It is no secret that black sesame ice cream, with its delectable richness and toasty flavour, is my scoop of choice. Aside from enjoying it at the end of a meal at a sushi restaurant, they are quite hard to find at the grocery store for home consumption. To my luck, I recently stumbled upon a quality pint of this rich, lush ice cream at an Asian grocery store.
However, several days later, there was quite a kitchen frenzy and I needed the freezer space to hold several cake layers for a number of orders. Without realizing it, I had sacrificed this sesame tub and absent-mindedly placed it in the fridge. I had forgotten to return the container to the freezer afterwards. Quite distraught, I was left with a pool of melted ice cream staring back at me. I couldn’t very well put it back to refreeze, the texture wouldn’t be the same. Throwing it out was definitely not an option either! I pondered what to do, and then it dawned on me, it was time to roll up my sleeves and make a dessert using the surviving contents.
The liquid ice cream was put in a saucepan to warm slightly. I thickened the cream with some cornstarch. After a few stirs from the wooden spoon, like a belt that was suddenly cinched, the ice cream tightened up and became thicker. I let this mixture cool slightly and added a big squirt of honey to it and a dash of salt. Meanwhile, I worked on the base. I had a package of Mac toffee pieces that I threw in with some butter (so it wouldn’t burn) and peanut butter. Concerned about the pate like density, I was afraid it would be too thick. I remedied this by adding baking powder to the dry ingredients and baked it off to get a golden brown colour and a crisp texture. Once out of the oven, I let it cool on a wire rack and proceeded with the filling. I was nervous and excited at the same time. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing, but, nail-biting aside, I certainly had an adventurous spirit. To offset the richness of the black sesame, I whipped up a package of cream cheese and added a few large eggs. I added this mixture to the base and waved goodbye as I slid the pan into the oven.
I loved the texture of this. This rich, faintly sweet base was countered with a black as night filling that was a cross between a light textured cheesecake and the silkiness of a panna cotta. The black sesame was the star of the show and the supporting cast of toffee and peanut butter only helped to reinforce the well-rounded flavour profile because of the combination of nuttiness and butter-caramelized taste.
This reminds me of an asian dessert of this rice mochi ball made of glutenous rice flour that are stuffed with sesame pastes and the exteriors rolled in coconut and peanuts. My dessert amplified these flavours.
Heart of Darkness Sesame Peanut-Toffee Squares
Peanut Toffee Base
1 package (170g )Macintosh MACK Toffee pieces, unwrapped
1/3 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup Natural chunky peanut butter (I used Kraft)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
8 fl Oz. good quality melted sesame ice cream (one that uses more cream than sugar and additives)
2 tbsp + 1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp sesame oil
1 + 1/2 (12 oz) packages Philadelphia Cream Cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
For the base
Preheat oven to 375F. Spray a 9 inch square cake pan with 1 1/2 inch high sides and then line it with parchment paper.
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter with toffee pieces. Stir constantly. Add peanut butter and continue to stir until everything is combined together. Take it off the heat and let it cool slightly
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until everything comes together and there are no white streaks. If the mixture is dry looking add heavy cream, a tablespoon at a time. If it looks too wet, add flour a tablespoon at a time. You are looking for a yielding dough that is slightly stiff (kind of like Play-doh texture). Use your hands to spread base evenly over the pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until crust is golden brown and top is dry to the touch. Take pan out fo the oven and let it cool on a wire rack completely.
Make the filling
In a medium saucepan over low heat, add the melted ice cream BUT reserve 2 tbsp of it. Put the 2 tbsp in a small bowl. Add the cornstarch and make a thick slurry with it. Add this slurry to the melted ice cream and stir constantly until it has thickened slightly (about 4-5 minutes). Turn the heat off and add the honey, salt and sesame oil. Set this saucepan aside.
In a large bowl, whip cream cheese with 2 tbsp of granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time until mixture is uniform. Add slightly cooled sesame mixture to the cream cheese mix and stir until everything comes together and is nice and smooth.
Add mixture to cooled crust and place pan on a baking sheet. Place in oven and bake 25-30 minutes or until filling feels firm to the touch and just set. Cool completely on a wire rack. Wrap pan airtight and put in the fridge to set up overnight.
Cut into pieces, garnish with salted peanuts. Eat cold or at room temperature.
Yield: 16 bars.
Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can also freeze the bars but the bases will loose some of their crisp texture.