My friend and I had been talking about going for shaved ice for days. It was the smooth and creamy-style of shaved ice, where the ice is brushed up into ripples like bundled taffeta. The elegant pale grey of the black sesame flavour lent it the stately air of a flounce of ruffles that could be found at the sleeve of a nineteenth-century ball gown. And, most importantly, each order was voluminous: mounded up on the plate to reach approximately the volume of a small roast chicken.
Blinded by the beauty of its excess, we didn’t quite reckon with the reality of its quantity. A quarter of way through I was thoroughly done with black sesame. Halfway, I was full. By the three-quarter point I began to employ the secret technique of mashing the shaved ice into the melted pool at the bottom of the plate to make it seem as though there was less. My friend, a considerably more virtuous person than me, continued to eat with gallant determination until even she broke down and succumbed to her fullness. The plate had transformed from enticing mountain to a sneering, melting pool of a failure – and we left in shame.
This happened a couple years ago, and from that point on, my love for black sesame was broken. I still like it, but not in the same way I used to. I was recalling this experience with my friend recently and found out that she never particularly cared much for black sesame to begin with… choosing black sesame was all my idea! (At least a fruit flavour would have been more manageable!)
Anyways, somehow, here is a black sesame babka. Eaten by the slice – buttery bread, with a toasted black sesame filling, a bit of icing for sweetness – it’s distinctly black sesame (but not too much black sesame as even I still enjoy it!). Besides, at one point, I did properly love this loaf – it’s a refresh of this old black sesame babka from my blog’s early days. I’ve made this one with instant yeast instead of sourdough and extra swirly for even more black sesame filling (oh joy).
black sesame babka
Dough adapted from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.
- 150g bread flour or all purpose flour
- 115g whole wheat flour
- 25g granulated sugar
- 1 tsp instant yeast
- 4g kosher salt
- 1 1/2 large eggs
- 95g water
- 75g soft butter
- 60g soft butter
- 60g ground black sesame seeds
- 30g granulated sugar
- beaten egg for eggwash
- 50g icing sugar
- 1 tbsp milk or as needed
Begin by making the dough. In the bowl of a standmixer, whisk together the flours, yeast, sugar and salt. Add the water and eggs and mix until a rough dough is formed. The dough will be rather stiff. Use the dough hook to knead for a few minutes or until the dough smoothes out.
Add the soft butter a chunk at a time and work into the dough using the dough hook. As more butter is incorporated, the dough will become softer. You’ll have to scrape down the dough hook every so often as the dough rides up. Once all the butter is incorporated, knead for a few minutes until the dough is very smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise until doubled, an hour or two – or at this point, put the dough in the fridge to rise overnight.
Prepare the filling by mixing together all the filling ingredients.
Butter a loaf pan and line with a sling of parchment paper.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle about 38x28cm. Spread with the filling, sparing one strip of dough along a long edge where you will seal the roll. Brush that strip of dough lightly with water. Roll up into a log start at the opposite long edge and seal. Cut the roll in half length wise. Turn so both cut ends are facing up. Wind the two halves together by lifting up one end and placing it over the other, always keeping the cut sides facing up. Fold the braid in half (still keeping the cut edges facing upwards) and place in the prepared loaf pan.
Let rise for an hour or two until puffed.
Later in the rise, preheat the oven to 400F.
Brush the loaf with egg wash. Place in the oven and bake for 5 minutes at 400F, then turn the temperature to 350F for the remainder of the baking.
Bake the babka for around 30-40 minutes or until the babka is nicely browned and the internal temperature is at least 180F.
To prepare the glaze, whisk the icing sugar with the milk, adding enough for a thick but runny glaze. Drizzle over the loaf once it has cooled and is only warm, not hot. Let loaf finish cooling for the glaze to set.