black tahini morning buns + a kitchen tour

January 25, 2017 Brooklyn, NY, USA

I've been trying to share more of my life outside baking on Instagram, to varying success. You guys don't seem to be as into New York architecture as I am (every time I post one of these types of pictures, I lose about 20 followers), but you seem to love my Brooklyn apartment (yay!). So today, in addition to these incredibly delicious black sesame tahini rolls, I thought I'd share a peek into my cramped but sunny kitchen/dining room to give you guys a fuller look into my life:

I was inspired to start branching out and share other aspects of my life because I was just so motherfreaking bored of all the food photos. Don't get me wrong — I love a well-styled shot of a beautifully braided pie or a funkily decorated cake. But it was all starting to look the same after a while. And then it WAS all the same. There are days where I scrolled through my feed and really couldn't tell who posted which picture. And that led me to a minor existential crisis: what makes my stuff different from everybody else's?

Because when it comes to food blogging and styling these days, I'll be the first to admit: nothing. In that context, I'm a dime a dozen — just another boring food blogger with a sweet tooth and a pretty marble tabletop. Yay.

What makes me different from everybody else is, well... me? The messy stuff you don't actually get to see too much of on any of my accounts. Like the fact that my kitchen is literally actually just a tiny corner of the living area that we've turned into a dining room and/or bike room. And how we've cluttered up every inch of surface area possible and added those beautiful wooden shelves that you all love (wink, they're from Rejuvenation) with too much gosh darned kitchen crap (which, despite my snark just now, all bring me joy and therefore can never be konmari-d out of my life, so don't you even dare suggest that). Or how my cat will jump onto any freaking countertop just to chase a patch of sunlight (and how many, many desserts have been ruined because of this pesky habit).

Oh yeah, and the ceiling leaks.

Almost forgot about that.

So what is the point of all this? I don't know, maybe just to remind folks that behind all these beautiful images of highly styled food, we are all still very human and normal. That the imperfect is still very interesting. And that we should share more of that! I hope you guys will share some more of your life outside of the frame too.

*jumps off soapbox*

Now, let's talk about these buns, hun.

I first discovered black tahini (like regular tahini, but made with black sesame seeds!) at Shalom Japan (a Jewish-Japanese restaurant in Williamsburg — yes, that exists and is SO delicious) and have been daydreaming about using it in desserts since. The black sesame gives the tahini a slightly bitter and almost smoky, wood-fired flavor that pairs well with rich white chocolate and tangy creamy dairy like crème fraîche and cream cheese. I've put all three in these rolls to great effect. Enjoy!


This post was done in partnership with Rejuvenation, one of my favorite Portland-based companies who graciously provided the open shelves, hardware, and furniture for the kitchen nookI had the chance to visit Rejuvenation's warehouse when I was in Portland last, and was blown away by the thought, quality, and care that went into the craftsmanship of all their products. Their products are timeless, and have really helped make my Brooklyn home both beautiful AND functional. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own, and thank you for supporting Hummingbird High and all my partners!

Some baker's notes:
  • Whenever I bake bread, I like to split up the process as much as possible and allow the dough to rise overnight in the fridge. I usually make the dough the night before I plan on serving these in order to avoid sitting around for 3 hours waiting for dough to rise. If that's your jam though, you can make these all in the same day — just be sure to let the dough rise for about an hour to an hour-and-a-half before shaping into rolls, and then repeating the rising process. 

  • I also like to use instant yeast as I find the proofing to be more consistent than fresh or active dry. Instant yeast works best when activated at 120 to 130 (F); remember that yeast is a living thing, and you can kill it if you activate it at too high of a temperature! 

  • Black tahini is available online, but I also found a jar at my local Whole Foods. Per Serious Eats, you can make your own (and since black sesame seeds have a higher oil content than regular ones, it requires less oil!), but I would shell out for the high-quality Kevala variety that I used. It's made with nothing but black sesame seeds and really brings home that wonderful toasted flavor from black sesame seeds. You can read more about black tahini in this awesome Food52 article.

Black Tahini Morning Buns




For the Buttermilk Dough:
(makes 7 to 8 buns)
  • 3 1/2 cups (17.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) buttermilk, warmed to 120 (F) - 130 (F)
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) vegetable oil

For the Black Tahini Filling
(enough for 7 to 8 buns)
  • 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) black tahini (see baker's notes for sources)
  • 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) crème fraîche
  • 1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) granulated sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) mini white chocolate chips

For the Cream Cheese Glaze and Black Sesame Topping:
(enough for 7 to 8 buns)
  • 1.5 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) confectioner's sugar, sifted
  • black sesame seeds, for garnish



For the Black Tahini Morning Buns:
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together 3 1/2 cups (17.5 ounces) all-purpose flour, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Set aside.

  2. In a large liquid measuring cup, whisk together 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) buttermilk (warmed to lukewarm — remember that yeast is a living thing, so it's important not to kill it by warming the liquid too much; you want the temperature to be similar to that of a warm bath and no more), 1 large egg, and 1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) vegetable oil. Set aside.

  3. Use a tall cup or a large measuring cup to make a well in center of the dry ingredients (from the 1st step) and add liquid ingredients (from the 2nd step), using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to stir until combined. As the dough starts to form, transfer to a lightly floured counter and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. If the dough is sticking, you can add up to 1/2 cup of extra flour as you knead, but don't over do it.

  4. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight, until the dough has doubled in size.

  5. Once the dough has doubled in size, transfer to a lightly floured counter and use a rolling pin to roll into a rectangle about 12 x 20 inches. Pro tip — the longer your rectangle, the more attractive your rolls will be! Try and make that 20 inches work.

  6. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) black tahini (see baker's notes for sources), 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) crème fraîche, 1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) granulated sugar, and 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract until well combined. Use an offset spatula to spread the black tahini mixture over the rolled dough. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup (2 ounces) mini white chocolate chips. For more attractive rolls, make sure you spread the tahini completely and evenly over the rolled out dough, including the edges.

  7. Working widthwise, roll the dough into a log, pinching its edges to seal. Cut the roll into 7 to 8 pieces, each about 2 inches wide. Place cut sides down on a 9-inch, deep dish pan in a flower shape. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the edges of the roll are rounded and touching, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

  8. Once the rolls have risen, preheat the oven to 350 (F). Bake the rolls in the preheated oven for around 30 to 35 minutes, or until the edges of each bun are golden in color. The best way to do so is to stick a skewer inserted in the center bun and see if it comes out clean, without any dough. If the tops of the rolls start to brown too quickly, cover with aluminum foil and continue baking until a skewer comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack.

  9. While the rolls are cooling, make the cream cheese glaze. Combine 1.5 ounces cream cheese, 1 tablespoon whole milk, and 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract in the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on a low speed until combined. Add 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar all at once and beat until fluffy and of drizzling consistency. Use immediately to drizzle on top of each cinnamon roll while the rolls are still warm, using a rubber spatula or butter knife to spread out the glaze. Garnish with black sesame seeds, and serve while warm. Enjoy! 



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