Sunday, August 30, 2009
Back in July, I spent some time in Tobago. This post was inspired by my memories of that trip and the taste of a popular Tobagonian treat called, Bene balls.
Bene or Benne is an African word for Sesame seed. I secretly call these Tobago Jawbreakers and they are my guilty pleasure. Considerable effort is required to bite into one; the old and infirm need not apply. Oh, but they are so good. Family and friends upon hearing of your intent to visit the island of Tobago will beleaguer you with requests to bring them some Bene Balls.
My stash from that July trip did not last very long and I decided I should try to make my own. It's super easy to do and I can't imagine why I never thought to make them before.
Trinibagonians abroad who can't get home and need a nostalgia fix. This is the real deal.
I was surprised that not one of my many Caribbean cookbooks had a recipe for this. Maybe it’s a Tobago national secret; a closely guarded formula like Angostura bitters? Never fear I finally wrangled an authentic recipe from a Tobagonian friend.
NB (Nota Bene): I have strayed away from the traditional ball shape and added honey so as to make it softer and more pleasantly crunchy. Your dentist will thank me I’m sure.
1 cup sesame seeds
4 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
4 tablespoons honey
1. Line a 8 x 8 inch brownie pan with a sheet of waxed paper. Coat the waxed paper with cooking spray. Coat a silicone spatula with cooking oil spray. In a medium skillet, toast the sesame seeds over medium-low heat, stirring often, until they're fragrant and golden, 7 minutes to 10 mins
2. In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar and honey. Cook over low heat, until the sugar is melted and the mixture is thick. No need to sir. Cook until the sugar reaches the soft ball stage. I keep a small bowl of water on the cook top to test the sugar. Use a teaspoon and drop a small amount of sugar in the water. Feel the sugar with your finger you should be able to roll it into a soft ball. At this point add the sesame seeds to the sugar and stir well with a wooden spoon.
3.Use the greased silicone spatula. Scrape the mixture into the brownie pan and onto the paper. Press down and smooth the mixture until it Is evenly spread across the bottom of the pan.
4. Cut the candy into 1-inch squares with a sharp knife. Let the candy cool completely. Break apart the pieces and store them in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes about twelve squares.
TIP: Another way to prepare these squares would be to coat two large sheets of waxed paper with cooking spray. Place one sheet of the waxed paper on a work surface, greased-side up. Scrape the mixture onto the paper and top it with the remaining sheet of waxed paper, greased-side down. Using a rolling pin, roll the mixture into a square about 1/4 inch thick.
Posted by Wizzy John at 5:33 PM