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"To read a book about a country's cuisine isn't simply to go looking for 'good things'; it is also to better know - by means of the recipes - the customs and the richness or poverty of a place, and the spirit of those who inhabit it. It is above all, to participate in the symbolic celebration of the shared repast."

~ Ginette Olivesi-Lorenzi, La Cuisine Mentonnaise



Savoring Tuscany : Recipes and Reflections on Tuscan Cooking

Savoring Tuscany : Recipes and Reflections on Tuscan Cooking (The Savoring Series)
by Lori De Mori

Part of the Savoring Series, which is one of my favorite series of books about Regional Cuisine, Savoring Tuscany is a beautiful book filled with sumptuous recipes and delectable writing about the cuisine and culture of Tuscany. As with all the books in the series, Savoring Tuscany is put together beautifully and all of the recipes are well written and presented. The recipes that we tested were all superb and the book is an excellent source for fans of Tuscan cuisine.


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Recipe - Benne Cakes
by Wen Zientek-Sico

Benne cakes are traditionally associated with the Deep South, where bennes, or sesame seeds, are considered good luck. The recipe actually originated in West Africa, and is enjoyed the world over for its wonderful taste.

Jasper Johns - Three Flags, 1958
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Benne Cakes

Benne cakes are traditionally associated with the Deep South, where bennes, or sesame seeds, are considered good luck. The recipe actually originated in West Africa, and is enjoyed the world over for its wonderful taste. Sesame seeds are native to West Africa and are believed to have been brought to the United States as long ago as the early 1600's. Benne, which is the word for sesame in Mandingo, a language used in areas of West Africa, is still used frequently in the South to refer to sesame seeds. Southerners quickly took a liking to the nutty seeds and used them in a variety of recipes, the most popular being Benne Cakes, Benne Cookies, or Benne Wafers, which these sweet cookies are all known by.

1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup softened unsalted butter
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup toasted sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and lightly grease a cookie sheet. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, vanilla, and lemon juice. In a small bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix the dry ingredients into the butter mixture and stir in the sesame seeds. Drop by the teaspoonful onto the prepared cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for 15 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes