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- What is Black Sesame Paste?
- How to Make Black Sesame Paste
- Baker’s Percentage Chart
- Tools Needed
- Ingredients Needed
- How to Make Black Sesame Sourdough Bread
- How to Serve Black Sesame Sourdough Bread
- How to Store Black Sesame Sourdough Bread
- Black Sesame Sourdough Bread FAQs:
- Black Sesame Sourdough Bread
- Other Recipes You Might Like:
With its mesmerizing swirl, nutty and earthy flavor, and crunchy black sesame seed exterior, this Black Sesame Sourdough Bread is one of the most beautiful and dramatic breads I’ve made!
I love the tahini flavor of black sesame paste and have wanted to develop a tahini and sesame sourdough bread recipe for some time.
Intially, I was skeptical. Adding a fat like black sesame paste in large percentages can hinder gluten development and fermentation. You’ll notice it immediately when you mix the black sesame paste into the dough. The fat and high-hydration dough repel each other and it seems unlikely that it will mix.
I was happily surprised, though, when I sliced into the first recipe test of this loaf and it came out extremely tender and soft with a whimsical zebra swirl pattern. I knew I had to pursue this delightfully mystifying loaf.
While the crumb is tighter because of the added fat, the natural black color, sesame flavor, hint of honey, and velvety texture of the dough outweigh any qualms I have with it.
To achieve the swirl effect, I separate the dough into two parts and laminate it. The process adds an additional step, but the payoff is worth it.
👉 For other sourdough bread recipes, you may enjoy this Buckwheat Sourdough with Pumpkin Seeds recipe, Calabrian Chili and Honey Sourdough Bread, Spelt Sourdough Bread, or my My Everyday Sourdough Bread Recipe.
What is Black Sesame Paste?
Sometimes referred to as Black Sesame Tahini or Black Sesame Butter, black sesame paste is a spread of ground, toasted black sesame seeds.
Whereas tahini is made from toasted white sesame seeds, black sesame paste is made from toasted black sesame seeds. So, what’s the difference between black and white sesame seeds? Black sesame seeds are simply unhulled sesame seeds. Accordingly, the two products are similar with slightly different flavor profiles which I describe below.
Black sesame paste is often used in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and other Asian cuisines, where it’s added to various savory and sweet recipes including many baked goods, rice cakes, ice creams, dressings, and soups.
You can often find black sesame paste in Asian markets in the U.S., but it’s available online as well.
What does Black Sesame Paste taste like?
Black Sesame Paste tastes nutty, earthy, and slightly bitter.
It’s bolder than tahini, but similar in flavor and texture to it. If you’re unfamiliar with tahini, a key ingredient in hummus, it tastes similar to peanut butter or other nut butters!
Black sesame paste is a versatile product and pairs well in desserts, rice cakes, soups, dressings, etc. for its nutty flavor and enchanting black hue. For this bread, I add a bit of honey to harmonize with the earthy flavor.
Once ground, natural black sesame paste separates with a layer of oil on top. This is completely normal and akin to natural peanut butter, tahini, or other nut butters. Thoroughly stir the oil into the mixture before using and refrigerate the paste to keep it fresh longer.
While you can make black sourdough bread using activated charcoal, I opted for black sesame paste for both flavor and texture.
How to Make Black Sesame Paste
If you can’t find black sesame paste- no problem! It’s easy to make your own black sesame paste and you don’t even need a recipe for this simple task.
Grind toasted black sesame seeds in a food processor or high-speed blender with a bit of sesame oil until it becomes a thick paste. That’s it!
I recommend using at least ½ cup of black sesame seeds at a time in a small food processor for the best results.
Baker’s Percentage Chart
I include a baker’s percentage chart to scale a recipe up or down easily. With baker’s percentages, the total weight of all flour in the recipe is 100%.
I also include the prefermented flour from the levain in this flour weight. Finally, I note the ingredients proportionally to the total weight of flour (in this case, 430g of total flour). That’s why the percentages below will add up to over 100%.
