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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Benne Wafers

Yesterday afternoon my copy of South of Broad by Pat Conroy arrived in the mail. I had a batch of Shrewsbury Cakes baking in the oven and a thunderstorm was just beginning over the parched desert. In all it was a very nice afternoon.

Reading Conroy's new work, set in Charleston, has me longing for the Holy City and its fabulous feast for the senses. In honor of diving into the latest of Conroy's works set in Charleston, I decided to search out an old recipe for Benne Wafers.

Benne Wafers have been popular along the Carolina coast since Colonial times. Benne is a Bantu African word referring to the Sesame Seed. It's these seeds that give this very simple treat it's unique texture and taste. Sesame was a common crop in 17th and 18th Century coastal South Carolina.

There a couple recipes floating around for these. In fact, Charleston Receipts has no fewer than three plus another for a type of benne seed candy! This particular version makes a very thin wafer that is similar to "Lace Cookies." If you like the kind that comes in the souvenir tins in Charleston, increase your flour a bit to get more of a traditional "cookie" and less of a wafer.

So, let's settle back with South of Broad, a cup of tea and a plate of Benne Wafers.


3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sesame (benne) seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking powder


Cream butter and sugar together and mix with other ingredients in the order given. Drop with a teaspoon onto a well-greased cookie pan, far enough apart to allow spreading while baking. Bake in a 325ยบ F oven for 7-10 minutes.

Yield: 7 dozen.

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