Za’atar — the dried herb itself, and the seasoning blend (which usually includes oregano, thyme, sumac and sesame seeds), is most often used in savory preparations of Middle East extraction: in dressings, on grilled meat or drowned in olive oil to make the perfect dip for warm flatbread.
Shockingly, za’atar works just as well in these crumbly, not-very-sweet cookies. Additional toasted sesame seeds help bridge the savory-sweet gap, evoking tahini, the sesame paste that’s already ubiquitous in American sweets in 2019. Tossing these cookies in powdered sugar while hot creates a welcome layer of sweetness that doesn’t overpower the herb mix.
Za’atar Wedding Cookies
45 minutes. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
- 2 ¼ cups powdered sugar, sifted (9 ounces; see Baker’s Note), divided
- ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ⅓ cup toasted white sesame seeds
- ¼ cup finely ground za’atar (see note), divided
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (9 ounces; see Baker’s Note)
- Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, combine one-fourth cup powdered sugar, the butter, sesame seeds, 2 tablespoons za’atar, the salt and vanilla and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until whipped and light, about 3 minutes (see Baker’s Note). Add the flour and mix on low speed until just combined.
- Using a half-ounce ice cream scoop or 1 tablespoon, portion the dough and roll each portion into a smooth ball before arranging 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.
- Bake, rotating the baking sheets from front to back and top to bottom halfway through, until the cookies are lightly browned on the bottom and set, about 25 minutes.
- While the cookies bake, whisk together the remaining 2 cups powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons za’atar in a large bowl. Immediately after the cookies come out of the oven, work in batches to gently toss them in the za’atar sugar until completely coated. Return them to the baking sheets and let cool completely.
- Once all the cookies are cooled, toss them again in the za’atar sugar until completely coated. When serving, arrange the cookies on a plate and sprinkle with more za’atar, if you like.
Make ahead: The cookies can be stored, covered with any leftover za’atar sugar, in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Baker’s note: When measuring flour or powdered sugar, spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off the excess. Scooping compacts the ingredients, resulting in dry baked goods. And if using a stand mixer, use a rubber spatula to scrape the bottom of the bowl and the paddle after beating the butter and sugar together and after the dough is mixed to ensure the ingredients are evenly mixed throughout.
Note: Za’atar is commonly available in grocery stores, so check your local market before going online. If you live in L.A., stop by Botanica in Silver Lake to buy its za’atar, which is my favorite blend for these cookies. Otherwise, order it online from La Boîte, one of the best spice retailers in the country.