If you’ve ever had the pleasure of sampling a piece of halvah, that sweet, dense and crumbly sesame seed-based confection, then you’ll understand why I’ve been enamored of sesame flavor since childhood. Sesame seeds and bread are a classic combination. Whether sprinkled on top of a loaf, as in the quintessential sesame bread Scali, or incorporated into the bread along with other seeds, nuts and/or grains as part of a multigrain loaf, sesame seeds add a unique, rich flavor that perfectly complements the inherently nutty character of a well-fermented wheat dough.
The objective in creating this bread was to have a subtle sesame flavor permeate the entire crumb of the loaf, rather than providing the intense bursts of sesame flavor afforded by the addition of whole sesame seeds to the dough. Tahini, a paste made from roasted sesame seeds used ubiquitously in Middle Eastern cuisine and available in many supermarkets and ethnic food stores, turns out to be ideally suited to the task. In addition to its sesame flavor, tahini also provides enough sesame oil to result in a beautifully tender crumb. For those looking for a slightly more intense sesame flavor, by all means feel free to increase the amount of tahini used.
- 770 g King Arthur All-Purpose Flour
- 515 g Water
- 15 g Salt
- 240 g Levain (mature sourdough culture, 60% hydration)
- 50 g Tahini
The water and 50 g of the flour are added to the bowl of a 6 quart planetary stand mixer and the mixture is whisked at speed 3 using a whisk attachment until a stable, frothy emulsion is formed, about 1 minute. The remainder of the flour is then added and the mixture is mixed on speed 2 using a spiral dough hook, just until all the flour is incorporated, about 2 minutes. The bowl is then covered with plastic wrap and the rough dough allowed to rest at room temperature (78ºF) for an autolyse period of 30 minutes.
After this time, the levain and salt are added and the dough is mixed on speed 3 using the spiral dough hook to medium development, about 3 minutes. The tahini is then added and mixing is continued on speed 2 until all the tahini is incorporated, about 2 minutes. The dough is then placed in a lightly oiled container, covered, and allowed to ferment for 4 hours, with the dough being given a turn midway through this first fermentation.
After the 4 hour first fermentation, the dough is divided into two, 1 1/2 lb. pieces and each piece is lightly rounded. After resting under a plastic sheet for 15 minutes, the pieces are shaped into boules, and the boules then formed into fendus (Shaping a Fendu video can be found here). The fendus are placed, inverted, into rice flour-coated brotformen, the bottoms of which are sprinkled with sesame seeds. After covering with Saran Quick Covers, a second fermentation is allowed to proceed at 78ºF for 2 hours.
After the second fermentation, the loaves are inverted onto a peel, loaded into the oven and baked at 425°F for 40 minutes with steam applied for the first 20 minutes (Scoring and Steaming video can be found here. Note: No scoring is necessary for this shaping). The resulting loaves exhibited an open, tender crumb with a wonderfully subtle nuttiness which doesn’t overpower the natural flavor of the levain.