Black Sesame Buttermilk Tartlets with Peppermint Bark #Barkyeah!

Black Sesame Buttermilk Tartlets topped with Peppermint Bark

As a nod to my allergy to the majority of tree nuts out there, I’m always looking for alternative methods for that characteristic “nutty” taste. I’m not going to make wide, fantastical acclamations that I’ve replicated the flavor of nuts with seeds (those who can eat nuts always proclaim in shock over my allergies and then regretfully inform me exactly what I am missing out on…), but I am so happy with using seeds, peanuts, and pistachios (the one tree nut I can eat). To give you an idea of what I can’t eat – well, I can’t eat nutella. I can’t eat or use marzipan (but there are ways around this…which I will share later this month :)). I can’t eat most pestos. I can’t eat French macarons (although, there are nut-free versions). In fact, just standing in a macaron shop in Paris caused my mast cells to go nuts, and I had to step outside. I consider myself lucky that I do not typically enter anaphylactic shock, although I did have a scary experience this past summer.
Black Sesame Buttermilk Tartlets topped with Peppermint Bark

I’ve long since used black sesame as my go-to complement for that nutty quality. Black sesame goes with everything. Cinnamon rolls, ice cream, cakes, pesto, oatmeal – It’s a small tiny seed with a surprisingly substantial flavor that has really grown in popularity. Dare I say, it has almost surpassed matcha in its accolade? When Williams Sonoma and Feedfeed asked me to create a recipe with William Sonoma’s signature peppermint bark, my thoughts immediately went into full festivity mode. After all, once the turkey is eaten (duck, in my case) and December swings around, ornaments, wreaths, trees, and holiday cookies and desserts explodes like a confetti box. I wanted to create something that balanced the charming sweetness of the peppermint bark, so I immediately strayed away from something too sweet. I finally decided to test a black sesame tart. Buttermilk for that tang (plus, buttermilk tarts are just delightful and wonderful to infuse flavors with), individual sizes because that’s just how I do things, and black sesame for an extra nuttiness and balance. The result? I ate, um, all of it. The melding of flavors work so well together. I added a dollop of vanilla bean creme fraiche to some, because I think creme fraiche is always welcome, but that’s optional. What’s not optional is the black sesame addition and topping with peppermint bark. Balance, friends!

WS Peppermint Bark -15Black Sesame Buttermilk Tartlets topped with Peppermint BarkBlack Sesame Buttermilk Tartlets topped with Peppermint Bark

Prior to this summer, I had never underwent anaphylactic shock due to my food allergies, but I think because of that I have become complacent. I’m generally good about avoiding nuts, and restaurants, markets, and other food vendors have increasingly become adept at providing information about food allergies right on the menu. This past season at one of our weddings, I plucked up a delicious looking appetizer that was being passed around. Now, I usually do not even eat any appetizers because we’re working, but this was my friend’s wedding, and at her urging I decided to try one. It was the middle of summer and I was already sporting a slight sheen of sweat, so stepping inside with a cool glass of coke (our cocktail hour go-to refreshment) and the urging of my dear friend the bride prompted me to break my own rule and eat a passed appetizer. The minute I swallowed that stupid puff, I knew. It had some sort of nut cream in it. I couldn’t taste it, because I’m not experienced enough with walnuts/hazelnuts/almonds/pecans to distinguish between the three, but my mouth immediately told me that I had made a mistake. Stupid. Stupid of me not to ask the waitress or even my friend, who would know the menu. Luckily, my reaction was not that severe, and I certainly did not need an epipen or further medical care. I dealt with the discomfort, until later that night. For the first time in my entire history of allergies with nuts, I had a delayed reaction. I don’t know if it was the heat, the immediate consumption of dinner after that nut-filled passed appetizer, or what, but near the end of the wedding, I suddenly felt my throat begin to close. Slowly, steadily, scarily. I was sweating. I looked like I had been drinking (asian glow) but I had not had a single drop of alcohol. For the first time, I felt scared of my allergic reaction. Stupid. Stupid stupid me, with not even a benadryl in my possession to combat the histamine in my system. Actually, since we underwent the immunology unit in medical school, I think I understand it more. IgE mediated hypersensitivity, when mast cells degranulate after contact with antigens (nuts, in this case), and histamines, PAF, or other mediators are released to draw further reactions from my immune system.  The food was still in my system, and as much as I wanted to deny it, I had a mild anaphylactic reaction. Maybe late phase reaction? I think I was scared that my reaction to nuts had become more severe, something that does happen with age for some individuals. I will not underestimate my allergies anymore. Lesson to be learned? Don’t be complacent with my food allergy. Always, always, check to see what is in the ingredients.

