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?
* 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)
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- 50 grams (1/3 cup) untoasted sesame seeds
- 50 grams (1/4 cup) white sugar (don't use unrefined cane sugar here as it doesn't caramelize well)
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
- 200 grams (7 ounces) high-quality bittersweet chocolate, preferably couverture chocolate, finely chopped (I use Manjari 64% couverture chocolate)
- Have ready a silicone loaf pan, a regular loaf pan lined neatly with parchment paper, or silicone chocolate bar molds. Have ready a silicone baking mat or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, toast the sesame seeds until nicely golden and fragrant. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- In the same saucepan, combine the sugar with 2 teaspoons water and place over medium heat. Allow the sugar to dissolve and caramelize without stirring, just a gentle swirling of the pan from time to time, until it takes on an amber shade.
- Add in the sesame seeds and salt, stir quickly and thoroughly with a silicone spatula, and pour onto the prepared baking mat, spreading it as best you can.
- Allow to cool completely, then crush in a mortar or with a knife to form smallish clusters, like large chocolate chips.
- Have ready a large bowl of ice water, and a food thermometer with a probe.
- Put the finely chopped chocolate in a heat-resistant bowl and place it over a pan of just-simmering water over low heat.
- Melt the chocolate slowly, stirring frequently to ensure even melting, until the chocolate reaches 50-55°C (122-131°F). Don't let it go over 55°C (131°F).
- Place the top bowl containing the chocolate over the bowl of ice water and, scraping the bottom of the bowl and stirring continuously, bring the chocolate down to 28-29°C (82-84°F).
- Return the bowl of chocolate over the pan of just-simmering water and, still stirring continuously, allow the chocolate to come up to 31-32°C (88-90°F). Don't go over that temperature or you'll have to start the tempering process from the start.
- Melt the chocolate slowly in a double boiler, stirring frequently to ensure even melting, and remove from the heat as soon as it's entirely melted.
- Add the sesame clusters to the chocolate (tempered or simply melted), stir well, and pour into the prepared pan or old. Level the surface with a spatula, sprinkle with a good pinch more salt, and allow to set at cool room temperature for a few hours. Cut into bars or squares.
- Keep at cool room temperature in an airtight container.