the recipe can be made with or without the nuts, both ways are good. so, go ahead and try it. i'm sure you'll like it :) only caveat is not to overbake the shortbread or it will get hard and have too dark of a colour. the tahini paste can be easily purchased in major supermarkets these days, at specality stores or even made yourself at home if you cannot get it ready made.
this mediterranean or mideastern-type shortbread is a nice deviation from the norm and is perfect for that strong cup of turkish coffee or espresso. simply made from butter, tehina paste, brown sugar and some flour, it bakes into a beautiful dessert, especially when adding pecans. of course, nuts are optional but they do make a big difference.
yields 16 pieces
3/4 c butter
1/2 c tehina [sesame seed paste (aka tahini)]
1 1/4 c brown sugar, packed
1/4 tsp salt
2 c cake and pastry flour (or AP), unsifted
1/2 c chopped & toasted pecans or almonds
16 whole pecans or almonds, for garnish
preheat the oven to 375F and lightly butter two 7 inch round pans. if using 8 inch ones, you will need to bake the shortbread for less time and it will be much thinner. i suggest 7 inch pans.
if using the nuts, toast them first (not the reserved 16!) and chop them medium coarsely or smaller and set aside for later. you'll probably need about 3/4 to 1 c of whole nuts for the 1/2 c chopped amount. i've never measured beforehand.
in food processor or with mixer, blend the softened butter with the tehina paste until it is well blended.
add the sugar and salt and blend again until well mixed and smooth.
add the flour and blend again.
add the nuts, if using, and mix well. it will be a stiff mixture.
divide the mixture into two and place one half of the mixture into the greased pan.
press it down with your hands and use the other unfilled pan to compact it. the mixture should be about a 1/4 inch thick. do the same for the other pan.
lightly score the shortbread with a spatula or knife into 8 equal segments and press a nut into each piece.
bake for only 15 minutes or less. the edges should be slightly browned. keep watch or it may cook too fast.
remove from oven and after about 10 minutes, cut through the segments very carefully. it is more difficult to do if you used nuts in the mixture and as you get to the edges. you must cut it before it cools or it will crumble to pieces.
wait for it to cool completely. don't take it out before or it will fall apart; it needs time for the sugar and butter to set into a solid.