black sesame babka

black sesame babka
black sesame babka
black sesame babka

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.

black sesame babka
black sesame babka
black sesame babka
black sesame babka
black sesame babka

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

black sesame babka

Dough adapted from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. 

dough

  • 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

filling

  • 60g soft butter
  • 60g ground black sesame seeds
  • 30g granulated sugar

baking

  • beaten egg for eggwash

glaze

  • 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.

roasted strawberry star anise ice cream with black sesame caramel swirl

strawberry, star anise and black sesame caramel ice cream

This ice cream is another quasi-take on PB&J: an ice cream base infused with star anise and roasted strawberry puree, and swirled through with a black sesame caramel.

Roasting fruit and then pureeing it into ice cream base has become one of my favourite ways of incorporating fruit into ice cream (I have another couple recipe drafts using this technique with apricots and cherries!). It’s a technique I borrowed from Stella Park’s cherry ice cream, where roasting reduces down the fruit and makes up a significant portion of the base. Though, unlike the original recipe, I like to put in full puree instead of straining in because that way I don’t need quite as much fruit and there’s no chance of waste!

strawberry, star anise and black sesame caramel ice cream
strawberry, star anise and black sesame caramel ice cream
strawberry, star anise and black sesame caramel ice cream
strawberry, star anise and black sesame caramel ice cream

Some reasons to love roasting fruit for ice cream: Firstly, it reduces the water content of the fruit, preventing the ice cream base from becoming crystalline. Second, it also makes for a thicker ice cream base which better holds air from churning and fluff up more (this is only a concern when you churn your ice cream by hand). Finally, I think the concentrated fruit mixture also helps keep the ice cream a bit softer at freezer temperature – though whether that’s due to the first two reasons or something about fibre content, I’m not sure!

strawberry, star anise and black sesame caramel ice cream
strawberry, star anise and black sesame caramel ice cream
strawberry, star anise and black sesame caramel ice cream
strawberry, star anise and black sesame caramel ice cream

This ice cream has gone through a few renditions to get here. The first time I made this ice cream, I tried to use swirl straight black sesame paste into the ice cream. But I found that frozen black sesame paste has a pretty terrible texture for ice cream swirling – it stiffened immediately upon contact with the ice cream and spotted the ice cream with grey fragments.

It was later when I was photographing an ice cream with a caramel sauce that I noticed the caramel kept a wonderful, soft, swirly texture even when frozen (yay sugar!). So in my second try, I made a caramel to act as a vehicle for the black sesame paste. Diluting the paste in caramel also let me add plenty of swirls while keeping the black sesame flavour from overwhelming the ice cream base. But I found that the ice cream was a bit too rich and cloying as the roasted strawberries had lost their brightness.

So for the third attempt, I reduced the proportion of cream a bit and added plenty of lemon juice to brighten the strawberry puree – while the roasted strawberries do taste different from fresh, the acidity keeps the ice cream a bit brighter, all the better to contrast against the sweet, salty and nutty black caramel. Finally, if you’re no so into the black sesame, I also quite like the roasted strawberry and star anise ice cream base on it’s own, so skip the caramel if prefer!

strawberry, star anise and black sesame caramel ice cream

strawberry star anise ice cream with black sesame caramel swirl

  • Servings: about 2 cups ice cream base
  • Print

You’ll only use about half of the caramel. As it makes a fairly small amount of ice cream, if you want to double the recipe, you only need to double the strawberries and ice cream base (there is sufficient caramel for a double recipe). 

black sesame caramel swirl

  • 55g granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 70g heavy cream, heated until quite warm
  • Two finger pinch worth of kosher salt
  • 18g roasted black sesame paste, or to taste

roasted strawberries

  • 400g chopped strawberries
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice, or to taste

ice cream base

  • 180g heavy cream
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 120g whole milk
  • 20g granulated sugar
  • 2 egg yolks

black sesame caramel swirl

Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Heat over medium high to dissolve the sugar, then allow it to bubble away, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar caramelizes. Cook to an amber – lighter if you prefer sweeter, and darker if you prefer a bit of bitterness.