Black Sesame Buttermilk Tartlets topped with Peppermint BarkBlack Sesame Buttermilk Tartlets topped with Peppermint BarkBlack Sesame Buttermilk Tartlets topped with Peppermint BarkOf course, now that I know that mast cells and degranulation are the primary enemies behind both my environmental and food allergies, AND my eczema, I always joke to my equally nerdy med school friends – ugh, my mast cells are going nuts. In fact, in a message to my primary care physician for a new prescription to treat my eczema, I joked about my mast cells. I bet she thought I was a typical first year :).

Black Sesame Buttermilk Tartlets topped with Peppermint BarkBlack Sesame Buttermilk Tartlets topped with Peppermint BarkBlack Sesame Buttermilk Tartlets topped with Peppermint BarkBlack Sesame Buttermilk Tartlets topped with Peppermint BarkBlack Sesame Buttermilk Tartlets topped with Peppermint Bark

This post is sponsored by Williams Sonoma and Feed Feed as part of their #Barkyeah, 12 Days of Peppermint Bark campaign. All opinions expressed are purely my own, as always. Thank you so much for supporting the companies that support this blog. 

RECIPE: Black Sesame Buttermilk Tartlets with Peppermint Bark
Pastry Crust from Williams Sonoma
Buttermilk tart adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi and Food Network

Pastry Crust
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp very cold water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ¼ cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
¼ tsp sea salt
1 stick cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Mix yolk, water, vanilla until incorporated.

Whisk flour, sugar, and salt together. Cut butter into dry mixture until a coarse texture forms (about pea-sized pieces, largest). Add wet mixture into dry with a fork until the dough just forms (do not over-mix). If dough is too dry, add 1 tbsp water at a time until dough just comes together.

Transfer to a floured surface and pat into a disk. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Let sit at room temperature to thaw for about 5 minutes. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface and flatten dough with your rolling pin. Lift dough and turn it a quarter of the way and roll to about 1/8” thick. Using your tart pan (or tartlet pans) in comparison, cut your dough into round(s) bout 2” wider in diameter than the pan for a large tart pan, or about 1/2″ wider for the small tartlet pans. Grease and flour tart pan(s). Fold rolled out dough in half and gently lift into your tart pan. Press into tart pan and up the sides. Trim any excess by simply rolling pin along the top. Then, use your fingers to push the tart dough slightly up the edge to compensate for any shrinkage. Dock dough by stabbing dough with your fork. Return to fridge and let chill for 30 minutes. If using tartlet pans, place on top of a baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 350.

Line with parchment paper or foil, fill with baking beans (but I use uncooked rice) and bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove parchment paper and weights and bake for another 10 minutes, until golden brown. Reduce heat to 325.

Black Sesame Buttermilk Filling

1/4 cup black sesame seeds, toasted
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup heavy cream
insides of vanilla bean, scraped
3.5 tbsp melted, unsalted butter
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp flour, sifted

peppermint bark for topping

First, grind sesame seeds and 1 tbsp sugar in a food processor until thick. Oil from the sesame seeds should start to seep out, thickening the mixture into a paste.

Mix buttermilk, melted butter, and cream together. Whisk eggs and sugar together in a separate bowl until light and pale yellow. Add buttermilk mixture and flour to the egg mixture. Fold in black sesame seeds. Strain and pour into pre-baked pastry in tart pans.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until sides are just set. The sides may be puffy and the middle can still be a bit jiggly, but remove from oven and let cool completely. Top with sifted powdered sugar and peppermint bark!

Beautiful plate: Zaira Zarotti / Tartlet pans: Williams Sonoma 

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  • Sounds like an amazing flavor combination! Black sesame is so delicious :) Happy Holidays!ReplyCancel

  • LOVE THIS PAIRING!! So unique and yet, it’s like DUH! No brainer. Will have to try this out, B! Ps – love all of these shots!!ReplyCancel

  • Oh man, no macarons or Nutella? You are missing out on the finer things in life. At least you have these tartlets!ReplyCancel

    • Right? I’ve been experimenting with nut-free macarons – I did one with pumpkin seeds awhile ago but I could still taste some of the pumpkin seed. Trying some other options :).ReplyCancel