The King Arthur website has a more detailed reference page on why and how baker’s percentages are calculated if you want to learn more.
|Bread Flour||390 grams (includes 30g for levain*)||90.7%|
|Whole Wheat Flour||40 grams||9.3%|
|Black Sesame Paste||64 grams||14.9%|
|Sea Salt||8 grams||1.9%|
|Water||357 grams (includes 30g for levain)||83%|
|Sourdough starter||30 grams (all for levain)||7%|
*Note: If you do not build a levain, use about 80-90g sourdough starter instead.
Click on the toggles below for more information, recommendations, and possible substitutes. See my Sourdough Tools and Equipment guide for a full list of my favorite bread-baking tools
Cast Iron Dutch Oven
I always list ingredients by weight in grams because it is the most accurate way to measure baking ingredients.
This Escali baking scale is my favorite and I use it every day.
My favorite bread lame for scoring sourdough is the UFO Bread Lame from Wire Monkey. It’s easy to handle, sleek, and has a sharp blade to cut through the dough easily.
I’ve used many bench scrapers, but this Lamson bench scraper is my favorite and highest-quality one. It’s sturdy, has a beautiful walnut handle, and is handcrafted near me in Massachusetts.
Banneton Proofing Basket
Optional but helpful: Brød and Taylor Folding Proofer
This folding proofing box by Brød & Taylor is a game changer to keep your sourdough starter and doughs at the perfect temperature while proofing.
My sourdough baking immediately improved when I got my proofer.
The proofer folds up easily, includes a humidity tray, is multifunctional, and can even be a slow cooker.
Click on the toggles below for more information, recommendations, and possible substitutes.
King Arthur Bread Flour is the brand of bread flour I use for most recipes. However, another high-quality and high-protein content bread flour would work as well.
If you use all-purpose, you may need to mix a little longer.
Whole Wheat Flour
I add a bit of whole wheat flour to most of my loaves for added flavor. You can swap out with spelt or another whole grain here.
Fine Ground Sea Salt is the best salt for sourdough bread.
Sea salt absorbs more quickly than Kosher Salt and does not have a metallic flavor like table salt.
I add honey to the black sesame dough as it pairs well with the slightly bitter black sesame paste. Maple syrup or agave would also work well.
Black Sesame Paste
Black Sesame Seeds
Top the loaf with raw black sesame seeds. They’ll toast in the oven.
You could also use white sesame seeds or skip them completely.
How to Make Black Sesame Sourdough Bread
Follow this visual and detailed guide to help you make the best Black Sesame Sourdough Bread.
1. Make the Levain:
Mix 30g sourdough starter, 30g bread flour, and 30g water in an empty jar.
Cover and set in a warm location (between 75-80ºF) for about five hours until bubbly and ripe. The levain should at least double in size during this time.
Note: I typically autolyse for an hour, but this dough benefits from a longer autolyse because of the added fat. I opt for two hours, which works fine, but you can extend it as well.
About two hours before the levain is ripe, mix 360g bread flour and 40g whole wheat flour in one mixing bowl.
Separate 150 grams of the mixed flour into another mixing bowl. This smaller bowl will be a separate dough for the black sesame paste inclusion. The larger bowl of flour should have 250 grams in it.
Pour 198 grams of warm water into the larger bowl of flour and 119 grams of warm water into the smaller bowl.
Use your hands, a silicone spatula, or a flexible bench scraper to mix the flour for a couple of minutes in one bowl until hydrated. The dough will be quite sticky and stiff. It’s okay if some floury spots remain. Then, repeat with the other bowl.
Cover the bowls and set them aside in a warm location until the levain is ready.
3. Add Levain:
When the levain is bubbly and ripe, add about 55 grams of the levain to the larger bowl and about 30 grams of the levain to the smaller bowl.
Use your hands to dimple the levain into the dough. Then, stretch and fold the dough onto itself for a few minutes until you thoroughly incorporate the levain into the dough.
