sesame seed

Chocolate Tahini Tea Cake.

Spring really seems to be taking the time in arriving this year.  We've had more downright cold and rainy days than moderately sunny and mild ones, and just when I think I should be craving more bright and light food, I'm drawn back to rib-sticking, carb heavy, comforting things.  Not that I ever need an excuse to bake.  Even in the hottest part of the year, I brave the lighting of my oven.  No matter the season, baking is akin to life-giving breath for me - especially in the sourdough department.  Quick bread making, however, seems to dwindle in the summer months, becoming much more of an occasional task than a weekly one.  

chocolate tahini bread

I was thankful for a rainy day yesterday to sneak in another quick bread before the world heats up, one that was more of a tea cake baked in a loaf form and healthy enough to be breakfast if so desired.  I had been thinking about making something with tahini all week, remembering this piece that Deena wrote recently highlighting it.  I love sesame, but never really have tahini on hand.  It seems that my co-op only stocks unhulled sesame seeds, which turn into a fairly bitter butter when ground and processed in the Vitamix.  On a recent shopping trip, I discovered they had packaged tahini themselves and I couldn't resist picking up a little container even though it goes against my grain of making things myself.

During the week Deena sent me more tahini links, and I was almost sold on this one for flatbreads rolled with sweetened tahini.  But couldn't shake both the feeling that I needed a quick bread, AND a little bit of chocolate.  I certainly didn't expect to hit that sweet spot on the first go, but I did!  A perfect concoction of not-too-sweet, reasonably healthy, and just a tad elegant.

loaf pan liners.

I used loaf pan liners that my parents brought me back from a trip they made to the UK. They are smaller than the standard 9x5 or 10x4 loaf tins I have, but fortunately a friend gave me a couple of Ziploc brand (they said "made in Italy" on the labels) glass loaf dishes.  They come with plastic lids for storage - and I love making loaves in them because it's like I have built in storage after baking.  This recipe fits perfectly into the 2 lb. loaf mold, it will likely bake faster and look a little more shallow if using a different sized tin.  I might actually seek out a metal tin this size, since I like a smaller loaf cake or quick bread that has some height to it.

As I searched for a starting point for this cake, I ended up "de-veganizing" a recipe I found on have cake, will travel.  I took a cue from the apple-walnut tea cake I love so much and used a shredded whole apple, peel and all.  It translates as near-applesauce bits and almost disappears altogether.  Some additional sesame seeds lend a little toothsome interest, and using raw honey makes me feel good in a way that agave nectar would never.  And of course, no new baking adventure happens lately without the addition of milk kefir...

I made this cake by weight - approximate amounts for conventional measure are also given.

Chocolate Tahini Tea Cake (inspired by have cake, will travel)
  • 40 g. cocoa powder (about 1/2 c.)
  • 180 g. ap flour (about 1 1/2 c.) (I used local Lonesome Stone Milling flour which is more wheat than most ap flours)
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 t. fine salt
  • 96 g. tahini (1/4 c. + 2 T.)
  • 210 g. honey (1/2 c. + 2 T.)
  • 113 g. shredded apple, peel and all but core/seeds removed (1 small, 4 oz. apple - or about 3/4 c. shredded)
  • 154 mL whole milk kefir (scant 3/4 c.)
  • 3 T. sesame seeds, divided
 Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare glass loaf tin with a liner or butter generously and flour well.

Sift cocoa powder, ap flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.  In a medium sized bowl, mix the remaining wet ingredients.  Add the well mixed wet ingredients to the dry and use a spatula to fold together until just mixed and no dry areas remain.  Fold in 2 T. of the sesame seeds, and mix just to distribute evenly.

Transfer mixture to prepared loaf pan, and use a knife to smooth the top evenly.  Sprinkle with remaining 1 T. sesame seeds.  Place in the center of the oven and bake for about an hour until a tester comes out clean.  Remove from oven to a wire rack, and cool for 45 minutes before removing the bread from the loaf pan to continue cooling.  Try to let the bread cool completely, about 2 hours, before slicing.

chocolate tahini bread-2

This bread has such a nice texture, almost "puddinglike" in the way that some British puddings are steamed and then marvelously moist-centered.  It has a satisfying sesame flavor, that if you wanted could be further complemented by spreading a slice with equal parts tahini and sugar (or honey), but that wouldn't really be necessary.  It's good enough to enjoy a fat slice alone, with the company of a cup of coffee or tea.  I've taken to storing the leftover in the refrigerator, as much to prevent myself from eating it too quickly as to protect the dense structure and ample fruit moisture.

