I’ve had this weird fascination with black sesame lately. Not regular sesame, just black sesame. I don’t know if I ate something somewhere at some point (I really can’t pinpoint a specific moment that sparked this fascination), or maybe I just heard about it and the idea was left to fester in my mind. Wherever it came from, it’s one of those ideas that just wouldn’t go away until acted upon. These cookies are the result.
On first bite you’ll taste nothing amiss. It’s a solid chocolate cookie, rich and chewy and studded with melty chocolate chips. But after your second bite you may wonder, why this cookie tastes so much more… shall we say, interesting, than all those other cookies. A depth of nuttiness, a hint of salt, and notes of exotic sesame linger long after the cookie has disappeared. In much the same way that my Chocolate Chipotle Cookies somewhat take you by surprise, these behave in much the same way.
My first go at this recipe was a standard chocolate chip recipe supplemented with black sesame powder. The consistency was off, my cookies spread too thin, and the flavors weren’t quite right either. I found that a chocolate cookie base better supported the black sesame flavor, and mellowed out the color too so it didn’t look so weird and gray (let’s face it, a gray cookie is by no means appetizing).
I’ll be the first to admit that the dough smells awfully like day-old Chinese take out. It might concern you as it did me the first time around. Don’t worry, the flavor and fragrance will mellow after baking and meld with the rich chocolate beautifully.
I looked into both powders and pastes for this recipe, and ultimately chose to use black sesame powder as I felt it would be easier to incorporate into a cookie base. There are black sesame pastes available, black tahini, essentially, although I have heard of an elusive toasted version that is widely used in Japanese and Chinese desserts. I couldn’t find such a substance, and thus opted for the powder. (If you can’t find black sesame powder, you can also make it yourself by just grinding black sesame seeds in a food processor or coffee/spice grinder.)
Black sesame paste is often used as a filling for sweets like mochi, and I considered stuffing these sesame-infused cookies with a sesame paste filling as well, but in the end decided the cookies were more than good enough on their own (and let’s face it, quicker and easier to make when you don’t have a stuffing to prepare and deal with).
If you’re curious how white and black sesame seeds are different, it’s pretty much the same as the difference between white vs brown rice: the white variety is hulled while the black is unmilled or unhulled, its hull still in tact. The black variety will have a richer, nuttier flavor along the lines of rich chocolate or coffee, making them perfectly suited for use in sweet dessert recipes.
- 1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup dark or dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
- 1/4 cup black sesame powder or finely ground black sesame seeds
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 cup dark or semisweet chocolate chips
- black sesame seeds, for topping
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
- In a bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, black sesame powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugars together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs, vanilla, and soy sauce and mix until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add dry ingredients and mix on low speed until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips.
- Scoop 1 1/2-inch balls of dough with a medium cookie scoop (about 1 1/2 tablespoons per cookie) and place on prepared cookie sheet, leaving at least 2 inches of space between cookies to allow for spreading. If desired, sprinkle cookies with a pinch of black sesame seeds just before baking.
- Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes or until centers are just set. Remove from oven and let cool on pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
- Cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.