Remove from the heat and pour in the hot cream carefully (it will bubble up) and stir to mix. If lumps of hard caramel form, return to the heat and stir until melted. Stir in the salt.

Transfer the caramel to a bowl and stir in the black sesame paste. Set aside to cool completely.

roasted strawberries

Roast at 350F for about 20-25 minutes or until shrunken/reduced, cooked through and the juices have mostly evaporated (after the evaporative losses, I ended up about 180g worth of roasted strawberries.) Transfer to a container (I like to transfer it directly to the cup that comes with the immersion blender as I’ll be blending it eventually) and let cool. Stir in the fresh lemon juice – the strawberries lose their brightness when roasted, and this helps recover it.

ice cream base

Combine the heavy cream and the star anise. Place in the fridge for 24 hours to cold infuse. The next day, fish out the star anise from the cream and set aside.

Get a double boiler ready – set a small saucepan of simmering water on the stovetop and find a glass bowl that fits on top. Whisk together milk, egg yolks and sugar in the bowl. Add the star anise. Place the bowl over the pot of simmering water and stir constantly with a rubber spatula until the temperature reaches about 165F, or thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon and hold a line drawn in it.

Pass through a sieve to and ensure no fragments of star anise remain. Transfer to a container, add the infused cream, and chill.

Add the chilled ice cream base the roasted strawberries and puree until smooth, either using an immersion blender (most convenient) or a stand blender/food processor. 

Put a pan or a container into the freezer so it will be pre-chilled.

Churn the base in an ice cream maker. Stop while the ice cream base is still fairly soft so you can swirl in the caramel a bit. If the caramel doesn’t drip from a spoon, stir in a bit more cream. Spread half the ice cream into the bottom of the pan and drizzle with some black sesame caramel. Repeat with the remaining ice cream and drizzle with more caramel. You’ll have quite a leftover caramel – save the remainder for serving or other applications.

black sesame & persimmon paris-brest

black sesame & persimmon paris-brest
black sesame & persimmon paris-brest

My posts have been fairly substance-less of late. I had meant to spend more time writing about things that matter far more than getting a proper puff on your choux or preventing soggy bottoms – pandemic fallout, policing and media to name a couple things. Yet, I’ve gradually returned to solid frivolities – a return signifying the privileges I have to be able to disengage from matters of life-and-death for others, at least on the blog front. Recently the pace of life has picked up again and I’ve landed myself with quite a few more responsibilities (which I was rather enjoying the lack of during the last few months). While I’ve been having more significant conversations with family and friends (US politics top of mind, of course), as far as the blog goes, I’ll need to find a new equilibrium.

Writing this blog is certainly extremely low impact, but I think it contributes to the general milieu where we hear these issues emphasized over and over from various channels. It helps keep me from lapsing into (more) complacency – and organizing my thoughts in writing first helps me talk about them in person.

Continue reading “black sesame & persimmon paris-brest”

black sesame & raspberry tarts

black sesame & raspberry tarts

These tarts have a pairing of two strong flavours that manage to hold up against each other: tart raspberry and toasted black sesame. They have a chocolate tart shell filled with caramelized white chocolate and black sesame mousse, topped with raspberry jam, raspberries and a black sesame brandy snap. I don’t know that I’d call it the most harmonious flavour combination, but I think it works nonetheless in it’s own bickering way.

black sesame & raspberry tarts
black sesame & raspberry tarts
black sesame & raspberry tarts
black sesame & raspberry tarts

My favourite part of this tart is the black sesame brandy snap – a crisp wafer that tastes of caramel, butter, and well-toasted black sesame (like a thinner and lacier sesame snap). I’ve made them before, such as in this black sesame ice cream sundae, but in this case I’ve made them larger and baked them in rings so that they come out perfectly circular and the same size as the tarts.

