Sesame Almond Butter Bars

Welcome back, friends! Greece was lovely – shocker – and I am inspired by several of the dishes I had while I was there. In particular:
– Stuffed cherry tomatoes: roasted, savory finger food – amazing!
– Beef with Roquefort and chocolate chips! What a combination – must be repeated
– Manouri cheese: some sort of soft white cheese encrusted with almonds and honey. This was divine.
– Rose petal syrup: I had this on frozen Greek yogurt (ridiculous!) and didn’t realize until the end that it was actual full rose petals in the syrup – so beautiful! as well as delicious. Apparently it’s called “Rose Spoon Dessert”, (not to be confused with a rose non-spoon dessert, which apparently I missed). I bought a jar of this stuff, but I’ve heard you can make it yourself, so we’ll have to look into that.
– AND sesame seed treats (hence the recipe you see here)

The sesame treats came in so many variations – mixed with other seeds and nuts, soft, hard, crunchy, chewy, sticky. Almost always held together with honey. Yum yum!

And it reminded me of these treats we used to make when I was a kid (back before my parents discovered Costco) that were sesame seeds and peanut butter, sweetened with something, and wrapped in wax paper. My mom said the recipe came from Adele Davis’s Recipes for a Small Planet, which she doesn’t have anymore. So I tried looking for something online.

Every recipe I found seemed to call for powdered milk and coconut flakes, like this one from Bake Space which didn’t fit with my memory (from 1st grade, so how would I know) so I approximated.

– I heated 1c of honey (straight from a farmer’s market in Crete – what what!!) with 1/2 cup of a mix of almond butter and tahini and mixed until smooth.
(It called for peanut butter, which I don’t have, and I was running out of almond butter so I supplemented with tahini. I think the tahini made the final result taste more like halvah than it was supposed to, but it worked out!)

– The recipe said to add in 1c powdered milk, which I can’t believe is actually something people still use! I decided to use protein powder instead (they’re both powders!) but a cup seemed like a lot so I used 1/2c. This worked fine. The final result is pretty hearty, but I’m into that, and the texture is fine.

– Then comes the coconut, which I’m still out of, so I toasted an extra half cup of sesame seeds to make up for it (for a grand total of 1 1/2c toasted sesame seeds).

Put it all together, press into a 9x9in pan, refrigerate until set (~an hour).

So sticky!! To itself, and to the wooden utensils I was using, not to my hands (which is what I ended up having to use to press it into the pan, it was so sticky!) or to the pan, so no need to grease.

The result was not crumbly at all, unlike my previous bar attempts. Super sweet and hearty, which makes it hard to categorize. I think if I were going to make them again, and make them as breakfast/snack, I would do more nut/seed butter and less honey. If I was going to go the dessert route, probably I’d use something besides protein powder – maybe almond meal? And maybe I’d make it super thin and then top the squares with something fruity, like preserves.

Also, I would not recommend eating them straight out of the fridge: they’re super dense, and when I tried to cut a square this morning after having left them in the fridge over night, I couldn’t get a knife through it – had to wait a bit for them to soften up. So yeah, cut them and eat them at room temp.

Nothing like what I (sort of) remember from childhood, but delicious!