Before I share today’s recipe, I just wanted to thank everybody who read and commented on my last post containing my thoughts about blogging. Those thoughts have been marinating in my mind for some time now, and I briefly wrote that I was initially hesitant to write about them in the first place. At best, I was worried that some people would think that I was knocking their careers and chosen professions as bloggers. At worst, I feared folks would call me hypocritical (since, after all, I monetize my blog and benefit from all the same sponsorships and networks too). But not publishing the post for fear of upsetting people and losing followers would have been the exact opposite of what I advised people to do, so I took a deep breath and hit “publish”.
Since publishing the post, I’ve received a number of comments and emails from other bloggers sharing their own experiences. It’s been wonderful and eye-opening reading everybody’s take, and it made me realize that what I wrote about was a pretty universal experience for bloggers. If anything, it made me realize that we need more opportunities to talk about the behind-the-scenes stuff and about the doubts and fears we all share. I don’t know exactly how to provide that (and, quite frankly, it’s kind of asking a lot from a food blog), but hopefully taking more risks will eventually pave the way for such opportunities.
Speaking of taking risks, the recipe I’ve got for you guys today is one that I’ve kept near and dear to my chest for fear of alienating some of my audience. Black sesame and goat milk aren’t exactly the most accessible ingredients, although black sesame is a staple in Asian desserts. Usually black sesame appears in subtle desserts like panna cotta or pudding, often accompanied by lots of honey, syrup, or sweetened condensed milk to take its slightly bitter edge off.
My favorite kind of black sesame desserts, however, are ones that are un-subtle and un-delicate in flavor. The kind that, where if you take a bite of it, there’s no hiding that black sesame at ALL. And that’s exactly what’s going on with these rolls; you’re not gonna find a “light, floral touch” here — there’s no mistaking the nutty, toasty and almost woody flavor from the sesame. And that’s because they’re filled with nothing but butter, sugar, and black sesame seeds; there’s nothing there to distract or take the edge off the main star of the dessert.
Well… except maybe the goat milk. Since I’m mildly lactose intolerant (though in severe denial about it), I’ve been playing around with goat milk as a substitute for regular milk. When I bought my first bottle, I’d envisioned it to have a flavor similar to kefir — tart, and almost yogurt-y. My imagination ran away, thinking that using it as a substitute for regular milk in baked goods would give the final product a subtle tangy flavor, similar to using sour cream or yogurt. I was more than disappointed to find that goat milk kinda tasted like... well, regular milk.
But goat cheese? Whole other story. Turns out that you can easily replace cream cheese with goat cheese in almost any recipe, giving you that awesome goaty, farmy taste. This goat milk glaze is more technically a goat cheese glaze, with that unique farmy goat cheese flavor playing very, very well with the black sesame, adding tang to all that toasty goodness.
And of course, if you’ve been sitting there wrinkling your nose this entire time, you can always, always just go with a more traditional cinnamon sugar filling and a cream cheese glaze. Which is always good too.
But I promise you’re missing out.
Some baker's notes:
- Black sesame seeds are available in the bulk sections of fancy grocery stores like Whole Foods and Asian supermarkets. You can also find them online.
- I let the dough develop overnight in the fridge because I found that the slower rise brought out more flavors in the bread. I also liked breaking up the work into two portions, so it doesn’t feel like you’re just sitting around waiting for things to happen foreverrr. But if you’d like to just get it all out of the way, no worries! After kneading the dough, allow the dough to proof for about 1 1/2 hours in a lightly greased bowl covered with plastic wrap. During this time, it should double in size — after it's done so, follow the instructions in the recipe to roll out and re-proof the rolls a second time.
- If you don't have a deep-dish pie pan to bake these rolls in, you can also use a 9 x 13-inch baking pan or sheet — simply lay them out in rows of 3, spacing each about an inch or so apart. They actually bake more evenly and consistently this way (but I liked the look of the rolls baked in a pie pan 'cuz I'm a sucker).
- The recipe starts by instructing you on how to make black sesame sugar using an oven and a food processor, thanks to this utterly genius recipe by Mandy of Lady and Pups. The recipe will make slightly more than what's needed for the rolls, and you can store whatever's leftover in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 month (similarly, you can make the sugar in advanced for up to 1 month). It's important to refrigerate the sugar since black sesame seeds have a ton of oil in them and go rancid fast. However, my leftover sugar never lasts that long — I often find myself reaching for it and stirring it into my green tea or coffee.