This was inspired by fancy tarts I’ve seen with discs of tempered chocolate perched overtop piped ganache. As I don’t know how to work with chocolate, I thought a lacy brandysnap would be an easy substitute instead. (The recipe makes plenty of extra to nibble on!)

black sesame & raspberry tarts
black sesame & raspberry tarts
black sesame & raspberry tarts

black sesame and raspberry tarts

Mousse a vague sort of average of chocolate and non-chocolate mousse recipes and an amount of gelatin based on guesswork and a bit of trial-and-error. Jam based on the pectin package instructions. Brandy snaps adapted from BBC Good Food.

special equipment: four 4″/10cm tart rings (I use some conveniently-sized cookie cutters)

cocoa tart shell

  • 175g all-purpose flour
  • 18g icing sugar
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 113g (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg, cold

black sesame and caramelized white chocolate mousse

  • 40g whole milk
  • 45g roasted black sesame paste
  • 45g heavy cream
  • 45g white chocolate (or caramelized white chocolate)
  • good pinch salt
  • 1 tsp powdered gelatin bloomed in 1 tbsp water
  • 145 whipped cream

raspberry jam

  • 135g raspberries
  • 15g granulated sugar
  • 6g pectin

black sesame brandy snaps

  • 36g butter
  • 36g brown sugar
  • 36g corn syrup
  • 3/4 tsp brandy or rum (optional)
  • 36g flour
  • good pinch salt
  • 18g lightly toasted black sesame seeds

assembly

  • about 60 raspberries

black sesame tart shell

Place the flour, icing sugar, cocoa powder, salt and sugar into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter chunks and process until the mixture resembles fine crumbs, then add the egg and pulse until the dough comes together into a ball. Divide the dough in half and roll out each between parchment to about 3mm thick. Chill completely.

For more details and photographs of lining tart rings (including an alternate tidier, but a bit trickier, method), look at this page. Have four 4″ tart rings and a baking tray lined with a sheet of parchment ready.

Use the tart rings to cut a base for the tarts from one half of the rolled dough. Then trim the remaining piece of dough into a rectangle and slice into long strips – they should be longer than the circumference of the rings and a bit wider than the height of the tart rings. Take a strip and use it to line the sides of a tart ring, cutting the excess length and pressing the two edges together to seal (have a bit of overlap to help seal). Press along the seam between the bottom and side to seal.

Cover and chill the tart shells completely. Preheat the oven to 350F. Prick the bases of the tart shells all over with a fork. Bake the tart shells until crisp, around 25 minutes.

black sesame and caramelized white chocolate mousse

Heat the milk until steaming, the whisk into the black sesame paste. Separately, heat the cream until it boils, then pour over the white chocolate. Allow to sit for a few minutes, then whisk until smooth. Combine the two mixtures along with a pinch of salt.

Melt the bloomed gelatin (5-10 seconds by microwave), and whisk into the black sesame paste/white chocolate mixture. If the mixture is hot, let it cool a bit more, but not enough such that it sets. Then whisk a dollop of the whipped cream into the mixture to lighten and then fold in the remainder.

Distribute the mousse amongst the four prebaked tart shells until nearly the top and shake back and forth to level the mousse. You may have a few spoonfuls leftover.

raspberry jam

Place the raspberries and granulated sugar together in a small saucepan and crush with a fork. Cook until the mixture comes to a simmer and the raspberries have broken down. Stir in the pectin and bring the mixture to a boil to dissolve the pectin. Pass the mixture through a sieve to remove the seeds. Chill until ready to use.

black sesame brandy snaps

This will make enough for about 9-10 brandy snaps, though we’ll only need four. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a tray with parchment paper and place the same 4-inch tart rings you used to bake the tart shells on the tray.

Melt the butter, brown sugar and corn syrup in a small saucepan. Once melted, combine with the brandy/rum, flour, salt and black sesame.

Dollop 2 tsp of batter in the centre of each ring. Bake for around 10-12 minutes or until golden brown – the batter will bubble and should spread until it fills the ring. Let cool on the tray before moving, and then repeat with the remaining batter until it is all used up.

