Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Chocolate Almond Sesame Bars

Chocolate Almond Sesame Bars

A richly decadent holiday treat

Chestnuts roasting by an open fire? Let’s get real. What most of us crave at holiday time is chocolate. And lots of it.

So get ready to deck your plates with these Chocolate Almond Sesame Bars. They’re decadence in cookie form.

Their flavor gets even better if you let them rest overnight, so they’re also a great make-ahead treat. Bake them when it’s convenient for you, and they’ll be ready for any guests who drop by.

Assuming you can resist eating the whole batch yourself.



Chocolate Almond Sesame Bars

Recipe:  Chocolate Almond Sesame Bars

These bar cookies feature a buttery crumb base topped with an almond-enhanced layer of chocolate. Plus chopped walnuts and sesame seeds for extra savor.

Mrs. Kitchen Riffs is the baker in our household, and this is her version of a traditional Italian cookie. She adapted it from a recipe for Chocolate Sesame Bars that she found in Sweet Maria’s Italian Cookie Tray by Maria Buscino Sanchez.

Prep time for this recipe is about 20 minutes. Baking time adds another 20 to 25 minutes. So you can be done in under an hour.

This recipe fills a 9-inch square pan. The bars keep well in an airtight container, especially when stored in the refrigerator.

Ingredients

For the topping:
  • 12 ounces semisweet baking chocolate (or chocolate chips)
  • 6 ounces cream cheese
  • ⅔ cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 4 tablespoons sesame seeds (we use white ones—see Notes)
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
For the crust:
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup sugar 
  • 1 large egg (preferably pasteurized; see Notes)  
Procedure
  1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 9 x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Make the topping: Using a microwave-safe container, melt the chocolate and cream cheese together in the microwave. Heat in one- to two-minute increments, stirring after each increment, until melted. (Be careful when removing the container from the microwave—it gets very hot.) Stir in the cream, combining well. Stir in the chopped walnuts, sesame seeds, and almond extract. Set aside.
  3. Make the crust: In a small bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt). Set aside. 
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl, using a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar together until well combined. Beat in the egg. Add the flour mixture and mix in. The dough will be somewhat crumbly.
  5. Press the crust mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Pour the topping mixture over the crust and spread it evenly, using a spatula or the back of a large spoon.
  6. Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. When done, the edges of the topping will be starting to set up, and the crust (if you can see it) will be turning golden brown. Don’t over bake these—the chocolate center should still be soft, even somewhat liquidy. (The center will set up as it cools).
  7. Remove the baking pan from the oven and allow it to cool on a rack. When cooled, cut the cookies into pieces about 2 inches square.

Chocolate Almond Sesame Bars

Notes
  • These bars are much easier to cut (and taste better) if you let them cool thoroughly. We often refrigerate them overnight, then cut them the next day.
  • Sesame plants have been domesticated for over 3000 years, and their seeds were one of the earliest oilseed crops. Today, sesame seeds are widely cultivated in tropical regions around the world, and play a role in many cuisines. Be aware, however, that they can cause allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to them. 
  • Sesame seeds generally are available in two types: black and white. They’re both the same seed, but the black ones have intact hulls, while the white ones have had the hulls removed.
  • White sesame seeds (the most commonly available type in our part of the world) are what we recommend in this dish.
  • BTW, sesame seeds can be ridiculously expensive at your local supermarket. They’re much cheaper if you buy them in ethnic markets, or via online sources.
  • Almond extract is available in both “natural” and “imitation” forms. We prefer the natural version, but this is one instance where “imitation” is typically good quality.
  • Baking powder becomes weaker over time. Most containers have an expiration date. We usually replace ours once a year, when daylight saving time ends (so we remember to do it).
  • Eggs carry a slight (but real) risk of salmonella. So we suggest using pasteurized eggs when making any sort of dough that you plan to taste raw. Although it’s unlikely the eggs you buy will be infected, why take the risk?
  • And we always do taste the dough, just to make sure we have added enough salt. 
  • We use kosher salt for cooking and baking. Kosher salt is less salty by volume than regular table salt (its crystals are larger, so a teaspoon of kosher salt weighs less than a teaspoon of table salt). If you’re using regular table salt, add just a pinch or two to start. Taste, and add more if necessary.
Chocolate Almond Sesame Bars

You can never have too many cookies for Santa

“Yum, chocolate and almond,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “They’re made for each other.”

