Edna Lewis learned about this Low Country favorite while living in Charleston. Benne comes from the Nigerian word for sesame seeds, which slaves considered lucky. Be sure to bake the wafers to a rich brown to bring out their flavor. Like cheese straws, they are good with soups and salads, and they're delicious with Shrimp Paste and other savory spreads.
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1 cup sesame seeds (5 ounces)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup chilled lard or vegetable shortening
2/3 cup cold milk
How to Make It
Preheat the oven to 425°. Toast the sesame seeds in a pie pan in the oven for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until deep golden. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
In a large bowl, sift the flour with the cream of tartar, baking soda and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cut in the lard until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the sesame seeds and the milk and mix until blended.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly. Divide the dough in half. Roll out 1 piece of dough as thinly as possible (at most 1/8 inch thick). Prick the dough all over with a fork and stamp out 2-inch rounds. Transfer the rounds to a large baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Bake for about 14 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Let cool slightly, then transfer to a rack. Repeat with the remaining dough. Serve the wafers warm or at room temperature.
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