Once completely cooled, keep the brandy snaps in an airtight container until use.

assembly

Assemble just before serving to keep the brandy snaps crisp. Spread a thin layer of raspberry jam on top of the mousse. Arrange raspberries on top, approximately 15 on each tart, beginning with a ring around the edge. Place a brandy snap on top (I prefer the bottom side of the brandy snap to be up). These tarts can be made about a day ahead of time, but do not put the brandy snap on top until you’re ready to serve – otherwise it will eventually soften from the moisture in the tart.

Recipe and photos updated Jun 2022.

black sesame hotteok

black sesame hotteok
black sesame hotteok
black sesame hotteok

This is day 5 of a series celebrating local Toronto businesses!  Recent events have put many local businesses in a difficult position and unfortunately, it’s not clear when this situation will come to an end. For ten days I’ll be posting recipes inspired by some of my favourite local businesses as my own way of celebrating what they bring to our communities. While we may not be able to visit our local bakeries, cafes and restaurants right now, this is a way of keeping them in mind, and a reminder to support them again once there is a chance.

Hodo Kwaja, a bakery located in one of Toronto’s Koreatowns, is an efficient bustle of activity in the morning. The small nut-brown walnut cakes that the bakery is named after trundle by on a conveyer-belt like waffle iron. Along the way they are methodically filled, either with red bean paste, or my favourite, sweet and milky mashed potato mixed with ground almond or walnut. Bought by the half dozen – or several dozen – they’re scooped from wire baskets into paper bags or boxes.

Next to the hodo kwaja, hotteok, brown sugar filled pancakes are smacked onto an oiled griddle and pressed flat with a large wooden-handled aluminum stamp. Thin, chewy dough surrounds a syrupy centre of molten brown sugar seeping with cinnamon and chopped walnuts.

I first tried the hotteok, years ago when I was just visiting Toronto. “They’re amazing,” my sister promised me. And they were – we shared it as we walked, ripping off pieces of pancake. Think cinnamon sticky bun pressed into a delightfully chewy pancake form – one big enough to hold with both hands and that burns if you bite into it too fast.

black sesame hotteok
black sesame hotteok
black sesame hotteok

I decided to give a try at making hotteok myself. As I tend to do when I make something new, I consulted a variety of recipes – from Allrecipes, Kimchimari, Maangchi and Korean Bapsang. Generally I found that the flour to water ratio was typically 2:1 by volume (the recipes I saw ranged from 2:0.75 to 2:1.25). Some recipes used milk, and some used water – as I was indecisive I used half and half. The proportion of glutinous rice flour varied more, from none to 1/5 to 1/2 of the the total flour, so I used a vague average of 1/4 glutinous rice flour.

I read that while brown sugar, walnut and cinnamon is the classic filling, there’s a growing wealth of creative versions using other sweet or savoury fillings. With that in mind, I tried a black sesame and brown sugar fillling, which produces a tarry toasted caramel and a flavour remniscent of black sesame tang yuan.

These were quite fun to make and very satisfying. I can’t get them nearly as thin, even, and perfectly filled as Hodo Kwaja so I can’t wait to go back. However, that smell of cooking yeast dough and melting brown sugar that fills the kitchen is nearly the same.

black sesame hotteok

chestnut & black sesame hotteok

  • Servings: 8 11cm (4.5 inch) hotteok
  • Print

Based on an amalgamation of Allrecipes, Kimchimari, Maangchi and Korean Bapsang. I made half black sesame and half classic but feel free to double one of the filling recipes and do all one kind.

dough

  • 195g all purpose flour (1 1/2 c + 1 tbsp)
  • 56g glutinous rice flour (1/2 c)
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 120g cold milk (1/2c)
  • 120g boiling water (1/2c)
  • 1 tbsp oil

classic filling (for 4 hotteok)

  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • about 2 tbsp finely chopped walnuts

black sesame filling (for 4 hotteok)

  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp ground black sesame seeds

To make the dough, stir together the flours, salt, sugar and yeast. Stir together the boiling water and cold milk (this will make for a nice warm mixture) and the oil. Add to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until a very sticky dough is formed. Cover with a damp towel and set aside to rise for an hour or so, or until doubled.

