Deirdre's Coconut and Sesame Shortbread

October 25, 2011
3 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes about 24 cookies
Author Notes

My first ringside view experience of a real Christmas celebration was in 1970-something in Nairobi, Kenya. Our Landlady, Mrs. Lucy Coutinho, was originally from Goa, and just as my mother used to go into a hyperdrive mode, preparing munchies for Diwali, "Lucy Aunty" would do the same for Christmas. Her Goan dishes were to die for. Biscuits (or "cookies," in American lingo) of many flavors, fruitcake (I confess, I LOVE fruitcake), cheese straws, and "karanji" (a coconut- & sesame-filled deep fried dumpling).

The Indian state of Goa was previously a Portuguese territory and is situated on the shore of the Arabian Sea, south of Mumbai. The cuisine is unique, an amalgam of Portuguese, Western, and South Indian influences: For example, coconuts paired with jaggery (unrefined cane sugar), integrated into European-style dishes.

I first made a coconut and sesame shortbread last Christmas at the request of an old school friend, Deirdre Pereira, and did a borderline "Pygmalion." This year's variation incorporates the Ingredients used for masala tea, cardamom, ginger, black pepper, cinnamon —Panfusine

Test Kitchen Notes

These shortbread cookies come together quickly and easily—a plus during hectic holiday baking. In terms of flavor, they fight a palatable battle between sweet and savory, with the sesame, black pepper, cardamom, and coconut at the front lines. Fortunately, there is a peaceful resolution, as the flavors balance each other perfectly. The shortbread is quite spicy, and together with the nuttiness of the sesame and coconut, it makes a sophisticated addition to any dessert table and is perfect for afternoon tea.

What You'll Need
  • 1/2 cup frozen shredded coconut, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted 'til light brown
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pinch cloves
  1. Preheat oven to 325° F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a dry pan, toast the shredded coconut until it turns a light reddish brown color and starts emitting a "coconutty"' aroma. Set aside to cool, then combine with the toasted sesame seeds. Add these to the flour and combine to disperse the sesame and coconut uniformly.
  3. Cream the sugar and butter till light and fluffy. Add the spices and combine well.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and work into a ball of dough, just until it all comes together. Wrap in a plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour.
  5. Remove the dough and roll it into a 1/4-inch-thick sheet. Using either a pastry wheel or a cookie cutter, cut out shapes and place on the parchment-paper lined baking sheets.
  6. Bake for about 12 to 14 minutes, till the edges begin to appear brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Posie (Harwood) Brien
    Posie (Harwood) Brien
  • wssmom
  • gingerroot
  • hardlikearmour
  • Panfusine
A biomedical engineer/ neuroscientist by training, currently a mommy blogger on a quest for all things food - Indian Palate, Global perspective!

8 Reviews

Posie (. January 19, 2017
Any particular reason why you freeze then thaw the coconut (other than that's how you store it)?
Panfusine January 19, 2017
I just grate and freeze fresh coconut
wssmom November 12, 2011
Congrats on the CP!
Panfusine November 12, 2011
thanks wssmom!
gingerroot November 3, 2011
These sound amazing! I love your incorporation of Masala tea ingredients. Yum.
Panfusine November 3, 2011
Thanks Gingerroot!
hardlikearmour October 26, 2011
Wow! These have my name written all over them. They sound delightful.
Panfusine October 26, 2011
Thanks sdebrango.. Hard as it is to keep from noshing, I've saved them up for my Food52 potluck goody bags