During my tenure at Four & Twenty Blackbirds, I helped expand their menu offerings, most notably developing the coffee custard pie and a black sesame custard pie, both of which have become fan favorites. This rich and creamy toasted white sesame tart is a riff on the latter. Here, I’ve updated it with some key tweaks: swapping white for black sesame seeds adds a delicate nutty flavor (although the difference in taste can be subtle, black sesame seeds have a pungent, earthy, and slightly bitter flavor), while toasted sugar introduces notes of caramel, and a touch of honey brings floral-sweet undertones. To make this tart even richer, a thin layer of bittersweet chocolate ganache coats the inside bottom of the cookie-like crust, delivering a hint of chocolate with every bite. A final touch of sprinkled sesame seeds over the top adds crunch.
The filling consists of a custard base, a variation on your basic egg custard, which is made by heating eggs, milk or cream, sugar, and flavorings together, like in these roasted buckwheat custards. As the eggs heat, the proteins in the whites and yolks denature, or unfold, and then coagulate, or bond together, to form a strong, flexible network, giving the custard its signature silky, smooth texture. In this case, the addition of an extra egg yolk, a small amount of flour, and sour cream help thicken and stabilize the filling as it bakes in the oven, along with adding richness, body, and texture.
The finished tart will be at home on any holiday table, whether as an alternative to a classic pie or alongside multiple dessert options.
Why It Works
- The nuanced chocolatey sweetness of the ganache pairs well with the nutty flavor of the white sesame custard.
- A mix of toasted ground seeds and tahini paste deepens the sesame flavor.
- Egg yolks, all-purpose flour, and sour cream give the custard body and texture.
What’s New On Serious Eats
- Yield:Makes one 9 1/2-inch tart
- Active time:15 minutes
- Total time:1 hour
- For the Ganache:
- 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, about 60%, chopped (1/3 cup; 60g)
- 2 ounces (1/4 cup; 60g) heavy cream
- 1/2 recipe pâte sucrée, blind-baked per directions
- For the Custard:
- 1 ounce toasted white sesame seeds (1/4 cup; 30g), plus more for sprinkling on top
- 2 ounces granulated sugar (1/4 cup; 60g), plain or toasted
- 1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour, such as Gold Medal
- 1/2 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use half as much by volume
- 2 ounces (4 tablespoons; 60g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon; 15g) honey
- 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon; 15g) tahini paste
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 large egg (1 3/4 ounces; 50g)
- 1 large egg yolk (3/4 ounce; 20g)
- 2 ounces (1/4 cup; 60g) sour cream
- 6 ounces (3/4 cup; 170g) heavy cream
Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 325°F (163°C).
For the Ganache: Place chocolate in a small, heatproof bowl. In a 1-quart stainless steel saucier, heat cream over medium-high heat until it has reached a simmer and started to bubble hard around the edges. Immediately pour hot cream over chocolate and let stand 1 minute. Using a spoon, stir until smooth.
Using the same spoon, scrape the ganache into the blind-baked tart shell. Using the back of the spoon, spread ganache in a smooth, even layer that covers the inside bottom of tart shell.
Transfer tart shell to a rimmed baking sheet and place in the freezer until ganache is firm, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, for the Custard: In a blender or spice grinder, process sesame seeds until coarsely powdered, about 5 seconds.
In a medium bowl, whisk together powdered sesame seeds, granulated sugar, all-purpose flour, and salt.
Add melted butter, honey, tahini paste, and vanilla extract to dry ingredients. Whisk until thoroughly combined.
Whisk in egg and egg yolk, followed by sour cream, until mixture is smooth with no visible lumps.
Whisk in heavy cream until well combined.
Remove baking sheet from freezer and place on a level surface. Pour custard into prepared tart shell, then sprinkle sesame seeds evenly on top. Carefully transfer baking sheet with filled tart shell to oven. Bake until custard is slightly puffed at the edges and the center is just set, about 35 minutes.
Set baking sheet with finished tart on a wire rack to cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Slice and serve.
1-quart stainless steel saucier, blender, spice grinder, rimmed baking sheet, wire rack
The custard can be prepared ahead of time and then refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 24 hours. When you are ready to bake the tart, remove the custard from the refrigerator and whisk well before pouring into the prepared tart shell.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Covered with foil or plastic, the tart will keep for up to 1 day at room temperature.