Make each filling by stirring together the ingredients.

Lightly grease your hand and work surface as you work with the dough. Divide dough into eight pieces. Flatten the dough into a large round in your palm. Top with 1/4 (about 1 1/2 tbsp) filling and pinch the dough to seal around the filling. Place on a tray lined with parchment and repeat until all the pancakes are filled. At the moment they’ll resemble little buns. Cover with a damp kitchen towel to keep from drying out.

Heat a pan over medium, or a bit on the medium-high side. Brush with oil. Place one of the pieces of dough seam side down on the pan. Brush a large flat spatula with oil and use it to press the dough into a flat pancake. Keep the pressure on the pancake for 30 seconds, then remove the spatula.

Let cook until the bottom is golden and the pancake is slightly puffed. Flip over and cook on the other side until golden as well.

The hotteok are best eaten warm – if they’re not fresh from the pan, rewarm them in the microwave to remelt the filling.

Update notes: Updated Feb 2022.

black sesame hotteok

black sesame & chestnut layer cake

a light black sesame and chestnut layer cake –  as simple as possible with sponge cake and whipped cream

SAM_4345SAM_4398

Today we are keeping it simple with only two steps to what is best described as a very fulfilling experience. Step 1 is to find a low traffic hallway – most promising are uppers floors or the dead-ended hallway adnexa. Step 2 is to seat yourself down with your back against the wall and enjoy the wonders of having such an expanse of space to sit (you can cross your legs or even stretch them out if you’re really feeling ambitious) – as well as to pile up the requisite winter combo (i.e. the coat + the mitts + the hat + the scarf + …) that the weather requests you carry with you everywhere. Feel immensely comfortable – until your back begins to ache a bit – because while simple, it is one of life’s finest pleasures.

Somehow, until yesterday, I think it’s been years since I’ve sat on the floor in front of my locker. I keep the instructions general to facilitate sitting on the floor even in situations without lockers, but while secluded hallways are good, it is the locker that is essential for peace of mind. The proximity of the locker gives you a sense of belonging and ownership over the four vinyl floor tiles that you occupy. As inconvenient as it may be for locker neighbours and passer-bys in the case of narrower hallways, you can feel steadfast in your randomly assigned administrative-given right to root yourself in place. (I imagine that even if an adjacent locker is not yours, if you have enough self-confidence to project the possibility that it could be yours to those passing by, that would also suffice).

Continue reading “black sesame & chestnut layer cake”

black sesame & kinako cookies

The first (and only) time I had warabi mochi, it was still warm. Small scoops on a plate, still jelly-like and delicate, covered with a generous pile of kinako. The kinako was powdery, lightly sweet and wonderfully toasty.

Two things to take away: first, there is a world beyond what I know of mochi, and second, it can be important and eyeopening to eat mochi freshly made, and let’s add a last one: kinako.

Continue reading “black sesame & kinako cookies”

white nectarine black sesame mochi tart

SAM_8203

There was a time when I was a voracious reader. I read with a burning passion and an aggressive fury (well, at least in my memories of my younger self). I would take a book and sit down for as long as need be to finish it; then I would pick up the second; luckily I was at the age where you only needed a couple hours to finish a book. When I went to the library it was more about quantity than quality, (though there was this one book about a stray dog that I read at least five times over, and cried in the same four identical places every time—it was a tragic, tragic story).

My parents supported my hobby completely; it kept me quiet and out of the way, and they probably thought it meant I was smart (so sorry that didn’t turn out). I sometimes would read through dinner and if I started reading just before I went to bed, it also meant I read through the night.

Continue reading “white nectarine black sesame mochi tart”