To stretch and fold:
- Use your hand as pincers to pull up a portion of the dough.
- Lift the dough to stretch it, then fold it down in the middle of the bowl.
- Rotate the bowl and repeat this motion.
Cover the bowls and rest in a warm location for 30 minutes.
4. Mix the Two Doughs:
After 30 minutes, sprinkle 5 grams of sea salt and 5 grams of water on top of the larger dough.
Dimple in the sea salt and begin mixing. Stretch and fold the dough for about 5 minutes.
Then, sprinkle 3 grams of sea salt, 5 grams of water, 23 grams of honey, and 64 grams of black sesame paste into the smaller dough.
Repeat the mixing with the smaller black sesame dough for 7-10 minutes. Try to disperse the black sesame paste evenly throughout so the dough is dark gray.
The black sesame dough can be tricky to mix. Thus, the longer mixing time. This dough is quite sticky and may appear soupy at first. But, continue mixing and add a few grams of water if it becomes stiff. The picture below is the dough at the end of mixing for visual reference.
We will continue to add strength to the doughs during bulk fermentation, lamination, and shaping.
Cover both bowls and rest for 30 minutes, starting bulk fermentation.
5. Bulk Fermentation:
At 78ºF, bulk fermentation (first proof) takes about five hours. The black sesame dough takes slightly longer to proof due to the added fat. Additionally, there are also two stages of folds during this bulk including lamination and coil folds, which are covered below.
If your dough and environment are colder, bulk fermentation will take longer. Conversely, in warmer conditions, bulk fermentation will be faster.
Note: An instant-read thermometer like the Thermapen is a great tool to check your dough temperature throughout bulk fermentation.
After 30 minutes of resting, combine the two doughs together through a process called lamination. This isn’t the same type of pastry lamination that’s used in my pie crust or croissant recipe, though.
Sourdough lamination is a method to strengthen dough, evenly add inclusions like nuts or seeds, and integrate different doughs together.
In this case, it’s used to strengthen the dough and to incorporate the black sesame dough into the plain dough. Once laminated and folded, it will create a black-and-white swirl effect.
How to Laminate Two Doughs:
- Lightly mist your hands and the clean countertop. I use a basic spray bottle. Use wet hands to remove the larger dough from the mixing bowl onto the counter. Stretch it into a thin square about ¼ inch thick. It’s okay to pat the dough into place at this stage.
- Repeat with the black sesame dough, but stretch it to a slightly smaller square. FYI it will be sticky, so always use wet hands.
- Then, quickly pick up the black sesame dough and place it on top of the larger dough. It’s okay if it’s not perfectly square.
- Using wet hands, stretch the dough from the middle into a larger rectangular shape. Try to keep the black sesame dough evenly dispersed.
- Lastly, fold the four sides of the dough into a packet. Use my wet hands and a bench scraper to fold one side to the center of the dough, then fold the opposite side over it. Next, repeat with the other two shorter sides of the dough.
- Place the dough seam-side down into a shallow baking dish or a clean mixing bowl.
Cover and rest one hour.
After the one-hour rest, perform two sets of coil folds with wet hands and spaced an hour apart (linked is a video on how to perform coil folds).
Coil folds will continue to strengthen the dough and add a few more swirls to the dough.
Typically, I add more folds to most loaves. However, this bread develops the most strength from the lamination, so more folds aren’t really necessary. If the dough is flattening quickly and is very slack during the folds (extensible), you can add one or two more folds in.
It’s also advantageous to not fold too much with this bread, or the distinctive swirl will be lost.
The dough rests in bulk fermentation for the remainder of time until shaping (about 2.5 to 3 more hours).
Bulk fermentation is complete when the dough rises about 50%, feels full of air, and there are visible bubbles on top of and around the dough.
6. Shape and Top with Black Sesame Seeds:
Note: I typically only preshape dough if it feels very slack or includes a gluten-free flour like my buckwheat sourdough recipe.
