Now. The Sesame Tofu recipe I’m going to share with you (which does not actually contain any tofu by the way) is a very, very special one to me. Because my mom used to make it all the time. I hadn’t had it since she passed away and the flavours brought back a flood of memories. The recipe hails from the Ultimate hippy cookbook: The Tassajara Bread Book, which was published in 1970 and has been around our house for as long as I can remember. Our copy has stained and grimey pages, a great sign of love and history when it comes to cookbooks.
I have to tell you, the first time my mom made sesame tofu, when I was a kid, I thought it was the weirdest dessert I had ever tasted and instantly dismissed it, referring to it as ‘that weird sesame jello’. But over the years, my mom persisted and made it often, and I grew to positively adore it, craving the creamy consistency and sesame-honey flavour, begging her to make ‘weird sesame jello’ whenever I was home visiting. She would often insist on bringing it to potlucks and public gatherings, which somewhat horrified me. I used to wonder “why can’t she just make banana bread or oatmeal cookies”, you know, “normal deserts”! But normalcy was not one of my mom’s aspirations in life and I think she got a kick out of surprising people with something new and unusual (not to mention healthy!) for them to try. And because that’s just how these things work, I am the exact same way now. This is definitely one extra-out-of-the-ordinary dessert. And it has the memory of my mom and her adventurous cooking written all over it, which I am so grateful for today.
Something to love about this recipe is that it has only 3 ingredients: tahini, honey, and cornstarch (plus water). My mom would usually add a splash of rose water and a pinch of cardamom, which gives this dessert an exquisite middle eastern aroma. I followed her example and also sprinkled mine with black and white sesame seeds as a garnish since the squares are otherwise pretty nondescript and bland-looking (though not bland-tasting!)
Before we go on to the recipe, here is a delightful excerpt from The Tassajara Bread Book:
A recipe doesn’t belong to anyone. Given to me, I give it to you. Only a guide, only a skeletal framework. You must fill in the flesh according to your nature and desire. Your life, your love will bring these words into full creation. This cannot be taught. You already know. So please cook, love, feel, create.
Adapted from The Tassajara Bread Book
1 part sesame tahini
1 part honey
1 part arrowroot flour or cornstarch (be sure to use organic cornstarch otherwise it will likely be GMO)
5 parts water
Optional: 1/2 tsp each rose water and cardamom (or a spice of your choice)
Using 1/2 cup of each ingredient and 2 1/2 cups water will serve about 6 to 8 people.
Dissolve the cornstarch or arrowroot in a bit of the water. Mix the remaining ingredients in a thick-bottomed saucepan. Heat on medium-high until all ingredients have dissolved. Bring to a boil. Add the cornstarch / arrowroot mixture while stirring constantly with a whisk. Once it has started to thicken, lower the heat and cook gently for about 20 minutes, whisking often to maintain a uniform consistency. This is kind of like making a custard. When the mixture is nice and thick, pour into a lightly oiled square 9 x 9 pan (if you used the 1/2 cup measurement). Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds if desired for garnish. Let it cool for a few hours, chill if desired.
Carefully and slowly slice into squares with a sharp knife. (Wetting the knife with a little water can help get a nice clean cut). Bon appétit!