Christmas cookies are one of the most endearing and enduring symbols of the holidays. Every year I bake dozens to give as gifts and to enjoy with family and friends.

Cookies rival candy as an indulgent snack, but they are more healthful. They are less formal than cake, and more satisfying in a homey way.

Cookies are also a guaranteed way to make friends. There is something magical about a cookie. At this time of year, they can pop up anywhere.

They're passed around at offices, warehouses, factories, schools and club meetings. They decorate mantels, trees, and packages.

Cookies are a symbol of good cheer, hospitality, festivity, and heritage. Every culture has its traditional cookies -- amaretti, madeleine, kringla, pizelle, biscotti. There are crescents, wafers, squares, bars, spirals, tartlets, and drops. 

I hear from Santa that these are one of his favorites. These "Benne Wafers," are a Christmas staple in many southern homes. I have been baking these unique cookies every Christmas for over 20 years. They're crisp, full of flavor, travel well, and keep well. Best of all, they're not complicated to make. 

Sesame Wafers

1 cup sesame seeds
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Have ready a small bowl for the toasted sesame seeds.  Heat a saucepan over medium heat, add seeds, and toast them for about 5 minutes, stirring briskly and constantly.  Immediately transfer to bowl.  The seeds should have popped, but not be smoking.
This year my 4-year old grandson helped
make cookies, wearing the cowboy apron
I made for him.

Beat butter with sugar until smooth and creamy.  Add eggs and vanilla, and combine well.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add to butter mixture, and mix well.  Stir in sesame seeds.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or as long as a few days.  Dough may also be wrapped in airtight bag and stored in freezer for a few months.

Shape dough into 1/2-inch balls.  Place on lightly buttered baking sheets.  Flatten to 1/8-inch thickness with a floured, flat-bottom glass.

Bake in a 325-degree oven for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Transfer to wire racks to cool.  Makes 6 dozen cookies.