurements and conversion.
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These are fabulous! Love the flavors!
Thanks so much, Tori!
It’s easy to get a big head when one reads a brain twin’s post because I’m always like, “Ooooh, look, Elizabeth made something just for ME!” Hahaha. This is amazing — I love the houndstooth (#obvs) but the flavor combination is even more up my alley! Happy 2015, friend!
I am not even kidding when I tell you that I wanted to mail you some of these as a thank-you for the cookbook! It was my plan all along, but then the holidays took over my life and I ran out of time. I’ll just have to think of something even MORE perfect for you later. 🙂 Happy 2015 to you too!
I’d like to be paid to read novels all day…I guess I should have become an editor. Now I just read food blogs all day- or at least I’m back to being able to now that I’m back from maternity leave (only when I don’t have a lot of real work to do, i swear!). Oooh, I’m loving that houndstooth. Sadly I’m off of dairy for baby, but when I can have it again I will be eating ALL THE BUTTER!
Reading food blogs all day sounds pretty sweet too! Fingers crossed that you’re able to enjoy dairy again–not just for the butter, but for the cheeeeeese! Thanks Amy!
Gah! I’ve never seen those transfers before, and now I need them. And, I’m going to plant them on everything. Be ready for it. It’s happening! These are so pretty Elizabeth. It looks like you got back into the swing of things just fine!
I’m ready! Bring it on, Kristi! Transfer sheets are the new black and I’m going to use them on everything too. 🙂
I’ve never seen/heard/used/eaten (you get the drift!) transfer sheets before. How cool are they?! Here I was thinking it was some schmucks job to hand paint the pattern😉
Haha, I do a lot of shmucky tasks for the sake of dessert, but fortunately hand-painting patterns isn’t one of them. Glad to have introduced you to the wonders of transfer sheets!
i can’t get enough of this houndstooth! And those flavors are perfect! And hey, there is no good way to keep up a diet without allowing yourself the occasional fanc-ay cookie!
Thanks Amanda! I agree, fancy cookies make all the egg whites and broccoli go down easier! 🙂
These are amazing! Don’t you love your Flavor Bible? I use it all the time!
YES! It’s so great. I recommend it to other people regularly.
I know the feeling of trying to ease back slowly, currently doing the same. But these are some designer looking fancy cookies with some sophisticated flavours going on. LOVE!
Thanks Rochelle! It is crazy hard to bounce back after the holidays…at least we have some sugar to console us, right?
So beautiful! Those chocolate transfer sheets are such a great idea to use even on cookies. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks Oana! Transfer sheets are my favorite way to fancy things up lately!
Such elegant and flavorful cookies! I don’t know which design I like best: The half dipped or the whole dipped!
Thank you Tiffany! I leaned toward the whole dipped because it meant I could eat more chocolate… 😉
Hi, I made them the other day and found them really interesting flavor wise, but I still haven’t decided if I liked them or not (that’s why I kept going back to the cookie jar to “try” one more). I loved the texture of the cookie, crunchy and delicate and not too sweet. I didn’t dip them in chocolate and I think the black sesame taste was too strong for our liking, I guess dipping them in chocolate helps balance it out, as they leave a bitter/salty aftertaste. Another thing I was wondering (you can’t really help me there though) is if got black sesame or nigella seeds, they seem to be similar, but not the same seeds and I think that here (in Greece, where I live) we might use the latter under the black sesame seed. Thank you for the recipe!
Hi Tanja! I looked at your post about the cookies–beautiful photos, by the way!–and to me, those don’t look like black sesame seeds. The shape is pretty different and they don’t have the glossy tear-drop shape of sesame seeds. My guess is that you did end up using nigella seeds (or something else?). I don’t know if I’ve had nigella seeds, but the internet tells me they’re related to caraway seeds, which I have had, and the flavor of that is very different from black sesame. Sesame seeds have a pretty neutral taste–maybe a touch bitter or savory, but nothing that would really stand out in a cookie recipe. If you used nigella seeds that might explain why the flavor was so strong and a bit unpleasant! I’m sorry this particular batch didn’t work out for you, but I’m glad that you at least enjoyed the cookie part–maybe try them with a different mix-in next time. 🙂
that’s the reason I put the photograph of the seeds to tell you the truth. I will have to try harder to find black sesame seeds. They were not really unpleasant, just strong flavored with an aftertaste.
I think any other nut would be a good addition too, if you wanted to forget the seed idea and add pistachios or almonds instead. 🙂
I am going to make these for an upcoming cookie exchange. Can you tell me: Did you use the dark or lite candy coating for the chocolate?
I used the dark candy coating! Hope the cookies turn out well!