History of the Benne Wafer
Unique to the Lowcountry since Colonial times, Benne (the Bantu-word for sesame) was brought from East Africa (Madagascar), through West Africa, and brought over to the southern United States by the African slaves. It was planted extensively throughout the South. Other foods brought from Africa in the 17th and 18th century include peanuts, sweet potatoes, okra, black-eyed peas and collard greens.
Sesame is a versatile seed that can be used in many of the same ways as nuts. The seed has a nutty, sweet aroma with a milk-like, buttery taste. When toasted, its flavor intensifies, yielding an almost almond- or peanut butter-like flavor. Rich in calcium, vitamins B and E, iron, and zinc, sesame is high in protein and contains no cholesterol. It is a key ingredient in a variety of world cuisines, especially Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean, but in America we commonly see it topping our sandwich and hamburger buns.
Many Southern recipes call for sesame seed, but none is so loved as the Benne Wafer, a Charleston favorite only available from Olde Colony Bakery. The Benne Wafer is a thin cookie, made with tasty toasted sesame. Our Benne Wafer recipe dates back well over 100 years and is said to be the only existing original Benne Wafer recipe.
We’ve been selling Benne Wafers since 1940 and think they perfectly represent the fine taste and heritage of the Charleston, South Carolina area. The Bantu believe eating these cookies bring good luck, and so do we!