Sunday, 26 January 2014

Oh-Bun Sesame! Black sesame rolls with condensed milk

Black sesame and condensed milk buns - beautiful textures and tastes
As January starts to wind down, my demon calories slowly wind up...and I've come up with quite the theory why it can't be helped for my British/Chinese background. Think back to early December, and we have a whole month of parties, canap├ęs, alcohol and decadent food to consume... All with a certain "grace" period and less judgement that you will put on a few pounds. 25th December comes and you've mentally and physically prepared for your Christmas Everest. From mid January, I feel the grace period returns, without proper acknowledgement, as we prepare for Chinese New Year feasting. So really, this recipe and the copious amounts of flour I've used this week in cooking should be considered more of a saviour to my own future health. In between English and Chinese traditions, I've combined two treats to create something I was very proud to test out on a few friends last Friday. It's almost a guiltless pleasure- every doughy-soft, sweet and nutty bite was unequivocally justified I didn't feel sorry for my waistline in the slightest, it tasted that good. So, sorry that I'm not sorry.
Black sesame filling is rich, sophisticated and moreish

The recipe is inspired from cinnamon rolls. However about half way in, the sugar quantities get to you and the cinnamon,sugar, butter crunch becomes too much... and that sneaky guilt kicks in that it should be finished but your stomach can't take any more. Black sesame is something I love and definitely overcomes this anguish. It has a long lasting rich and toasty nuttiness, that's not too sweet or overpowering that really fills the mouth and whets the appetite to have another bite over and over.
There is most certainly a lot less butter and sugar here than most cinnamon rolls, but the glaze on top is a drizzle of condensed milk - something that's practically in our veins in Hong Kong. We put this in our tea, like how Vietnamese sweeten their coffee, spread it on toast for breakfast and decorate our cakes with it. It's our sweet elixir of choice for sure, and I like how everyone can individually add how sweet they want to make their bun (now with a handy squeezey bottle it comes in). Creamy, sweet and a satisfying thick texture- it's the final layer that really finished these buns.
Lashings of condensed milk? This one definitely needs a little more...yes please.

Be patient with the proofing and knead properly-it will all be worth it when you see the buns merge and bind to their neighbours to uniformly and obediently rise in the oven.

Dough. Adapted from BBC Food Cinnamon Rolls
500 grams white bread flour
1 tsp salt
50g light brown sugar
1½ tsp dried yeast
75g butter, softened
200ml semi-skimmed milk
2 eggs

Black sesame filling

55 grams black sesame
40 grams of Chinese brown sugar block (these are layered brown sugar blocks found in Asian grocery stores - but you can always use dark brown sugar if you want)
60 grams of butter
Sprinkling of light brown sugar 

Additional 15 grams of butter and condensed milk for topping

Make the dough: Mix together flour, salt, sugar and dried yeast. With the softened butter, roughly rub into the flour with your fingertips, like you would when making crumble for about 4-5 minutes. Make a small well in the flour and pour in the milk then eggs and mix. Once it is formed and the liquid is absorbed into a rough dough, transfer onto a lightly floured table and knead.

Knead for about 10 minutes. You want to do this until you can take a small piece of dough, stretch it out in your hand and see shadows of your fingers when held up against the light. The texture will be smooth and elastic.Put in a lightly oiled bowl in a warm place (I like to keep the pilot light on and close the oven door) for 1 1/2 hours.

To make the filling: In a dry frying pan heat on high your black sesame seeds, making sure not to burn them. Once you see some start popping, make sure they are toasted on both sides and take off the heat. You then need to grind to a rough powder, either with a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder. In a small saucepan, add butter and sugar on a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add the sesame seeds and take off the heat. Add sugar to taste if you need.

Return to the dough - it should have doubled in size. Knock out the air and roll into a rectangle the size of your oven dish (mine was about 30cm long,15cm wide) or about the thickness of a pound coin. 

Spread the sesame paste right up to the edges - it should be a thin layer that you can just see the dough peaking out underneath. Start from the longest side, roll neatly the dough until you get a sausage shape. Cut into twelve even cylinders and arrange evenly in a buttered dish.

Bake in a pre-heated oven for 10 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius. After that, another 15 minutes at 180 degrees and they will have risen wonderfully. Dab a little butter on the top and place in the oven for a further 5 minutes.

Drizzle generously with condensed milk and enjoy.

Not all the buns made it to the photoshoot...a few 'lost' along the way


  1. Gorgeous photos! I think the crunch of the sesame would be lovely with the soft dough and sweet condensed milk. Also, doesn't cold weather necessitate more calories??? :)

    1. You must try it - you're totally right about the different textures. It's well balanced of not being too sweet as well. Haha, cold weather definitely needs more calories...and there are a few buns left which are very tempting. Chattering teeth and shivering probably burnt a couple of hundred calories no?