Benne Crackers

The first recipe, after those for drinks, in Charleston Receipts is a benne (sesame seed) “cocktailer” said to have revolutionary powers, at least at cocktail parties. My version shortens the dough with equal parts of butter and lard.


  • 2⅔ cups unbleached (all-purpose) flour
  • teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup lard, chilled
  • about cup ice water
  • 1⅓ cups roasted benne (sesame seeds) additional salt (optional)


Preheat the oven to 300°. Sift the dry ingredients together into a bowl, then cut in the shortening with a pastry blender or 2 knives until it is uniformly distributed. Gradually add the ice water until the dough just begins to hold together (you may not need to use it all). Add the sesame seeds, then form the dough into a ball.

Roll the dough out thin and cut into small crackers. A round wafer is traditional, but I like to use a pig-shaped cookie cutter, lifting the delicate dough with a metal spatula onto a cookie sheet.

Bake for 30 minutes, flipping them over halfway through. If you want a very salty cracker, sprinkle them with a little salt while they are still hot and on the pan. They can cool on the pan. Store in airtight containers.