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.
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.
Get our new Cooking newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.