“Actually, I love almond anything,” I said. “Especially in Chrismas cookies. Your Almond Sugar Cookies are great. As are your Lemon-Almond Glazed Cookies.”

“But chocolate rules at holiday time,” said Mrs K R. “I particularly love that Chocolate Drop cookie recipe we inherited from your great-grandmother. And this time of the year, I really hanker after Double Orange Dark Chocolate Cookies. But I’d never turn down Chocolate Pepper Cookies either.”

“Don’t forget those other childhood faves of mine,” I said. “Especially Pfeffernüsse Cookies and Coconut Kisses. Not to mention Cherry Winks.”

“And we always need plenty of drop cookies,” said Mrs K R. “So it’s a good thing we also have Anise Drop Cookies and Crunch Drops.”

“Remember those goobers, too,” I said. “I love your Peanut Butter Cookies. And I crave those jam-filled Thumbprint Cookies.”

“Of course, nothing beats boozy cookies,” said Mrs K R. “Particularly ones with rum! Our Rum-Frosted Pecan Shortbread Cookies are hard to beat.”

“Those are a personal favorite of Santa,” I said.

“Well, I think Santa loves all the cookies I bake,” said Mrs K R, eyeing me as I picked up another Chocolate Almond Sesame Bar. “In fact, the cookie plate seems to clean itself whenever my back is turned.”

Ho ho ho!

You may also enjoy reading about:
Double Orange Dark Chocolate Cookies
Pfeffernüsse Cookies
Best Chocolate Drop Cookie Ever
Peanut Butter Cookies
Chocolate Pepper Cookies
Almond Sugar Cookies
Crunch Drop Cookies
Anise Drop Cookies
Coconut Kisses (Macaroons)
Lemon-Almond Glazed Cookies
Rum-Frosted Pecan Shortbread Cookies
Cherry Winks
Thumbprint Cookie
Or check out the index for more recipes

110 comments:

  1. Though I do like chestnuts, you're right, it's chocolate I crave in the winter and especially around the holidays. In fact, I polished off a whole bar of Ikea's hazelnut bar!
    These look fantastic, great job Mrs KR. I love the touch of sesame as well. Go well with some coffee.

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    1. Hi Nazneen, we like chestnuts too, but given the choice -- chocolate! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  2. These are such good looking bars, I love the layers!

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    1. Hi Melanie, aren't the layers nice? And the flavor is wonderful! Thanks for the comment.

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  3. This is such a unique recipe! It really stands out from the crowd of cookies and bars I've seen lately.

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    1. Hi Laura, these are a bit different -- and so, so good. Worth a try. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  4. Oh, these look spectacular! I love the idea of sesame seeds. Great looking cookies :)

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    1. Hi Pat, the sesame seeds add a lot of flavor, and some nice texture. This really is a fun recipe -- one of our new favorites! Thanks for the comment.

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  5. Those would be dangerous to have sitting around the house. Love the sesame addition - sounds great and loves wonderful! Hope you have a wonderful holiday.

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    1. Hi Tricia, these are dangerous! So we try to give away most of them. Hope you have a great holiday, and thanks for the comment.

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  6. Almonds and sesame seeds - love those Italians! (The chocolate is a given.) Delicious bars - and good for Claudia's life - where I must make ahead or I stress myself! (Very good conversation showing me the way to your cookie bar...)

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    1. Hi Claudia, almond and sesame blend so well together! And chocolate too, of course. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  7. Hmmm, you say this gets better as it rests, but I don't think it would last that long in this house! I'm confused as to why you suggest the pasteurized eggs, since this gets baked?

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    1. Hi Sue, pasteurized egg mainly if you taste the raw crust. Which we do -- being pigs and all. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  8. looks delicious :)
    my blog: http://locastrica.blogspot.com/ :)

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    1. Hi Sparkle, it is, it is! Thanks for the comment.