I love how a tangent can take over my food life, winding away over a few days and inspiring me more by the hour.  I love having dedicated friends who are up for chatting spontaneously about the best uses for ingredients or which recipe to use or tweak for which occasion... and better yet don't find it the least bit strange when the overwhelming craving for sesame seed hits.

chocolate tahini bread-3

Not sure if I ever officially mentioned it here that I broke down and joined Pinterest.  You can find me under the same name: rcakewalk.  I've been enjoying it, and even more, I enjoy following the whims of my friends and seeing how pins morph and manifest into new inspirations.  I'm doing pretty good at going back over things I've saved for later too.  Unfortunately, I rarely make things more than once (when cooking and not baking, that is), but this social tool is also helping me remember things that were wonderful, and is a quick reference when I try to recall or share.  I probably won't (definitely won't) be adding paper straws to things to photograph, but a pin did lead to my Easter Lamb Cake

Bird Bars.

This recipe is for my Mother.  If there is one other person in the world who really "gets" my occasional food obsessions, it's her.  We have so much in common this way; we happily will trade ideas and variations on themes, morphing ideas of what we should be eating with attempts at reducing our collective sweet tooth. 

bird bar.

When she was in town briefly last week, we stopped at my food co-op and she excitedly grabbed a couple of their house made Birdy Bars.  I had never tried them, already being a devotee of their Little Oaties (more than one pregnant trip was made especially to pick up a soft oatmeal cookie sandwich to devour in the car... true story), which is dangerous enough.  But my Mom lives 3 1/2 hours away, so she said before she left, "You have to figure out how to make those, okay?"

So here you go, Mom:  this is my version of the Birdy Bar.  I was surprised that I got it in one try, but having already mastered a number of vegan truffles/energy bars based on nuts, seeds, and the like I had a pretty good working knowledge of what it takes to make a seedy bar stick together.  And, I had saved the ingredient label from the original.  Hopefully, Outpost will forgive my treasonous homemade version - especially since I purchased all my bulk ingredients from them!

bird bar.

The only thing I didn't do this time and would do next time is completely melt the peanut butter and honey and bring it to a just simmer in a small pot.  I had a few dry pockets of seeds, and I think this would make for a more homogenized bar.  That being said, I certainly don't mind the little messy bits:  it gives me the excuse I need to eat the errant snippets on plain yogurt or vanilla ice cream, or even gingery butternut squash soup as seen below...  Substitute almond butter for the peanut butter to make it paleo, and agave for the honey for a vegan option.

Bird Bars (Inspired by Outpost Food Co-op)
yields 9 smaller bars, or 4 "Outpost-sized" bars
  • 1 c. raw sesame seeds
  • 1/2 c. raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 c. raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 c. sultanas (golden raisins)
  • heavy pinch of salt
  • 1/2 c. smooth peanut butter (natural, just peanuts and salt)
  • 1/4 c. honey
Preheat the oven to 325.  Line a 8x8 square pan with parchment paper.

Basically, just mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl until well blended.  As I mentioned in the note above, you could melt the peanut butter and honey together in a small saucepan and then pour over the seedy ingredients to ensure a better mixture.

Press the whole lot into the prepared pan, and bake for about 25 minutes until the seeds around the edges are just starting to look a little golden.  Cool completely in the pan before removing to a cutting board and portioning into bars.  Wrap them individually, and hide half so you don't grab them all right away.

bird bar.
butternut squash soup.

The original version has almonds and dried cranberries, and I'd imagine you could doctor these with just about anything, so long as you don't stray too much from the ratio.  Upping the "wet" ingredients just a little bit might allow for a completely raw bar too - if you're into that sort of thing, but I like the soft set texture of the baked version.

Sesame seeds are actually a good source of calcium, but the unhulled seeds contain far more (like 90-95% more) than the hulled counterparts.  That's something to consider as you add them to your diet for that reason.  I like trying to include more of them in my food because they have anti-inflammatory properties and help with regulating cholesterol, not to mention they are just downright tasty in large quantities.  Recently I made myself a batch of simple granola that was surprisingly great.  You wouldn't think so few ingredients would be so delicious, and really highlight the unique flavor of sesame!

bird bar.

And while I'm talking about granolas, the one on the left in the picture above is what is left from a truly amazing Gingersnap Granola I snagged from the Bojon Gourmet last Friday.  That is another recipe I know my Mom will absolutely love... and I was trying hard to not mention it because I know if I surprised her with a jar of it on our next visit she would be as crazy for it as I am!

It does seem like I have a lot of bird food going on over here as I finally sit to think about what I've made in the past week or so.  I suppose I have enough real food to fill in the gaps, but just what is it about snack foods that are so appealing?