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.
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.
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
- 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)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 9 x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
- 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.
- Make the crust: In a small bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt). Set aside.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
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
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
Or check out the index for more recipes