Black Sesame Candy
“Tokens of hope, recovered from the encroaching dark.” — The Narrator (Wayne June), from Darkest Dungeon.
Wow-wee look at me, starting off with a fancy quote. But let’s be real, I’m no poet, no literati, no Thalia Ho, no Jasmine Lo. Because the quote isn’t from a provocative piece of prose or a popular poem. It’s from a video game.
Yup, Darkest Dungeon is this game that I’ve been obsessed with for the past week. It’s punishing and grim and almost sadistic, because in it, your ‘heroes’ are pitted against a never-ending horde of eldritch monsters and Lovecraftian horrors, often dying from their bleeding wounds, dungeoneering stress, or whatever horrible disease the game conjures up. It’s frustratingly fun, if that’s even possible. After all, this is a game that warns you that it’s all about “making the most of a bad situation”, not least because bad situations will happen ALL THE TIME. It’s kind of like a mantra for life really, eh?
And my god, is the narration good! The atmospheric baritone of Wayne Jun narrating hopeless, yet lusciously lyrical lines really adds to the mood and the whole desperation of your adventures. I mean, “be wary - triumphant pride precipitates a dizzying fall...”, “as life ebbs, terrible vistas of emptiness reveal themselves”, and “monstrous size has no intrinsic merit, unless inordinate exsanguination be considered a virtue”. I mean, I’ll probably never use half of those words in my writing ever, but even with their depressing tone, man are they all so deliciously poetic! (I promise I’m not a sadist.)
Now I did not just use put that quote there so I can gush about gaming. No, it’s because I made some candies that really are “tokens of hope”, created from the dark, ebony glints of sesame seeds, coated with musky, tar-thick treacle, made into something more than the sum of its parts.
Also I set out to make them brittle as bones, as thin as “the walls between the sane world and that unplumbed dimension of delirium” (yes, that’s yet another moody quote from Darkest Dungeon), a recreation of my recent recipe on Food52. But then I got a little impatient, a little distracted, and ended up not heating the sugar up to temperature (I also did not have a working thermometer). So instead of brittles, they were more ‘malleables’ or ‘chewys’.
Still, mom liked them, so did my sister, and so did my visiting relatives. I think the aromatic, dark Chinese treacle I happened to use gave it a nostalgic Chinese candy quality. So truly, these were unexpectedly good, surprising gems of confectionary, “tokens of hope recovered from the encroaching dark” of culinary failure, saved from the brink of the food waste bin.
Black Sesame Candy
Makes 30-40 pieces
400g black sesame seeds
120g caster sugar
120g treacle, or honey
3g teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 160°F. Roast the black sesame seeds for 10 to 15 minutes, until the sesame turns fragrant. (It’s hard to tell exactly when black sesame is well toasted, so you can put a little pinch of white sesame on a separate tray and roast that in the oven together with the black sesame, and when the white sesame is nice and golden-brown, you’ll know your black sesame is done too.)
Put the caster sugar, treacle, salt, and water into a medium pot or pan, and bring it to a boil. Keep the syrup on a steady simmer, letting it bubble and heat up until it reaches 125°C (‘hard ball’ stage). (If you don’t have a sugar thermometer, you can spoon out a little syrup into a bowl of cold water, and if it turns into a rough ball of sugar, it’s done.)
When the sugar syrup is done, take it off the heat, and quickly pour in the toasted sesame seeds. Give it a stir so the sugar is spread evenly, then immediately pour everything out onto a silicon mat or a sheet of parchment paper. Place another mat or parchment paper on top, and roll it out firmly with a rolling pin until it’s about 0.5cm thick all over. (You can go thinner, but I like my brittle to be a bit more sizeable so you can munch on it like a biscuit.)
Once it’s rolled out, let it cool slightly, and cut it into strips with a heavy knife. (You can cut them into square, rectangles, or do as I did and make them into diamonds. Or you can let your imagination run wild and cut out stars, even!) Store in an airtight container if not having immediately. It keeps well for up to a week.