Black Sesame Pear Tea Cake

The last issue of Bon Appetit made me so very happy. There was a gorgeous Jim Lahey pizza on the cover, and the inside did not disappoint either. One of the articles was on pairing sweets with coffee. You can just imagine how gleefully I ran to show it to Eric. Very gleefully!

It was hard to choose which recipe to start with, but I eventually settled on this one. It looked delicious, and it sounded intriguing. I can most definitely assure you: it is the most interesting thing I’ve ever baked. And I do not doubt that it would go perfectly with coffee, particularly a rich and bold roast.

I really haven’t worked much with black sesame seeds before, and certainly not black sesame seeds ground into a paste. It makes for a really unique flavor, something kind of earthy and musky, if those words can be used to describe food. Whole sesame seeds are added to the flour mixture, which is good for a girl who requires crunch at all times. This crunch is a delicate one, but it’s delightful too.

As the ingredients come together, the cake batter takes on a distinctly gray hue, which may be a little disconcerting to those of us used to deep chocolate brown and maple syrup mahogany, but fear not. This is how it’s supposed to look.

At the last minute, you throw in your pretty diced pears, and then you’re ready for the oven!

This is the maiden voyage of my new loaf pan (thank you, sweet husband!). The cake gets an extra sprinkle of sugar on top for good measure.

And here it is, ready to slice and eat! It has such an interesting flavor: earthy and dense, but decidedly sweet and fruity. I didn’t make too many changes to the recipe (I used half whole wheat flour and cut the sugar a little), but I am thinking of all kinds of variations I’d like to play upon this theme. Because of the earthiness of the black sesame, I think next time I might sweeten the cake with honey. Apples would be just as welcome as pears, and I am always pondering adding almonds or pecans to everything (just ask my husband). Let me know if you try it, and if you make any changes!

Black Sesame Pear Tea Cake
Recipe from Bon Appetit

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup almond flour or almond meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup black sesame seeds
1 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 (medium) firm but ripe Bosc pear, peeled, cored, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

-Preheat oven to 325°. Butter one 9x5x3-inch loaf pan or six 4x2x2-inch paper or metal loaf pans. Whisk 1 1/2 cups flour, next 4 ingredients, and 2 Tbsp. sesame seeds in a medium bowl. Grind remaining 1/2 cup sesame seeds in spice mill to form a thick paste, about 2 minutes.
-Using an electric mixer, beat 1/2 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 Tbsp. flour in a small bowl; fold into batter.
-Spoon batter into prepared pan; smooth top. Sprinkle with remaining 2 Tbsp. 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. Store, tightly wrapped, in refrigerator.

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