Spread a layer of black sesame seeds on a small sheet pan or plate and season your banneton with a mix of white rice flour and bread flour.
Lightly flour your surface and use a bench scraper to shape the dough into a boule (round) or batard (oval). If the top of the dough is dry, spritz it with some water so the seeds will stick. Then, use the bench scraper to flip the dough seam-side up.
Next, use both hands to transfer the package of dough to the sheet pan and rock the dough back and forth on top of the sesame seeds for even coverage.
Lift the dough and place it seed-side down into the banneton.
In addition, I stitch this dough in the banneton to add extra strength since it can still be quite slack.
Cover and rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
7. Overnight Proof:
With the banneton covered, place it in a cold refrigerator overnight and up to 48 hours.
The overnight proof, or retard, will give additional flavor to the dough and slow down fermentation. Additionally, the bread will become sourer the longer it proofs.
8. Score & Bake:
Place an empty cast iron dutch oven in the oven and preheat to 500ºF (260ºC) for an hour.
After an hour, remove the cold dough from the refrigerator and turn it out onto a small piece of parchment paper.
Then, score the dough using a sharp bread lame.
I usually score with one long slash for a batard (oval). For a boule (round), score the dough with a cross pattern in the center of the dough or another design. The score should be about ¼”-½” deep. If interested, I often share scoring videos on my Instagram.
Carefully place the scored dough with parchment into the dutch oven and immediately cover it with the lid.
Bake at 500ºF (260ºC) for 20 minutes.
Remove the lid, turn down the oven to 450ºF (232ºC) and bake with the lid off for 15 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing.
Finally, enjoy cutting into the crunchy topping to reveal this hypnotic loaf!
How to Serve Black Sesame Sourdough Bread
I enjoy this loaf with butter and a drizzle of honey. The honey balances out the nutty and earthy flavor of the black sesame paste. Mascarpone or cream cheese is also welcome here.
The loaf pairs well with savory lunch sandwiches, avocado toast, or toasted with soups.
For an eye-popping addition to a caesar salad, soup, or panzanella salad you can make croutons! Cut into cubes, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and better. Then, bake in the oven at 350ºF until the croutons are crispy.
How to Store Black Sesame Sourdough Bread
Due to the added fat in the loaf, this bread stays soft and retains moisture better than typical sourdough bread. Furthermore, it also slices more easily because the crust isn’t as tough.
Store sourdough bread cut-side down once sliced. This helps the loaf keep more moisture so it doesn’t dry out and become stale.
Then, wrap the loaf in a tea towel and place it in a bread bag, bread box, or brown paper bag, where it will stay fresh for about three days. After a couple of days, you may need to reheat or toast slices.
You can freeze sourdough bread by cutting slices and placing them in a freezer-safe bag where it will keep for months. To thaw, reheat the frozen slices in a toaster oven, toaster, or oven.
Black Sesame Sourdough Bread FAQs:
Can I use tahini instead of black sesame paste?
Yes. If you don’t have black sesame paste, you can use tahini to make this bread. However, the loaf will not have the same swirl effect and probably won’t be visually noticeable.
You can swap out 1:1.
Is this recipe vegan?
No, because of the honey. However, you can easily substitute honey for maple syrup or agave in this recipe.
Can I add other toppings or inclusions?
Sure! I like the addition of black sesame seeds as a topping so it’s clear what’s in the loaf and what it will taste like.
Oats, white sesame seeds, wheat germ, or a mix of other seeds would all be yummy toppings too.
For inclusions, you can soak black sesame seeds to add to the loaf, but I found it affects the crumb more and doesn’t contribute too much flavor. The loaf already has good sesame flavor, so more sesame inclusions isn’t necessary.
