First things first, how cool do these black brownies look? If you disagree, then they probably look burnt to you, as my sister had pointed out. I had recently purchased many packets of black sesame seeds to make tang yuan and subsequently thought, why not use it to make brownies. Whilst typing this post up, I was contemplating on whether these count as brownies or blondies, or quite possibly neither. So traybake cake maybe? Still contemplating right now and will for the foreseeable future.
My obsession with chickpeas is out of this world. In other words, I’ve been incorporating them daily over the past few months. To be more precise, chickpea burgers, blondies (always have a batch made), hummus, falafel have taken the reign. Then a lightbulb moment popped up – why not combine my two current loves into one. Thus I give you, my black sesame chickpea brownies.
Selfish me wanted to keep this to myself but on the other hand, we all know sharing is caring. These had surprisingly turned out fudgy enough to hit and satisfy my tastebuds.
I like my brownies black, as black as my heart and soul.Nicol Wong 2020
Ha I’m kidding, or am I?
Black Sesame Paste
Black sesame paste is commonly used in desserts in Asia, a popular flavour. One of my favourites actually! Black sesame ice cream, yes please! I am yet to encounter it being used in a savoury dish.
Making Your Own
The idea of making your own sesame paste may sound difficult, a no go, but I promise you it isn’t. All you need are black sesame seeds, honey, a pan and a food processor/blender. If you already know how to make nut butters, then this would feel extremely familiar to you. Just a quick note, if the seeds are already toasted, you can blend them straight away. Only 4 simple steps needed for the seeds to turn into a paste:
- Add honey.
Firstly, wash and rinse the seeds to remove the impurities, squeezing any excess, then add the seeds directly into a dry pan over medium-high. Yup, no oil needed. Because the seeds are still wet, I prefer to initially use medium-high heat to fry the seeds, allowing 90% of the water to evaporate, then turn the heat down to medium-low heat to toast the seeds.
Unlike its brother counterpart, white sesame seeds, knowing whether if these are toasted and ready or not isn’t visible to the naked eye. So how can you tell? The seeds will gradually give off a nutty aroma and when you hear a popping sound coming from the seeds, they are ready. Toasting should take roughly 5-10 minutes. You need to occasionally stir the seeds otherwise, they would burn, becoming bitter.
When they’re toasted, allow them to fully cool down before grinding. I would recommend transferring them to a plate to cool down, or else they will continue to toast in the pan. It only takes a minute for them to turn from a fragrant, nutty flavour to a bitter one.
I’ve made the paste in both a blender and food processor and the result has always been the same. The seeds will first turn into powder, later gradually turn into a paste, secreting oil during grinding. From toasted seeds to a dry powder to a moist paste, the process is certainly the exact same as making nut butters.
Finally, mix in the honey to sweeten and loosen the paste and voila, done. Simple right? Store it in an airtight jar at room temperature. The paste is especially good spread on bread and crackers.
Freshly grinded paste with no honey should be very thick, glossy (thanks to the secreted oils) and hard to spread.
And now with the honey, resulting in a runnier and spreadable paste. Deliciously eaten alone, YUM!
Can you sub black sesame paste for black tahini? Not particularly, because the two are different. You can try black tahini, though it will not result in the same flavour profile as the paste itself. Deeper, stronger, richer, nuttier, this is how I would describe the paste. Nevertheless, if you don’t want such depth, then go ahead with the tahini; just be sure to add some sweetness to the batter otherwise it’d be a tad bitter.
The process of how both are made differs. For the paste, seeds are roasted/toasted before it is grounded into a paste, whereas tahini is made from raw (sometimes lightly toasted) seeds. The way the seeds are handled differently results in a different texture and flavour. Roasting/toasting brings out the deeper, nuttier flavour as compared to the raw counterpart. You can actually taste the difference yourself – taste the seeds before and after toasting. I’ll let you decide for yourself which is more flavoursome.
Black sesame paste and black tahini aren’t exactly easy to find, hence I highly recommend making your own. No preservatives, no additives, no unwanted additional ingredients etc. I’ve seen a few pastes being sold here in the UK, more predominately in Asian supermarkets, though they tend to list red bean first in the ingredients list, followed along with a low percentage of actual black sesame seeds. I personally prefer 100% black sesame. Gosh, I sound like a right snob.
Dare I say, a healthy brownie? It can be made vegan friendly, just sub honey for maple syrup and use vegan dark chocolate. So, if no flour, no oil, no egg, vegan friendly sounds good to you, go ahead and give this recipe a try!
Black Sesame Chickpea Brownies
Black Sesame Paste, makes roughly 3/4 cup
- 1 cup (150g) black sesame seeds
- 1/2 cup (170g) honey or maple syrup
- 1 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
- 3/4 cup black sesame paste, recipe above if you don’t have store-bought
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup (30g) cup oat flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/3 (60g) cup dark chocolate chips/chunks, I used 70%
- Black sesame seeds, optional for sprinkling
- White sesame seeds, optional for sprinkling
- Wash the black sesame seeds in a fine-mesh sieve under running water to remove impurities. Drain then use a wooden spoon to push the seeds, removing any excess water.
- Over medium-high heat, add the seeds directly into a dry pan (no oil needed), pan fry until 90% water has evaporated. Turn the heat down to medium-low and stir occasionally to prevent the seeds from burning. When you can smell a fragrant, nutty aroma and they start popping, remove from heat. It’ll take roughly 5-10 minutes (excluding the time for the water to evaporate). Transfer them to a plate or bowl to let them cool down fully.
- Once cooled, add them to a food processor/blender and blend, scraping down the sides when needed. Blend until the seeds turn into a paste. At this point, the oils have been released from the seeds.
- Mix in the honey, and voila, you’ll have a thick paste. Measure out 3/4 cup of the black sesame paste, set aside and pour any leftovers into an airtight jar. No need to wash the food processor/blender.
- Preheat oven to 180°C and line an 8×8 square tin. Set aside.
- Add the chickpeas, black sesame paste, vanilla extract into the food processor/blender and blend until smooth.
- Add the oat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and blend again. Stir in the dark chocolate.
- Transfer the batter into the prepared tin, spread evenly, sprinkle some black and white sesame seeds on top and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the toothpick comes out clean.
- Leave to cool fully on a wire rack. Cut into squares and serve.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3-5 days.
- Skip step 1 and 2 if using already toasted black sesame seeds.
- For a sweeter brownie, add an extra tablespoon or two of honey, maple syrup or sugar into the batter. If using store-bought black sesame paste, check the sugar content and add extra sweetness according to taste.
- For a stronger, deeper black sesame flavour, use a cup of the paste rather than 3/4 cup. You can always make more paste in advanced. I like to use a 2:1 seeds to honey ratio.
- Store the paste in an airtight container, leave at room temperature.