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  9. Well this is swoon worthy, FOR SURE. If I could, I'd eat the entire batch... And not even bat an eye lash! ;)

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    1. Hi GiGi, definitely swoon worthy. And this is so rich you'd definitely swoon -- although in a different way -- if you ate the entire batch! Thanks for the comment.

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  10. OK am I weird for saying I want chocolate year round lol? I don't think I have ever seen sesame seeds in a dessert bar before. These look fabulous! And I would need that glass of milk after!

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    1. Hi Evelyne, chocolate year round is a good idea! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  11. Gad when Mrs Riff gets her baker's hat on, she does a real number.
    What a delicious recipe. I love the buttery crust and truly
    impressed with the use of sesame seeds. When I first tasted sesame seeds as a young person, I swooned. Since then I never have lost my love of them.

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    1. Hi Carol, sesame seeds work so well with chocolate! They're really a wonderful ingredient. Thanks for the comment.

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  12. Ok...now I'm craving chocolate!!! Mrs. KR did a fantastic job with these bars and you present them so well. How could anyone NOT want to drive right in and eat a 2, 3, 4,...of these. Great combination of flavors. Of course after reading the closing remarks it's become quite hard to make up my mind as to which of your sweets we make this year. So many choices and so many calories I don't need. But it's the holidays, so who's counting. :) Thanks for this recipe and links to all of those other ones!!

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    1. Hi MJ, definitely not the time of year to count calories! Time enough for that next year. :-( But let's not think about that! Thanks for the comment.

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  13. What's not to love about these. I'd like a bar or two right now with a tall glass of milk!

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    1. Hi VIcki, chocolate and milk is an incredible combo, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.

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  14. I make a similar cookie, but I would have never thought of adding sesame seeds. I love this idea! Thank you Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. --Rocquie

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    1. Hi Rocquie, sesame seeds appear fairly frequently in Italian sweets. And they're so nice! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  15. Hi John,
    Mrs. K R did an awesome job , love chocolate , will make some batches for the holidays , never can have too many for Santa (giggling) for all the Italians here . Thanks John for sharing :)

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    1. Hi Nee, I'll bet your crew will really like these! I know Santa does. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  16. Oh, how sinfully delicious these are! I have a favorite decadent holiday treat that makes Christmas special - Nanaimo bars. They are a Canadian invention and so fabulous. Now I will have two treats because I agree, chocolate and almond is irresistible and once you threw some walnuts in there, I was a goner. Thank you! Happy Holidays to you and your Mrs.!

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    1. Hi Robyn, I need to find out about Nanaimo bars! Sound wonderful. Happy Holidays, and thanks for the comment.

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  17. Hi John, oh these hit all the boxes, there is nothing like the combination of chocolate and almonds. These look amazing!

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    1. Hi Cheri, chocolate and almonds pair beautifully, don't they? Add sesame seeds and walnuts into the mix, and you have a real treat! Thanks for the comment.

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  18. WOW! That looks so beautiful and delicious. I can have this anytime. Thank you for such a lovely recipe!

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    1. Hi Kushi, this is such a nice recipe -- these bars are awesome! Thanks for the comment.

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  19. I am one of those people that love my chocolate during the holidays. This recipe sounds like it would fulfill my chocolate cravings. They look wonderful.

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    1. Hi Dawn, you'd love our house during the holidays -- chocolate everywhere. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  20. I have to completely agree with you on chocolate and almond combination. That's my favorite combination when it comes to chocolate. I have a huge weakness of that particular flavor. Wow Santa must be so happy. :) I'd definitely test these recipes so many times just so that I can keep making /eating them. I love when Mrs. KR's recipes are featured too. :)

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    1. Hi Nami, Santa is definitely happy at our house. Too happy. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  21. Hi John,

    Love these chocolaty bars!!! I have not tried using sesame seeds to bake sweets before and like your idea of incorporating them into chocolaty treats :D

    Zoe

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    1. Hi Zoe, sesame seeds and chocolate work so well together! Definitely worth a try sometime. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  22. I love it - "let's get real - what most of crave is chocolate..." TRUTH. These look amazing!