Black Sesame Sourdough Bread
- Make the Levain:In a clean jar, mix the sourdough starter, bread flour, and water for the levain.Cover and set in a warm location (between 75-80ºF) for about five hours until doubled and bubbly.30 grams Sourdough Starter, 30 grams Bread Flour, 30 grams Water
- Autolyse:Two hours before the levain is ready, start autolyse. In a mixing bowl, mix together the bread and whole wheat flours. Then, separate the flour into two bowls, one with 250 grams of flour and the other with 150 grams of flour (this is to create one black sesame dough and one regular dough for the swirl effect).In the larger bowl, add 198 grams of warm water. In the smaller bowl, add 119 grams of water.Mix together the flour and water just until it comes together and there are minimal dry bits of flour left.Cover and rest in a warm location for at least two hours or until the levain is ready.360 grams Bread Flour, 40 grams Whole Wheat Flour, 327 grams Water
- Add Levain, Salt, and Mix:Add 55 grams of the levain into the larger bowl and 30 grams of levain into the smaller bowl. Dimple the levain into the doughs and stretch and fold the doughs upon themselves for a few minutes to incorporate.Cover and rest in a warm location for 30 minutes.Mix the larger dough first. Sprinkle 5 grams of sea salt on top with 5 grams of water. Dimple the salt and water into the dough. Stretch and fold the dough upon itself for 5 minutes until thoroughly mixed. At the end of mixing, the dough will be smooth, you should not feel any individual salt granules between your fingers, and the dough will be more extensible.For the smaller dough, sprinkle 3 grams of sea salt, 5 grams of water, the honey, and black sesame paste. Dimple in and repeat the mixing process, mixing for 7-10 minutes until the dough is dark gray and thoroughly incorporated. The dough will be very sticky.Cover and rest in a warm location for 30 minutes.Levain, 8 grams Sea Salt, 23 grams Honey, 64 grams Black Sesame Paste
- Bulk Fermentation (Lamination & Coil Folds):At 78ºF (26ºC), bulk fermentation for this dough typically takes about 5 hours total.After the 30 minute rest, laminate the black sesame dough into the regular dough. Please see my lamination instructions in the guide for more detail. Cover and rest one hour.Perform two coil folds separated by one hour each. The dough rests in bulk fermentation for the remainder of the time (2.5-3 hours).At the end of bulk fermentation, the dough should be smooth and rounded, feel full of air, have visible bubbles, and should wobble/jiggle if shaken. The dough should rise about 50%.
- Shape:Spread a layer of black sesame seeds on a small baking sheet or plate.Lightly flour the top of the dough and the counter. Gently loosen the dough from the sides of the mixing bowl and turn the dough out onto the counter.With the help of a bench scraper, shape the dough into a batard (oval) or boule (round). Then, flip the dough seam-side up and use both hands to lay the dough on top of the seeds, rocking it back and forth with your hands to evenly cover.Lift up and place it seed-side down into a floured banneton.Stitch the dough in the banneton if it is still loose or slack.Cover and rest for 30 minutes.Black Sesame Seeds
- Cold Overnight Proof:Place the covered banneton into a cold refrigerator to proof overnight and for up to 48 hours.
- Bake:Place the empty dutch oven with lid in the oven and preheat for an hour at 500°F (260ºC).Once preheated, remove the banneton from the refrigerator and turn the dough out onto a piece of parchment paper. Score the dough with a sharp bread lame about ¼-½" deep.Transfer the scored dough to the dutch oven and cover it with the lid.Bake at 500°F (260ºC) for 20 minutes. Remove the lid, lower the oven temperature to 450ºF (232ºC) and bake for 15 minutes with the lid off.Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing.Slice and enjoy!
- Try to keep the dough at a constant, warm temperature (between 75-80ºF) as much as possible throughout fermentation. I use the Brød and Taylor bread proofer to keep my dough at a constant 78ºF. If your dough and environment are cooler, bulk fermentation will take longer. Conversely, in warmer conditions, the dough will ferment faster.
- Read my guide above for a detailed walkthrough with photos and videos for shaping, scoring, and baking this bread.