First things first: Why Bert’s? Sharon Tyler Herbst calls Bert Greene her dear friend, and attributes this recipe (save the “soupçon” of fresh orange zest — that’s all hers) to him.
Second, why benne? Turns out benne (pronounced benny) is a word of West African origin (from the Mandé, Bambara, Wolof and Malinké family of languages) that means sesame seed. That’s right. Like yams, collard greens, and peanuts, sesame seeds came to the United States from sub-Saharan Africa with slaves. Apparently, they’ve been baking benne wafers in the South ever since.
And who could blame them? Rich with butter, ultra-thin and nutty, these cookies are sweet crunchy wafers. There’s a bit of southern pecan pie goodness in every bite with a surprising twist of toasted sesame seed flavor thrown into the mix that’s almost peanut-like. I like them. Bruce thinks they’re a bit weird. Kate? She is as yet an undecided voter. They are supposed to bring good luck, so I baked them for Election Day. We will see how well that turns out in the morning.