  • My son has nut allergies and it is truly a terrifying situation. Always worried he’ll eat something he shouldn’t when he is not in my line of sight.
    Anything with buttermilk speaks to me, these tartlets sound and look absolutely incredible!ReplyCancel

    • Oh, nut allergies are so scary – I was so stupid not to take it seriously. Your son is lucky to have a mother like you to watch over him :).ReplyCancel

  • Wow, Betty. These look so good. Very brilliant pairing. I love the tang that the buttermilk brings and I like how the bark adds a chocolate flavor rather than making the whole thing from chocolate and nuts. Even without an allergy this would be a go to. I’m going to try to make these. My husband has an oddly similar allergy to potatoes (weird i know). He doesn’t go into full anaphylaxis, just sort of gets a weird taste/throat closing with trouble breathing and it’s terrifying. So I never use potatoes in cooking, but you’d be surprised where potato flakes or potato gluten hides out in random foods. Thanks for sharing. You are a woman of many many talents. Awesome.ReplyCancel

    • Amanda you are too sweet! Thank you for your support – means so much to me!! I’m so sorry to hear about your husband and potatoes – his reaction sounds EXACTLy like what I experience! It is not fun, and I am glad he has you to watch out for him!!!! Thank you for sharing with me, Amanda!ReplyCancel

  • nut allergies are the scariest thing! I’ll know never to give you a nut!! But, all the sesame and seeds your bowels can handle haha. Also, didn’t know both of you guys are in med school! AND are wedding photographers. You guys are too talented!!!ReplyCancel

    • Mabel, right?! Nut/Peanut allergies are so prevalent it’s scary to think about it, and you must see them frequently in rotations! My husband is currently doing peds and he says he sees so many allergy patients!ReplyCancel

  • So gorgeous, Betty! These tartlets look as delicious as they are beautiful. I’m sure the black sesame is tastier than any tree nut would have been here.

    Also that close call was scary, but I’m glad you shared your experiences. It’s a good lesson learned for people with nut allergies to be super careful (and makes me so grateful not to have to deal with that). Also love the medical school lingo you thew in there, you smart gal :)ReplyCancel

    • I couldn’t help but nerd out :P. You should’ve seen me when I was studying immunology and when I realized how applicable it was to my own specific reactions. Alex kept rolling his eyes and telling me “Betty, I went through immunology too. I KNOW”. Hehe. Thank you for your sweet comment, Summer!ReplyCancel

  • Wow these look so good I love black sesame so I will have to try these xxxReplyCancel

  • Oooh these are stunning, Betty!! Can’t wait to try black sesame and peppermint, together at last. IReplyCancel

    • Clearly I wasn’t finished typing when that sent! Sorry. I just wanted to say what a dream this post is for me—you talked about your nut allergies AND med school!!! YAY!!!!! Plus peppermint bark!!! Hooray!!ReplyCancel

      • <3 I'm so glad we had that conversation about allergies - it really is a scary experience and I think we can all learn from each other!!!! And YES bark yeah :DReplyCancel

  • Wow Betty! These are SO gorgeous! I have been wanting to try a really delicious black sesame dessert for a while, I think you have just mapped out my weekend!

  • Ooh black sesame tarts would be divine! My sister loves that Williams Sonoma peppermint bark too. And as a bioengineer I was into your scientific explanation behind allergies :)

    P.S. I can’t believe you’re in medical school + doing wedding photography + this blog, Betty. You are a superwoman!ReplyCancel

    • not a superwoman – just incredibly anal about organization + scheduling, lol! I’m glad you were into my nerdy moment – that warms my heart :D.ReplyCancel

  • I’m gulping here over and over. Just look at those magical freckly specks of sesame! I know I’d love these because black sesame. But this combo surprisingly never crossed my mind. And um, daannnggg that bark must be divine because everyone’s talking about it. :/ReplyCancel

  • I just love how holiday-y all of these photos are Betty! Goodness I miss this peppermint bark. **vegan sad face** And I am so interested to hear about your nut free marzipan! So scary about your allergy. I have certain food sensitivities not as epic as yours, but enough to force me into a shriveled up ball of pain on the floor for several hours – so I hear you on those times where you “learn your lesson” – no fun! Glad you were okay, and SO glad for this gorgeous #barkyeah post friend! XOReplyCancel

  • I have decided that you’re my favorite food blog of the year! Stunning photography, beautiful recipes! So much <3

    Saghar from Lab NoonReplyCancel

  • These little tarts look adorable, Betty! I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it must be living with a nut allergy, especially when eating out! :-( xReplyCancel

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