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    1. Hi Alyssa, the truth shall set you free! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  23. I've never had anything like this... what a combination of flavors & textures. They look terrific.

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    1. Hi Pam, aren't these interesting? The flavor is terrific! Thanks for the comment.

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  24. Mrs KR has really outdone herself! I'm a chocolate girl and these sound like something new and fresh! Enjoy eating all those treats. And I think the sesame means this is a healthy treat, right?

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    1. Hi Abbe, you've got it! Sesame always = healthy. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  25. I guessed that the Mrs. must be busy baking at this time of year an what a delight these chocolate almond sesame bars are. Totally different from regular Christmas fare and look wonderful!

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    1. Hi Maureen, she is! Much to my delight. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  26. Santa will exchange cookies for these bars anytime. They look marvelous and quite tempting! Merry Christmas and a very happy 2016, John!

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    1. Hi Denise, aren't these great? Love these! Merry Christmas, and thanks for the comment.

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  27. Wow, you got me on this one. Chocolate with sesame? How creative? I never tried that combination. Trying to image how they will taste.

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    1. Hi Holly, chocolate and sesame is such a wonderful combo. So worth trying. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  28. Dear John,
    OMG! This is wonderful..I love chocolate, walnuts, cream cheese, and sesame seeds, can't image how delicious this cookie recipe would be. Never mind Santa..I will eat these all up, Santa will have to go to another house..yummy! Printed this one out.Thanks for sharing...
    Dottie :)

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    1. Hi Dottie, truth be told, these will all be gone by the time Santa gets to our house. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  29. These sound delicious, John, and you are right, chocolate hits the spot at Christmas! YUM!

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    1. Hi Judy, chocolate is always good, of course, but so nice at Christmas. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  30. These bars look and sound delicious, I love the combination of chocolate and almond...sesame sounds great too...these indeed are great treat for the holiday.
    Hope you are enjoying your week John :)

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    1. Hi Juliana, these are great -- they've become one of our favorites! Thanks for the comment.

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  31. Chocolate and almond, what a delicious combination John. I'd like to share this link in my Christmas round up xx

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    1. Hi Lizzy, it's really nice! Love that combo. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  32. I have been on an almond kick lately, but the sesame just kicks it all up a notch. Yum.

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    1. Hi Madonna, we just love alomd! Such terrific flavor. And it plays so well with chocolate. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  33. Sesame seed cookies are so Italian! I remember the first time I saw giugiuleni cookies covered in sesame seeds. Before then I never considered sesame seeds for sweet treats. Now I buy giugiuleni regularly at the Italian deli and I hope I get to bake up this chocolate sesame treat before the holiday comes and goes. GREG

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    1. Hi Greg, we love Italian cookies and pastries! Some really interesting and complex flavor combos. You'll love this -- so much flavor. Thanks for the comment.

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  34. Yes, chocolate reigns over roasted chestnuts, and how scrumptious these bars are! Wishing you and Mrs. KR the best this holiday season. Cheers!

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    1. Hi Brooks, love roasted chestnuts, but these are better. :-) Happy holidays, and thanks for the comment.

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  35. Replies
    1. Hi Peachy, ours too. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  36. These look incredible. Very unique. Sesame bars.. never seen anything like it. Happy Holidays!

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    1. Hi Honey, aren't these fun? Such a fun flavor! Happy Holidays to you, and thanks for the comment.

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  37. Wow! These almond sesame bars do sure look decadent. Would love having these on my dessert table at our Christmas dinner this year! Nice work :D

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    1. Hi Kristi, these really are decadent. So rich we always have to give most of them away. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  38. Oh my! These bars are so tempting! I totally fell in love with sesame lately....

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    1. Hi Marcela, isn't sesame amazing stuff? Such terrific flavor! Thanks for the comment.

