sesame swirl tea cake

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sesame is one of my favorite flavors. growing up, sesame made an appearance in the form of toasted sesame oil on vegetables, dumplings, noodles, and chicken, and even in desserts in the form of tender, black sesame-filled tangyuan. one of my favorite snacks/dim sum items, jian dui, is comprised of a crispy, deep-fried glutinous rice ball filled with red bean or white lotus paste and coated in crunchy sesame seeds. every texture, captured in a sweet-savory, airy dessert.

my early love of sesame perhaps explains my instant affinity to middle eastern cuisine. I can’t remember the first time I experienced middle eastern food, though as a native philadelphian, I would have to assume that michael solomonov of zahav/dizengoff fame played a role.

my first two years of college, my late nights were fueled largely by domino’s pizza (I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I actually had the ordering app on my phone for a good two years) and greasy mexican food. as you can imagine, this “diet” was not particularly kind to my waistline. thankfully, my junior year, amsterdam falafelshop opened up and though I guess falafel balls are also deep fried, I did lose most of my freshman 15 after switching over to late nights at amsterdam falafel. when I moved back to philly after school, solomonov’s hummus spot, dizengoff, and his falafel and tahini shake spot, goldie, became regulars in my lunch rotation. funnily enough, down here in d.c., amsterdam falafelshop, which actually started in this city, is a late night favorite among my friends. perhaps the reason it’s so difficult to remember the first time I had middle eastern food is because at this point, it feels like it’s become such a large part of my culinary life.

as I said in the beginning, as much as I love sesame in savory foods, I love it even more in desserts. one of my most treasured childhood memories is eating hot tangyuan at a hole in the wall underneath one of the massive highway bridges of hong kong. it turns out that sesame in cookies tastes amazing, and sesame with the texture of fudge, or halva, is delicious (and a great addition to brownies). when I spotted this sesame swirl cake on bon appetit’s website, I knew I had to give it a try – and I can attest that sesame is delightful in cake as well!

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makes one 9•5-in loaf

white sesame seeds (for sprinkling)
2 tbsp black sesame seeds, plus more for sprinkling
210g (1 1/2 cup) flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp baking soda
125g (1/2 cup) plain whole-milk yogurt
120g (1/2 cup) tahini
200g (1 cup) sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g (1/2 cup) canola oil
1 1/2tsp toasted sesame oil

claire saffitz. swirled tahini tea cake. bon appetit. 20 march 2018. accessed 14 september 2018.

1 preheat oven to 350ºF. lightly grease a 9×5 loaf pan and line with parchment paper, then lightly grease the parchment paper. sprinkle the sides and bottom of pan with white and black sesame seeds and shake around in the pan to coat, then tap out the excess.
2 finely grind 2 tbsp black sesame seeds in a spice mill or food processor and set aside.
3 whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom, and baking soda in a medium bowl. in a small bowl, whisk together yogurt and tahini until smooth (mixture may seize and stiffen at first; just keep mixing).
4 in a large bowl, beat together eggs, vanilla, and sugar until eggs are pale and thick, ~2 min with electric mixer or paddle attachment of stand mixer, 5-6 minutes by hand.
5 on low speed, slowly drizzle in the oil. don’t pour the oil in all at once; add it slowly so that it incorporates into the eggs and doesn’t deflate the air beaten into the batter. keeping speed on low, add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the yogurt mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.
6 scrape half of the batter (~375g) into the bowl that held the dry ingredients. add reserved black sesame seeds and mix until evenly distributed, creating the batter for the black swirl.
7 alternating between batters, spoon large dollops into prepared pan. after dolloping batter into pan, insert a skewer or chopstick all the way to the bottom of the pan, then with confident strokes, make four figure-eight patterns throughout the loaf to create the swirl.
8 sprinkle with more white and black sesame seeds. bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 55-65 minutes. transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove it from the pan to finish cooling.
9 the sesame bread can be stored tightly wrapped at room temperature for up to 3 days, and can be stored frozen for up to 2 weeks.

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