Caramelized Sesame Chocolate Bar

Caramelized Sesame Chocolate Bar

Not long after my second son was born, I received a message from Audrey, a reader I’d been conversing with via emails and comments, who wanted to recommend a recipe drawn from the French blog La Belle au blé dormant*. It was a recipe for a sesame chocolate bar garnished with squash seeds, sunflower seeds, and caramelized sesame, which both she and the blog’s author Nolwenn had found instrumental in surviving the first few weeks with a newborn.

I read through the recipe and at first the idea of my finding the time and brain bandwidth to make something like this seemed laughable, but it turns out my appetite for chocolate is strong enough to move mountains: I could not get that recipe out of my head, and within a few days I was indeed preparing a modified version for myself — one with just the sesame — accomplishing one small step at a time in between maternal duties.

The smooth bitterness of the dark chocolate combined with the crunchy, nutty, caramelized sweetness of the sesame clusters made for a sublime combination, and already I knew that chocolate bar would not live to see the end of the week.

The sesame chocolate bar project

On one morning, I toasted the sesame seeds. Later, I made the caramel, mixed in the sesame, and broke up that (tasty, tasty) sesame bark into small clusters. The next day, I dug out my digital probe thermometer and tempered the chocolate (yes, tempered the chocolate, that’s how ambitious I was), stirred in the caramelized sesame nuggets, and poured the mixture into a narrow loaf pan.

A couple of hours later, when the dust had settled and the chocolate had set, I unmolded the thick sesame chocolate bar, had a taste, and my eyes rolled back into their sockets: this was insanely! good! The smooth bitterness of the dark chocolate** combined with the crunchy, nutty, caramelized sweetness of the sesame clusters made for a sublime combination, and already I knew that chocolate bar would not live to see the end of the week.

I have since made several more batches of that caramelizes sesame chocolate bar, and even invested in two silicone molds such as these to make actual bars with breakable squares (the faint swirls in that picture indicate I failed to temper the chocolate properly that day; I’m still not a pro at it, and the baby was crying). Some of these bars went straight into my belly, others were given away as gifts — one of them to a new mother — and I am happy to say they made a gratifying impression on the recipients.

I’ll note that if you don’t have the time or inclination to make the actual bars, you should consider making just the caramelized sesame: it’s extremely easy and a wonderful treat in its own right.

Join the conversation!

Have you ever made your own chocolate bars? What recipe did you use and how did you like the results?

PS: Make this wonderful Cinnamon Granola Chocolate Slab or these easy Ginger and Almond Chocolate Clusters, and make sure you know How To Taste Chocolate!

* Allow me to explain the pun: La Belle au bois dormant (literally, “the beauty sleeping in the woods”) is French for Sleeping Beauty, and the author of this allergy-conscious blog has replaced bois (woods) by blé (wheat).

** (I use Manjari 64% couverture chocolate)

Caramelized Sesame Chocolate Bar

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Otium Salad with Roasted Radishes and Shaved Asparagus

Otium Salad

Photography by Céline de Cérou.

Do you know what Otium means? Otium is the Latin word for virtuous leisure, a time free of obligation that is spent in contemplation, and the cultivation of one’s spirit.

This is a concept that resonates with me deeply, as I have become more and more interested in personal development and mind management these past few years, a passion that has led me to create a podcast and a life coaching practice, for which I am about to get certified.

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French Easter Pie with Spinach and Goat Cheese

French Easter Pie with Spinach and Goat Cheese

Among the French dishes traditional served at Easter, you’ll find tourte pascale* and pâté de Pâques, French Easter pies enclosed in a flaky crust, with eggs nested inside the filling. The purpose of this is to use up the surplus of eggs that hens have laid during Lent, the six-week period leading up to Easter when Christians abstain from certain foods, including anything derived from animals.

I love French Easter pies; they are fun to make and present beautifully on the table. These tourtes are often filled with minced meat such as you’ll find in French terrines, usually a seasoned mix of veal and pork. Unsurprisingly, I like them even better when they’re filled with vegetables, especially springtime greens. I’ve made it here with spinach, but if you have beet tops, Swiss chard greens, kale, perhaps a little fresh sorrel, those will work just as beautifully.

Some French Easter pie recipes have you put hard-boiled eggs inside, but then the eggs end up quite overcooked, so I prefer to form little nests in the filling and break the uncooked fresh eggs inside them. With fresh goat cheese — also a springtime treat — mixed in with the spinach, the result is a wonderfully moist and aromatic pie, simple and elegant in both its looks and flavor.

French Easter Pie with Spinach and Goat Cheese

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Easter Egg Jam Cookies

Like most French children, the boulangerie played a big role in my earliest food memories.

The corner bakery was the mythical place where snacks were purchased after school, where grownups could be observed closely while waiting in line with one’s mother for the Saturday lunch baguette, and where one secretly went to buy a few centime’s worth of candy to sneak into one’s room and share with one’s sister.

My allegiances to after-school snacks came and went. There was a long period of getting a milk bun (pain au lait) with a bar of milk chocolate unwrapped, unfoiled, and pushed right in. I never cared for pain aux raisins (eww raisins) but I was all over the almond croissants.

Easter Egg Jam Cookies

One of my all-time favorites was the lunettes à la confiture (“jam spectacles”), a football-shaped, sugar-dusted cookie sandwich with scalloped edges, and two holes cut out to reveal the layer of jam holding the sablés together (see this video).

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French Easter Recipes

French Easter Recipes

Easter is just round the corner and, just like I did last December with my tips on how to host a French holiday meal, I thought you might like me to outline how to host a French Easter meal.

If you celebrate Easter, you are probably already following your own traditions, but just in case you would like to add a French twist to this year’s celebrations, here are my recommendations for a delicious, traditional French Easter meal.

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