Today, in honor of little Sésame’s sixth birthday, I’ve prepared another black sesame recipe for you! (Last year it was a striped sesame cake). But it’s actually two recipes in one – first, we’ll be making a Japanese sweet white bean paste (shiro an) that can be used in many ways, and then adding some black sesame paste to it (making kuro goma an) and using it as a turnover filling.
Both parts of this recipe are fairly straightforward and easy, but as making the sweet white bean paste takes quite a while, I’m not putting it in the “easy recipes” category. You need to start soaking the beans the day before making the paste, and then the beans need to cook for two hours. But once you have the paste ready, the rest goes pretty fast.
Sweet white bean paste (shiro an)
Makes about 2 cups of sweet white bean paste.
- 1 cup (175 g) dry white beans
- 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Equipment needed: large heavy stockpot, food processor or high-power blender.
Place the dry beans in a bowl and cover with water. Let soak for 12 hours, refilling the water if needed. The photo above shows the beans at the end of the soaking period.
Transfer the beans to your stockpot, add enough water to cover them, and bring to a boil over medium-low heat. Once the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low. Cover the stockpot and simmer the beans for 1.5 to 2 hours (set a timer so you don’t forget about them!), checking occasionally to make sure the water level is still high enough that the beans cannot burn, and adding more water if necessary. Once the beans are tender enough to squash between your thumb and pinky finger, they’re ready.
Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid.
Transfer to a food processor and purée, adding a bit of the cooking liquid if it’s too dry. At the end it’ll look kind of like this.
Transfer back to the stockpot over low heat and add the sugar and salt, stirring constantly. The sugar will begin dissolving immediately.
After the sugar has dissolved, the mixture will be a bit more liquidy and look glossy. Continue to heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture has become dry enough that you can draw a line down the center of the stockpot bottom with a spatula and it doesn’t fill in.
Black sesame sweet bean paste (kuro goma an)
Makes 1 cup of black sesame sweet bean paste.
Now you can take your white bean paste and flavor it with black sesame. I chose to keep half of the paste unflavored, and make half of it into a black sesame version. The amounts below are therefore for half of the above mixture (1 cup).
- 1 cup sweet white bean paste
- 3 heaping tablespoons black sesame paste
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional, but nice)
In a food processor, combine the prepared sweet white bean paste, the black sesame paste and (if desired) the vanilla extract. Vanilla is not included in the traditional Japanese preparation, but I find it goes so well with sesame!
If you’re opening your jar of black sesame paste for the first time and there’s a layer of oil on top as you can see in this photo, stir it with a butter knife to incorporate the oil and achieve a more homogenous texture before you add any to the white bean paste.
Mix everything up and it will look something like this. If it seems too liquidy, you can put it back in the stockpot and heat it over medium-low, stirring constantly, until it’s a bit drier.
At this point, you can just transfer the paste to a covered container (a jar or tupperware container) and store in the fridge to use later as a spread, or to add to yogurt (see photo at the end of this post). It can also make a nice filling/frosting for a layer cake. If you’d like to use it as a turnover filling, follow the instructions below.
Black sesame turnovers
Makes 4 turnovers.
- 1 prepared flaky pastry crust
- 1 cup black sesame sweet bean paste (some may be left over)
First, preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C).
Cut out circle shapes from the flaky pastry crust (in these photos I’m making just two turnovers, but the ingredient quantities listed above will make four). Place about two heaping tablespoons of the black sesame sweet bean paste on half of each circle, spreading it out to near the edges but leaving a margin.
Fold each circle over once to create a crescent shape.
Press down firmly on the edges to seal the dough.
Score the tops of the turnovers with a sharp knife to allow air to escape during the baking process. Place in the oven for about 15 minutes. As the filling is already rather dry, the baking tends to go faster than with fruit-filled turnovers.
If you like, you can dust the tops of the turnovers with a bit of powdered sugar.
Mine got quite puffy and lost their seal, but once they cooled a bit they de-puffed.
So yummy! They’re great with green tea.
Another way to enjoy the sweet bean paste is in a dish with some plain or vanilla yogurt, fruit and a sprinkling of gomasio.
It’s really nice on bread, too!
Variations: try flavoring the sweet white bean paste with other things: matcha, lemon (zest and a bit of juice) or pumpkin purée.
The plate used in the turnover photos is the “Chysanthemum” in unglazed white/gray by 1616 Arita in Aritayaki, Japan, via Brutal Ceramics.