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  39. Would love one of these for each hand! Love the fact that they can be done in under an hour. Changing your spices and baking powder with time change is a brilliant idea, will have to implement that plan with the new year. Wishing you and Mrs. Riff a very safe and happy holiday season.

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    1. Hi Bam, one for each hand is what we consider a serving. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  40. Great cookies, John, decadent for sure! I have walnuts and both kinds of sesame seeds so all I need to do is start mixing and baking. Thanks for the unique recipe! Have a great weekend!

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    1. Hi Pam, sounds like you can have these later today! :-) These have such an interesting flavor -- they've become a real favorite. Thanks for the comment.

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  41. Yup, we love chocolate at the holidays and all year round. Almond flavoring is a lovely touch as are the sesame seeds. Great bars!

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    1. Hi Liz, pretty hard to resist chocolate at any time, isn't it? So we've given up trying. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  42. These chocolaty treats look amazingly decadent! Perfect with a glass frosty milk!

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    1. Hi Kristi, they really are decadent. Our favorite kind of sweet. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  43. As if I weren't eating TOO many baked goods already, you have to publish an irresistible recipe like this. Oh my, does this ever look good. I can never turn down chocolate with nuts. And when you add sesame seeds, all the better. You have me totally drooling. ;)

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    1. Hi Carolyn, yeah, we were drooling too, before we ate these. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  44. Your squares look wonderful. And while I was here, I checked out the rum-frosted shortbread and chocolate orange cookies - the latter of which I bookmarked when you first posted it. I WILL try it, and soon!

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    1. Hi Beth, these are really great! And those chocolate orange cookies are SO worth trying! Thanks for the comment.

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  45. I've not tried anything similar to these before, I bet the chocolate with the sesame is really good.

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    1. Hi Caroline, chocolate and sesame pair really well! I can see why you sometimes find that pairing in Italian sweets -- it's genius. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  46. I'm with Mrd. Riffs... chocoate and almond are made for each other. These sounds wonderful. And I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas indeed!

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    1. Hi Adri, love that chocolate/almond combo. Add sesame seeds, and it's heaven! Merry Christmas, and thanks for the comment.

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  47. You two definitely hit it out of the park with this recipe. I think the almond/sesame combo (and don't forget the chocolate) sounds delicious! Happy holidays!

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    1. Hi Debra, this is a really good one! :-) Happy holidays, and thanks for the comment.

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  48. I think Santa would be thrilled to find a plate of these left out for him by the fire. We usually leave fruit cake or ginger nut cookies. With a beer of course. I love sesame seeds and I think at Christmas, one can never have too much chocolate xx

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    1. Hi Charlie, I don't think there's such a thing as too much chocolate! At least not around our house. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  49. Delectable. Perfect for cold Christmas mornings. Or evenings. :)

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    1. Hi Lux, good any time of the day, really. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  50. Definitely a glass of milk will be perfect with those

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    1. Hi Raymund, or a cream-based cocktail. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  51. Hi John, this chocolate bar look addictive and awesome. Definitely hard to stop munching. :)) Thanks for sharing.

    Merry Christmas to you and family.
    Regards,
    Amelia

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    1. Hi Amelia, isn't this nice? Can't resist it. :-) Happy holidays, and thanks for the comment.

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  52. I've not heard of this Italian cookie before. Thanks to you and Mrs. KR from sharing the recipe…they sound good.

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    1. Hi Karen, this is one good cookie! Exceptionally tasty. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  53. Loved those bars a lot, this recipe is easy to make. Liked the education part about sesame seeds I've never used the black ones before.. I think they are more common in Asian cuisine.. I have to try this. Thanks.

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    1. Hi Amira, I believe you're right that the black sesame seeds are more popular in Asian recipes. That's the only time I've used them. Thanks for the comment.

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  54. Chocolate and sesame! What a nice combination.

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    1. Hi Jeff, isn't it? Extremely tasty. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  55. I have all the things for this recipe on hand, now to convince the household more calorie loaded holiday food is a good idea. Ha!

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    1. Hi Anna, by this time in the holidays convincing people that more goodies is a good idea is a tough sale! But these are soooo worth it. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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