Baqsum, or sesame biscotti, are the Chaldean version of Italian biscotti. Dipped in milk and covered with roasted sesame seeds, these crunchy cookies with hints of cardamom are the perfect accompaniment to coffee or tea. I find it challenging to limit myself to just one baqsum. Two. Three. I’ll eat a few before I realize how many I’ve actually eaten. We don’t have often baqsum in the house. They are a treat that’s made for special occasions, holidays…etc. My dad mentioned that baqsum was a special dessert in Iraq, made at home only when company was expected. They always ate them with chai, often before dinner.
Unlike biscotti, which are baked twice, first as a dough log, and second as slices, baqsum are rolled individually and baked only once. It makes the prep process a bit longer, but the extra effort is worth it.
I’ve made sesame biscotti only twice before. Once, I baked them with Nana, my grandmother on my dad’s side. I wanted to learn her recipe and more importantly, how she shaped them into consistently perfectly little bites. The second time I made baqsum, I was on my own.
This particular recipe takes the classic baqsum to the next level. Each sesame biscotti is stuffed with a mixture of dates, sesame seeds, walnuts, and cardamom. It makes every bite crunchy, with a sweet surprise. I baked this batch with my mom. You can see her expert hands lovingly mixing the dates and nuts together in the photos below.
A few notes: depending on how thick you roll out the dough or dates, you may have some dates or dough leftover. If you have remaining dough, just shape it into individual biscotti. If you have leftover dates, roll the mixture into a ball, and dip in sesame seeds.
Prep Time: 1 hour • Cook Time: 25 minutes • Servings: makes about 45 biscotti
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cardamom
4 tbsp milk
1 cup sesame seeds
— Date Filling —
1 lb dates, pitted
1 tsp cardamom
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/3 cup walnuts, crushed
— Date Filling —
Remove the pits from the dates.
Mash the dates. If your dates are soft, you’ll be able to mush them by hand with no problem. If your dates are dry, you’ll need to work them a bit more.
For dry dates: place the dates in a frying pan and add a bit of oil. (Depending on how dry the dates are, you’ll need 2 tablespoons to a quarter cup of oil. Start with less and add more as needed.) Heat the dates and oil at a low-medium temperature, slowly mashing them together. Continue to mash the dates until they together into a thick sticky paste.
Rub a 1/4 teaspoon of oil on the countertop or a baking mat. (The oil keeps the dates from sticking to the surface. As you work with the dates, you may want to spread a bit of oil on your hands as well). Use a rolling pin to roll out the dates, about 1/2 inch thick.
Sprinkle cardamom, sesame seeds, and walnuts over the rolled out dates. Press the nuts and spice into the mixture. Roll the date sheet, so that the nuts are folded in, and the sheet now resembles a log. Fold the date log into a ball, thoroughly mixing the dates with the sesame seeds, walnuts, and cardamom.
Roll the date sheet again, to about 1/2 inch thickness. Cut the sheet into 1/4 inch strips. You should get about 12. Roll each strip into a thin rope, and set aside.
— Dough —
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Pour the milk in a shallow bowl. Pour the sesame seeds into another bowl.
In a bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and cardamom.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs for a few minutes until fluffy. Add vanilla. Add the dry ingredients, and mix until a dough forms. Cover the dough so that it doesn’t dry out as you begin to make the biscotti.
From the large ball of dough, remove about a 2-inch ball of dough, and roll it out to 1/4 inch thickness. Roll the dough long (hotdog vs hamburger) to accommodate the date rope. Place one of the date ropes on top of the rolled out dough. Wrap the dough around the dates. You want only one layer of dough wrapped around the dates, so remove any excess dough as you roll. If some of the date log sticks out from the ends, cut it and set aside. You may need it to fill some gaps in the biscotti.
Cut the roll into two or three biscotti (the number of biscotti you get from each roll will depend on how long the roll is). I kept each of my biscotti about 3 inches long, but you can make them any size you like.
Pour milk in a shallow bowl. Dip one side of each biscotti in milk, and then dip in sesame seeds. Place the biscotti on a baking tray.
Bake the baqsum for about 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve with coffee or tea, and enjoy!