Oh boy...this was an unexpected treat: Sesame Halvah Tea Cake


Things were going along FINE with my preparation for the PCT (Pittsburgh Cookie Table) portion of the May wedding. Fine! I had finished 14 contributions, either baking them or preparing the dough to be baked in PA right before the wedding. This brought my total up to 1,400+ cookies

Then Life slapped me right upside the head. Got a text from MOTB (my sister) saying 4 people have RSPV'd as GLUTEN-Free and 3 had RSVP'd as NUT-free.


Now me, being me...I had already asked this EXACT QUESTION MONTHS AGO! Do I have to worry about gluten? Do I have to worry about nut allergies? Vegan issues? And the answer was No. No. A thousand times NO! It's a wedding. There will be cake. Just make cookies.

So I didn't worry about it. A quick glance at my spreadsheet indicates 11 out of 14 items have nuts and only ONE item is gluten-free. And that would be the 16 cups of candied walnuts.

But not every wedding includes a few thousand cookies as part of the event...with boxes for each guest to take home a dozen cookies each. It's like letting a kid loose in a candy store...only in this case it would be a bakery.

Both my sister and I suddenly felt bad about leaving these folks out of the fun. She took over making nut-free cookies and I worked the GF. Each of these 7 guests will have a box already filled and labeled at their reception seat. That way we won't have cross-contamination and they can avoid the cookie stampede later on.

From my end I wanted to provide enough variation that they wouldn't feel slighted and this was tonight's entry. My house smells AMAZING!!!
Seriously. Someone should bottle this smell...you could sell ANYTHING to ANYONE if you pumped in this smell.

pastry chef Tzurit Or | Updated on January 1, 2019, Food & Wine magazine
Cooking spray
1 cup gluten-free flour with xanthan gum (such as King Arthur Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour) (about 4 1/4 ounces)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 cups fine almond flour (about 4 1/4 ounces)
1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3 ounces), softened
4 large eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 cup crumbled or chopped vanilla sesame halvah (about 4 1/2 ounces)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Step 1 Preheat oven to 325Ā°F. Lightly coat a 9- x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Line pan with parchment paper, allowing 2 inches of overhang on all sides. Whisk together gluten-free flour and baking powder in a medium bowl; set aside. Beat almond flour, sugar, and butter in bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer on medium speed until well combined and crumbly, about 4 minutes. Gradually add eggs, beating just until combined. Stir in vanilla extract and salt. Add flour mixture, beating on low speed just until incorporated.
Step 2 Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle halvah and sesame seeds evenly over batter. Bake in preheated oven until deep golden brown and top springs back gently when pressed, 55 minutes to 1 hour. (A wooden pick inserted in cake will not come out clean.) Transfer pan to a wire rack, and let cool slightly, about 30 minutes. Using parchment paper as handles, lift loaf from pan, and cool completely on wire rack, about 1 hour. Slice and serve.

Marilyn's Note: I found the halvah (made in Lebanon) at an Lebanese restaurant/market in Asheville. They only had plain or pistachio, so I went with the pistachio.
All my other GF entries are baked in 8x8" pans, so I opted to do that here rather than use a 9x5" bread pan. I started out at 40 minutes...then 5 minutes more, then 5 more. Edges tested done before middle but that's life. The only change I made was to add more nut to make the pistachios obvious...especially since I didn't have to worry about that aspect. That's Sarah's problem.

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I still find 1400 cookies mind boggling, and now everyone gets a box to take home! I just made individual bagged cookies to give out as favors at my nieces wedding. (Now I feel like a loser, lol.)

After all that I hope somebody is in charge of giving them out. At my nieceā€™s she either forget, or donā€™t know about walking around as the new couple to tables passing them out. At the end of the night I saw the full basket and went around forcing them on unsuspecting guests that were still there, about 3/4 were leftover.
Marilyn - another good gluten-free and nut-free one that holds well if kept airtight are "Forgotten Kisses" - or meringues. The first time I ever had them was in elementary school when I rode with my crush to the Christmas tree farm and his mother made treats for all of her riders - these cookies. She made them with just plain meringue and chocolate chips. Since then, I have made and had every variation you can imagine. Chopped Andes mints, crushed peppermint, chopped nuts - mostly pecan or almonds, vanilla, chocolate, lemon flavored. And they are so easy - the recipe I have always used uses a preheated oven turned off and just put the cookie sheets in and let them stay there overnight. Next morning, just pull them off the parchment and store in a good air-tight container and they hold well like that for a long time if you can resist eating them. These are completely dry, not the ones that have any softness/chewiness in the center. BUT they are not nearly as hard and dense as the big containers they sell in stores.

2 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1 pound chocolate mints or chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350Ā°. Beat egg whites until stiff; gradually add sugar. Add chopped-up mints or chocolate chips. Drop by spoonfuls onto brown paper (or parchment paper). Place in oven and turn off. When the oven is cool, the cookies are done.

Yield: 60 small cookies
I love these cookies and have also made them for years. This years GF Christmas cookie plate included them with red stripes. You simply paint some red food coloring onto the side of the pastry bag, fill it and squeeze out your beautiful cookies!
thanks MCM and barb, but my deadline for what I was making for the wedding was 3 weeks ago since I had to plan on what to bring to PA (equipment and food items) and bake. But I have to say, I've learned more about GF baking in the past few weeks than I ever knew before. I'm REALLY hoping the items I've already bake and frozen still taste good when they are thawed.
Here's the final GF list:

Caramel brownies
Chocolate chip
Apricot Thumbprints
Halvah cake
Mint Oat Flour bars
Walnut Tassies
Oatmeal raisin
Hazelnut Thumbprints

These will be packaged, labeled and left at the guest's reception seat ahead of time.
I had enough variation that I won't need to use any of the purchased GF items I bought (GF Oreos, Justin's PB cups, etc)