"Love is a rose. Every petal an illusion, every thorn a reality." - Charles Baudelaire, 'Les Fleurs du Mal'
I haven’t been in the mood to write lately. I think there’s a part of me that's vexed by how much of myself I choose to put into each work. Writing a post requires a melangé of inspiration. And when I can, I take all that’s inside and weave it into obscure, mangled words, just as obscure and mangled as the far wailing walls of my mind. And right now, I’m coming up short. It’s never been that way with baking though. Baking is natural, just as natural as deep breath and even deeper hunger. It's easy to dream in sweet combinations, cake layers and flavour. And when it isn’t there, I don’t force it. But to write, well, that’s a different story in its entirety.
I made these Black Tahini Buns with White Chocolate and Orange, and to post them requires both accompanying prose and euphemism. One thing I will say though, is that these buns are insanely good. The kind of good that mandates all the expletives and accompanying euphoric sounds.
The dough is oh-so pillowy and extremely aerated, slightly orange infused too. It’s adapted from an Ottolenghi recipe - and is the perfect base dough that you could use for a range of different yeasted projects. And the black tahini! I was elated to finally be able to find it after seeing so much black tahini inspiration. It’s sweeter than the usual and a little milder too. It wasn’t hard to find - I managed to source a jar from my local health food store. And, it's easy enough to find online too (you could also use regular un-hulled tahini for this recipe if you can't get it)!
Instead of further ramblings, behold an excerpt from Les fleurs du Mal (‘Flowers of Evil’). It’s a text that I’ve been reading lately in some kind of last-minute attempt to re-kindle my ability to comprehend the French language, before I leave for Paris. I’ve always resonated with Baudelaire’s work, on all levels, with all bodies. Hymne à la Beauté, by far, my most loved poem of all. It’s dark, profound and hauntingly beautiful.
"O Beauty! Do you visit from the sky, or the abyss? Infernal and divine, your gaze bestows both kindnesses and crimes. So it is said you act on us like wine. Your eye contains the evening and the dawn; You pour out odours like an evening storm. Your kiss is potion from an ancient jar, that can make heroes cold and children warm. Are you heaven or the nether world? Charmed Destiny, your pet, attends your walk. You scatter joys and sorrows at your whim. And govern all, and answer no man’s call.
Beauty, you walk on corpses, mocking them; Horror is charming as your other gems, and Murder is a trinket dancing there; lovingly on your naked belly’s skin. You are a candle where the mayfly dies; In flames, blessing this fire’s deadly bloom. The painting lover bending to his love; looks like a dying man who strokes his tomb. What difference, then, from heaven or from hell. O Beauty, monstrous in simplicity? If eye, smile, step can open me the way; To find unknown, sublime, infinity?
Angel or siren, spirit, I don’t care, As long as velvet eyes and perfumed head; And glimmering motions. O my queen, can make the world less dreadful, and the time is less dead."
BLACK TAHINI BUNS WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE AND ORANGE
For the dough:
120 millilitres water
10 grams instant yeast
530 grams all-purpose flour
100 grams granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
150 grams unsalted butter, very soft at room temperature
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
zest from 1/2 an orange
Place the water into a medium sized saucepan set over medium-low heat. Heat, until the water is lukewarm in temperature. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the yeast until evenly distributed. Set aside to prove, about 5 minutes. Make sure to stir occasionally.
Meanwhile, place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Mix on low speed to evenly combine the dry ingredients. Increase the mixer speed to medium-low then pour in the yeast mixture. Mix to form a rough, shaggy dough, about 4 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and add in the eggs, one at a time, making sure to beat well after each addition. Let the mixer knead the dough until it is smooth, about 3-4 more minutes.
Add in the butter, a generous tablespoon at a time, making sure that it is all incorporated before adding in the next tablespoon. Add in the vanilla bean seeds and orange zest. Increase the speed to medium-high and knead the dough until it is smooth, elastic and velvety, about 8 - 10 minutes.
Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl then cover it with a layer of plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm draft-free area until the dough has risen and is slightly under doubled in size, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Knock the dough back and place it in the refrigerator to chill for at least 6 hours, but preferably overnight.
For the filling:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
150 grams black tahini, or regular un-hulled tahini
125 grams white chocolate, finely chopped
a lightly beaten egg for the egg wash
The next morning, generously grease a 12 hole muffin pan with neutral oil or butter. Set aside.
Remove the chilled dough from the bowl and place it in on a lightly floured surface. Then, using a lightly dusted rolling pin, roll the dough out to form a rectangular shape, about 45 cm x 35 cm (12” x 13”) in diameter.
Using a pastry brush, brush the melted butter all over the face of the dough. Then, using a butter knife or offset spatula, spread an even layer of the black tahini over the face of the dough - making sure to leave a 2.5 cm (1”) border around the edges. If your tahini is a little bit runny, give it a gentle stir then place it in the refrigerator to firm up a little bit before spreading. Sprinkle over the finely chopped white chocolate.
Starting with the longest side of the dough, begin to very tightly and gently roll the dough until it resembles a log shaped cylinder. Turn the dough log over so that it faces seam side down. Then, use a sharp knife, to slice off 12 evenly sized pieces and place each dough spiral into the muffin pan set aside above. If the cutting is getting messy or the tahini is beginning to run, place the log on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and set it in the freezer to firm up for about 15 minutes.
Cover the muffin pan with a layer of plastic wrap and set it aside to rise in a warm draft-free place for 30- 45 minutes, or until the buns are just beginning to double in size. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 180 C (350 F).
Once risen, remove the layer of plastic wrap. Lightly glaze the tops of each bun with a thin layer of the egg wash. Bake, for 25-35 minutes, or until the buns are puffed, golden and a skewer inserted into their middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes, before carefully taking each bun out of the muffin pan and setting aside on a cooling rack. Immediately glaze them with the orange syrup (recipe follows) and set aside until slightly warm before serving.
For the glaze:
100 grams granulated sugar
70 millilitres fresh orange juice
30 millilitres water
1 tablespoon grand marnier, optional
While the buns are baking, make the orange syrup. Place the sugar, orange juice and water in a medium sized saucepan set over medium heat. Heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar, until the mixture comes to a light simmer. Increase the heat to medium-high and let the syrup boil for 2 minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat and stir in the grand marnier. Set aside until needed.