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Sweet and Savoury

People think I'm really weird. "Well, duh," you may be thinking. "That's because you are." Yes, we all have an element of the weird in us. But my comment above was because I like sweet and salty together. I LOVE dipping crisps into melted milk chocolate. The only reason I don't indulge in this snack every Friday night is because it's so much hassle unless you have a party of you (Like 4-6 people) who all enjoy the same treat. I speak, of course, from experience.

I don't know what it is but there is just the most delicious, almost guilt inducing, taste of the sweet and savoury being eaten together. Like salted caramel. In the past few years, this flavour has taken the dessert world by storm. It has come up in cakes, brownies, ice creams, even truffles. It's the same thing. Or peanut butter and chocolate together. Sweet and savoury. So if we use peanuts and hazelnuts to create the beautiful creation, let's use sesame too.

Tahini is great in desserts. Halawa (or halva in Turkish) is a sesame based sweet using tahini as it's main ingredient. It's popular at breakfast and, occasionally, with dinner. In the Middle East, the big meal is traditionally at lunchtime and it's normal to just have a sandwich or za'atar w zeit for dinner.

I digress. Tahini. Embrace it. Use it not just in wraps or salad dressings (both lovely uses for tahini) but also in desserts. Cake! Put tahini in your cake. I promise, you will not go back. Be aware though, tahini has a very particular taste so you do need to enhance the sweetness of whatever you're making. Add chocolate. Or caramel. Being the kind of person who finds a good combination and wants to shout it from the rooftops, I will start with shouting it here. Have a go at this tahini and caramel cake with sesame brittle. I made it as a loaf, but I have made it as a 9" round cake before so it really is completely up to you what shape you want to bake it in. It's pretty darn good as a loaf, mind you.

Tahini & Caramel Cake

  • 250g butter, soft

  • 200g caster sugar

  • 50g light soft brown sugar

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 2 tbsp light tahini

  • 3 eggs

  • 250g self raising flour

For the caramel:

  • 200g caster sugar

  • 100g butter

  • 200ml double cream

For the brittle:

  • 100g caster sugar

  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and grease and line a loaf tin. Cream together the butter and sugars until its light and fluffy and beat in the vanilla extract. Beat in the eggs one by one, not adding the next until the last is completely combined with the butter. Then add the tahini and combine.

Fold in the flour and when it's just combined, poor the batter into the prepared tin and level it out. The mixture is relatively dry so it will be more of a spreading than a shaking. Put the cake in the oven for 40 minutes or until it springs back when pressed and a skewer comes out clean.

While the cake is in the oven, make the caramel. You can do this two ways. If you want a dark caramel, pour the sugar into a wide frying pan or saucepan and heat it until it's completely melted and a golden brown. Then add the butter (carefully!) and cream and stir well until well combined. When you have a smooth caramel, take it off the heat and let it cool.

If you want a light caramel, add all the caramel ingredients to a saucepan and boil everything until it's smooth and a creamy gold colour. You can add a pinch of salt if you like for salted caramel.

While the caramel is cooling, make the brittle. In a wide sauce pan, melt the sugar as before - don't let it get too dark or it will burn - and when the sugar is completely melted, add the sesame seeds and stir well. Pour the sugar and seeds onto parchment paper and let it cool.

When the cake comes out of the oven, let it cool completely in the tin. Let the caramel cool so that it gets to a thick pouring consistency but not so thick that you need to spread it. When the brittle is completely cool, completely cover it with parchment paper and bash it up with a rolling pin. Make the shards as big or small as you like.

Decorate at will. I took the cake out of the tin and liberally poured the caramel over the top and sprinkled the brittle over the top.


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