These black sesame shortbread rune cookies look like beautiful stone runes but are also absolutely delicious to eat. I am so excited to be sharing this recipe, which comes from a book I’ve been loving, Kyotofu: Uniquely Delicious Japanese Desserts by Nicole Bermensolo and Elizabeth Gunnison Dunn. It’s published by Running Press.
The recipe in Kyotofu is just for straightforward black sesame shortbread cookies, a fantastic recipe, and then I took it a step further and turned these cookies into runes. Now, I don’t know much about runes or rune divination, so bear with me here and I welcome any corrections in the comments section.
You’ll need the following ingredients:
- 2.5 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup of toasted black sesame seeds
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted softened butter
- 1 cup granulated white sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon whole milk (I used soy milk and it worked fine)
First, cream together the wet ingredients: the softened butter with the sugar, and then beat in the egg, and then add the whole milk (per the Kyotofu recipe). I used soy milk only because that’s all I had on hand, and it came out just fine.
Next, grind the toasted black sesame into a fine powder. I used my mortar and pestle and while grinding, added some happy vibes by chanting mantras. Why not. Darn thing takes forever to grind with the mortar and pestle anyway. If you don’t chant mantras to pass the time, you might go insane.
Then I sift in the all-purpose flour, salt, and baking powder in with the grounded black sesame flour. This is the “dry” mix. Combine the dry and wet mix together to form a dough.
The recipe says to refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes. I let it chill for 2 hours.
The original recipe in Kyotofu then says to roll out the dough into a 1/4 inch sheet and stamp out cookies with a cookie cutter. Here’s where I deviated, mostly because I don’t own any cookie cutters. [Not true. I have a giant Hello Kitty cookie cutter that cuts out giant cookies, but I didn’t want giant black sesame shortbread cookies. I wanted these to be relatively bite size.]
Instead, I rolled the dough into about 3/4-inch balls, just a bit under 1 inch. You’ll want your hands floured while you work with this dough.
I used a scotch whiskey glass to stamp the balls down into flat discs.
Again, make sure the bottom of the whiskey glass is evenly floured or else your dough balls with stick to the glass. Spoken from experience.
I stamp out the cookies to about 1.5 inches. The whiskey glass makes perfect little discs.
So I was going to stop here, bake, and make cookies, but lately I’ve been teaching myself runes (beginner here, like, less than beginner since to be honest, I haven’t actually started the learning…) and those cookie discs looked so very plain, so I got the idea to turn these cookies into runes.
I used a cheese knife to carve the rune symbols into the discs. It’s my understanding that I’m using the Elder Futhark alphabet here but hey, what do I know.
Here’s Dagaz, the last rune in the alphabet but the first rune I carved because my reference sheets I had printed out were out of order. Oops. Yet it’s apropos that this is the first rune cookie I carved out because it means breakthrough, epiphany, realization, and I feel like that’s exactly what happened when I decided to make runes out of black sesame shortbread.
I ended up not doing the whole alphabet because this was so effing labor intensive. I also ran out of dough– well, half the dough. I had divided the dough into two balls to chill, and this batch of cookies was made with one of those balls, or one half of the dough. So the full recipe here yields quite a bit of rune cookies actually.
I couldn’t get over how cute these cookies looked. They looked just like stone or clay.
Bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F for (according to the book) 15 minutes. I baked for about 13 and when I took a peek at the cookies, felt like were way done, so took them out at the 13 minute mark and then let it finish “cooking” on the still-hot cookie sheet out on the kitchen countertop.
These cookies are not just for looks. They’re tasty. Light, buttery, sweet but not over-the-top sweet, and rich with that black sesame flavor and aroma. Yum!
Again, I couldn’t get over how these cookies resembled actual runes. If I didn’t present them on a plate and instead set it on an altar surrounded by velvet, crystals, and candles, you wouldn’t have been the wiser.
By the way they do expand a bit in the oven, so they came out probably larger than normal rune divination pieces.
I didn’t want to handle these cookies too much the way you might actually proceed with rune divination. So instead, I had them randomly arranged on a plate, closed my eyes, asked my question, and then felt around with eyes still closed to pick up a rune (cookie).
I drew the Tiwaz rune. I would say this rune is very “me.” The divination exercise works! [Although if you’re legitimately going to try this, I’d carve out rune cookies for the entire runic alphabet… my divination was “rigged” since I wasn’t divining with the full alphabet. Doh.]
OR. Better yet– instead of divination, turn these into blessing cookies! Infuse the cookie prep and baking process with that intent, energetically rev up the cookies, and then those who eat the cookies will be blessed with the blessings their chosen rune has in store for them! Talk about an amazing potluck or bake sale item!