Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Black Sesame and Pear Tea Cake

Like many people, I tend to go for the classics when it comes to sweets. Especially this time of year. I like chocolate. I like vanilla. I like ice cream sundaes and creamy puddings and my neighbor's chocolate chip walnut cookies. But, as I recently discovered, I also like black sesame and pear tea cake. Actually, I love it.

I know, it sounds strange. And looks a bit greyish and unappetizing. But it's so good! There's the nutty richness of the sesame seeds, the basic buttery sweet-but-not-too-sweet background, and the juicy bits of pear throughout it all. Although the recipe called for fresh fruit, I used some canned pears from last fall, and they worked beautifully (and the sesame seeds were left in the freezer from these why-haven't-I-made-them-since-July bagel bombs, making this a surprisingly thrifty pantry project). I'd be the first to admit that this doesn't seem like it would make anyone's short list of favorite desserts. But paired with a cup of tea, or a glass of wine (in the interests of science, I sampled it both ways), it'll definitely surprise you with just how perfect it is. 

Black Sesame and Pear Tea Cake

adapted from Bon Appetit

Despite the fact that all of the pictures of this cake were somewhat sunken, even those baked up by master bloggers, I was convinced that with my room-temperature butter and eggs, masterful aerating technique, and light-as-a-feather folding, I would prevail with a perfectly domed cake. But I didn't. Ah well — perhaps that's just how this recipe rolls. It's still amazing, no matter how it bakes up.

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup almond flour or almond meal 
2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt 
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup black sesame seeds, divided
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar, plus additional for topping the cake 
1 large egg 
1 large egg yolk 
3/4 cup buttermilk 
1 large ripe-yet-firm pear (fresh or canned), peeled, cored, cut into 1/4-inch cubes, and tossed with a few spoonfuls flour right before using
Preheat oven to 325° Fahrenheit, and butter and flour a loaf pan.

Sift together the flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and stir in 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds. Set aside.

Take the remaining 1/2 cup black sesame seeds, and grind them until they form a thick paste (this is easiest in a spice grinder, but with enough patience and scraping, you can use a blender). Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy and well combined, scraping down the sides occasionally. Add the sesame paste, and beat another minute, then add the egg and yolk, and beat until pale and fluffy (3-4 minutes).

Fold in 1/3 of the flour mixture until just barely combined, then 1/2 the buttermilk. Repeat, ending with the flour, then fold in the pear. Pour into the loaf pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle with a few spoonfuls of sugar. Bake until a tester comes out clean, 50 minutes to 1 1/2 hours (yeah, I know that's a crazy big range, but the reports seem to back it up — mine definitely took the full hour and a half). Let cool in the pan, then turn out, slice, and enjoy.


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