I credit my days living in New York’s Chinatown for helping me discover the beauty of black sesame. It was always my flavor of choice at bubble tea shops and at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory which in turn inspired me to recreate the ice cream at home. I had never baked with black sesame seeds before but had torn out a recipe for Black Sesame-Pear Tea Cake a while back that intrigued me so decided to give it a whirl.
The recipe instructs you to combine several tablespoons of whole black sesame seeds along with a half-cup of ground up seeds as well. I put my coffee grinder to use and worked those seeds until they turned into a beautiful paste. Besides black sesame seeds, the only other ingredient that is slightly out of the norm in the recipe is almond meal which can be found in most any grocery store these days. Bob’s Red Mill makes a great one.
Word to the wise: I often have buttermilk on hand for various baking exploits but it can easily be made in your kitchen in a pinch. Simply put a tablespoon of white vinegar in a measuring cup and add a cup of milk and let them sit for 5 minutes. Voila! Way easier than changing out of your sweatpants, putting make-up on in the off-chance of running into someone you know and driving to the grocery store to buy some while in the midst of your baking project. You’re welcome.
Be sure to use a ripe pear– mine was slightly less than ripe and even though it softened in baking I think the pear flavor would have been more pronounced if I had used a properly ripe pear. I can assure you it was still delightful though. It’s the kind of cake you make when you want to have a lovely cup of tea and not feel like a total fatty after a meal. It’s light and sweet and the black sesame has an almost savory flavor, not unlike peanut butter. In other words, totally awesome.
Black Sesame-Pear Tea Cake (found at www.epicurious.com)
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more
- 1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup almond flour or almond meal
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons plus ½ cup black sesame seeds
- 1 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- ¾ cup buttermilk
- 1 (medium) firm but ripe Bosc pear, peeled, cored, cut into 1/4″ cubes
Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter one 9x5x3″ loaf pan or six 4x2x2″ paper or metal loaf pans. Whisk 1 ½ cups flour, next 4 ingredients, and 2 tablespoons sesame seeds in a medium bowl. Grind remaining ½ cup sesame seeds in spice mill to form a thick paste, about 2 minutes.
Using an electric mixer, beat ½ cup butter and 1 1/3 cups sugar in a large bowl until well combined, 2-3 minutes. Add sesame paste and beat, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until blended, 1-2 minutes. Add egg and egg yolk. Beat until pale and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. On low-speed, beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Toss pear with remaining 2 tablespoons flour in a small bowl; fold into batter.
Spoon batter into prepared pan; smooth top. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.
Bake until a tester comes out clean when inserted into center, about 1 hour 40 minutes for large loaf and 45-55 minutes for small loaves. Let cool in pans on a wire rack.