tahini

A Touch Of Tahini

I found this gorgeous recipe for Peanut Butter Blondies on Brittany’s blog Life In Lipstick. As a peanut butter fan I had to give them a try. The recipe was so easy and the blondies were so good! The peanut butter flavour was perfect. The only changes I made to the recipe were minor technical ones to suit my own style. I lined the baking pan with baking paper rather than greasing it. I beat the egg before adding it to the recipe. I also used a wire whisk and spatula for mixing rather than an electric mixer. This is another recipe I will make again and again 🙂

When I first read through the recipe I thought I would add 1/2 a teaspoon of baking powder to give it a bit of a rise. The result was a little cake-like and very good. Next time I decided to follow the recipe and leave out the baking powder. The result – a crispy outer and a soft, chewy centre. In other words, perfection!

Naturally I had to experiment some more. As a big tahini fan, I decided to try substituting half of the peanut butter with tahini. It worked! It brought back memories of one of my favourite desserts – tahini halva. I might play around with other nut butters and see what happens 🙂

Peanut Butter and Tahini Blondies 

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Ingredients
1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup flour

Instructions
Preheat oven to 180C / 350F.
Line a 20 x 25cm baking pan with baking paper.
Using a wire whisk, mix together the melted butter and light brown sugar. Add the beaten egg and vanilla. Whisk until combined.
Add the peanut butter and tahini. Whisk until combined.
Add the salt and flour. Using a spatula, mix until combined.
Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared baking pan. The batter will be very thick, so spread it out as flat as you can.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Place on a wire rack.
Allow to cool before cutting into pieces.

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The Legend of La Befana

Want to add a bit of Witchiness to your Christmas festivities but you don’t want to stray too far from the traditional Christian message?

Well fear not! You can have both Jesus and a Witch in your nativity scene thanks to the Legend of La Befana.

I came across the Italian Legend of La Befana when I was doing research on the history of Santa Claus. As soon as I realised there was room for a broom riding, chimney visiting,
gift-giving Witch in Christmas stories I was hooked. But who is La Befana and how did she
become part of Christmas?

As with any folkloric tale there are many versions and variations but basically Befana is an old Witch who loves to clean and bake. The Magi (the Three Wise Men) come to her home and ask her for directions to Bethlehem as they are on their way to visit the baby Jesus. Unfortunately Befana can’t help them. In some versions the Magi stay the night and find her to be a wonderful host. The Magi invite Befana to come to Bethlehem with them but she refuses as she has a lot of housework to do. Not long after they leave she regrets her decision and packs up some gifts for the baby Jesus. She takes her broom as both a form of transportation and to clean the manger for the mother. She is after all a Witch renowned for her cooking and her cleaning! Following the Star, she sets off to find the Magi but she never finds them.

Each year on Epiphany Eve, or Twelfth Night, Befana flies on her broomstick visiting the homes of children via the chimney. Some say she is still looking for the baby Jesus, others that she sees Jesus reflected in every child. She leaves behind gifts and sweets for children who have been good, or lumps of coal for children who have been bad. Sometimes she leaves black coloured candy made from black sugar instead of coal. Although Befana is portrayed as scruffy and covered in soot, she always cleans up after herself with her trusty broom! She is also very grateful for any refreshments you may leave out for her.

I was drawn to the Legend of La Befana, and not just because it features a witch 🙂 There is something so wickedly pleasurable about a woman who has better things to do with her time than visit the home of a baby male saviour. It’s the first time I haven’t questioned the role of woman as housekeeper!

So if you do put up a Nativity scene this year, why not add a flying Witch in honour of La
Befana?

Befana’s Frozen Black Coal Candy
(adapted from Amber Shea Crawley’s recipe for “Salted Tahini Caramels” in Practically Raw Desserts)

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Ingredients
1/2 cup black tahini
1/4 cup sesame flour
1/4 cup honey
black sea salt flakes

Instructions
Line a freezer safe container with plastic wrap or baking paper. (The size container will depend on how thick you want your candy.)
Mix together the black tahini, sesame flour and honey until combined.
Pour into prepared container.
Sprinkle with black salt.
Cover and freeze.
Once frozen, slice into desired sized portions with a sharp knife.
Eat straight from the freezer!

If you can’t find black tahini use regular tahini and add food colouring if desired.
If you can’t find sesame flour you can use coconut flour instead.