Sicilian Sesame Cookies

2 cups (12 ounces) flour
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
8 tablespoons butter, olive oil or lard (see note)
3 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon honey
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sesame seeds

Combine the flour, sugar and butter in a large bowl until mixture resembles coarse sand. Add the egg yolks, milk, honey, lemon zest and salt; knead with your hands until a dough forms. Roll dough into a ball; cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Heat oven to 350 F. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until light golden, about 5 minutes; shake pan occasionally and do not overcook, or they'll burn. Pour into a shallow bowl or plate; let cool.

Using a fork, beat the egg whites in a small bowl with 3 tablespoons water; set aside.

Divide chilled dough into 4 portions. Roll each section into a log about 1 inch thick; cut log into 1 1/2-inch sections. Dip each section in egg whites, then roll in sesame seeds, covering all sides. Place cookies on baking sheet lined with parchment or foil. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. (Do not overbake; check bottoms of cookies.) Cool cookies on wire rack. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for several weeks and freeze well, too.

Makes 24 cookies.

NOTE: Butter or oil will give these cookies a softer center; lard will make them crunchier.


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