Black Widow Sundaes

While in Hong Kong a couple of years ago, I fell in love with the warm black sesame mochi often served as dessert.  I loved the combination of just barely sweet but incredibly rich nuttiness and chewy glutenous rice. Kind of like a heated Abba Zabba.  Sort of.  The thing is, these little treats always look slightly evil to me. Like maybe something a giant hairy black spider might lay.  Creepy. And yes, completely unappetizing.

So, when thinking of a final scary treat for the month of October, these came to mind.  Alas, mochi are a step or 27 above my technical skill level.  But I tell you what isn’t: ice cream.  I found this recipe on the blog Just One Cookbook.  It all starts with black sesame seeds.

I found these at Whole Foods.  What I couldn’t find without ordering online was black sesame paste.  No worries though, the Blogess at Just One Cookbook gives an easy recipe for sesame paste from scratch.

Once you are armed with both your black sesame seeds and your black sesame paste, you do a little grinding.  I find using a pestle and mortar very satisfying.

Both the paste and ground sesame seeds are added to a mixture of honey, sugar and eggs.

Once combined, heated milk is slowly incorporated (don’t want to scramble those eggs).

Next, the whole lovely mess is heated and stirred until thickened.

Into an ice bath.  Behind the scenes, I was whipping some cream with a sprinkle of salt.

I’ve made ice cream a dozen or so times using varying methods and this one was new.  The now softly peaked whipped cream is folded into the sesame mixture.

Then everything is cooled in the fridge for a few hours. Only when the mixture is completely chilled is it time to fire-up the ice cream maker.  Yes, ours is orange.  This shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows TD.  At this point, the custard was a beautiful dark grey color–really lovely, but not evil enough for my purposes.  So, I added three drops of black gel food coloring.

After about 20 minutes of churning, you’ve got soft-serve, so into the freezer to harden.

No self-respecting ghoulish sundae would be complete without a a sauce.  Here I just added a little bit of sugar and lemon juice to a pint of fresh raspberries.  Blackberries would be good too.  Or fudge.

And that my friends, is how you make a black widow sundae.  Rubber spider definitely required.  Unfortunately, good photography appears to be optional.  My apologies!

The fruit sauce with the nutty ice cream turned out to be a delicious combination.  Black sesame ice cream tastes very close to peanut butter so the bright fruit note was a nice contrast.


My Halloween playlist.  Dude, you already knew I was a nerd.

Black Sesame Ice Cream

from Nami of Just One Cookbook 


  • 2 Tbsp. roasted black sesame seeds
  • 400 ml (roughly 1 2/3 cup) whole milk
  • 70g (2.5oz, roughly 1/3 cup) sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 3 Tbsp. black sesame paste (or Homemade Black Sesame Paste) [TMH note–I used a mini-prep instead of a regular-size processor with good results]
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 200 ml (Take away 2 Tbsp. of 1 cup) heavy cream
  • Pinch of salt


  1. If the black sesame seeds are not roasted yet, put the sesame in a (non-stick) fry pan over medium heat and stir until they start popping. They will start releasing a nutty aroma. Remove from the heat and cool.
  2. Grind black sesame seeds very finely.
  3. In a small pot, bring the milk to a simmer and remove from heat.
  4. Whisk sugar and egg yolk together until pale yellow.
  5. Add in honey, black sesame seeds, and black sesame paste and whisk until well combined.
  6. Add the milk into the sesame mixture in a slow stream.
  7. Pour the mixture into the small pot over medium-low heat. Stir until the custard thickens and reach around 80C (176F) degree. Don’t exceed 83C (181F) degree since egg yolk will get cooked.
  8. Remove from heat and cool down the pot in a large bowl filled with iced water. Add vanilla.
  9. Clean the stand mixer bowl and now whisk together the heavy cream and a pinch of salt until peaks form.
  10. Add the whipped cream into the cooled sesame mixture. Fold in but do not over mix it. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for several hours (or overnight) until completely cold.
  11. Process the mixture in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions (usually about 25 minutes). Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and freeze it for several hours before serving.
  12. If you are not going to use ice cream maker, then transfer the mixture to a container and put it in a freezer. Stir every few hours (3-4 times) to break up the ice crystals until it’s completely frozen.


Sweet and salty

You didn’t think I’d do a month of Halloween treats and forget the caramel did you?  And, this isn’t just any caramel, this is Ina Garten’s fleur de sel caramel.  These little treats are very rich, just slightly chewy and have enough salt that they border on savory (think kettle corn).

While the sugar and water get to boiling, prepare the pan.  Cut the parchment so that it sits neatly along two sides and overhangs on the other two (enough to use the extra parchment to lift the finished caramel out of the pan).

This is a two-pan caramel recipe.  Sugar and water come together in one while heavy cream and butter are warmed in another.

Once the sugar and water reach a pale sunny blond…

In goes the dairy (be prepared for a little angry caramel for a few minutes).

Bring the whole mess up to 248 degrees.

And then into the prepared pan and into the fridge until completely cooled.

Now it’s time to really get to work.  This is a soft caramel and as such, imprints easily.  Like fingerprint easy.  To avoid mucking up the beautiful shiny caramel with my grubby fingers, I put on plastic gloves for this next part.

Tightly roll the caramel to halfway.

Cut into eight pieces.

Srinkle with fleur de sel.

Then repeat with the other half.  I wrapped each little piece in parchment (I cut a couple of 10X14 inch pieces into eight equal-sized parchment rectangles giving me 16 pieces total).  You could also use waxed paper or cellophane.  A few years ago I used this really cute waxed paper from The Container Store.

Over the years I’ve made these on-and-off for the holidays.  Something tells me they’ll making a comeback this year.

If you like this, you might like these

Salted Caramel Squares

Scratch Twix


MJ in the house.

Fleur de Sel Caramels

Ina Garten


  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon fleur de sel, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  1. Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan (or loaf pan) with parchment paper, then brush the paper lightly with oil, allowing the paper to drape over 2 sides.
  2.  In a deep saucepan (6 inches diameter by 4 1/2 inches deep) combine the sugar, corn syrup, and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue to boil until the caramel is a warm golden brown color. Don’t stir – just swirl the pan to mix. Watch carefully, as it will burn quickly at the end!
  3. In the meantime, bring the cream, butter, and 1 teaspoon fleur de sel to a simmer in a small pan over medium heat. Remove from the heat, set aside and keep warm.
  4. When the caramelized sugar is the right color, slowly add the cream mixture to the caramel – it will boil up violently. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon and cook over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture reaches 248 degrees F (firm ball) on a candy thermometer. Very carefully (it’s hot!) pour the caramel into the prepared pan and refrigerate until firm.
  5. When the caramels are cool, use the parchment paper to pry the sheet from the pan onto a cutting board. Starting at 1 end, roll the caramel up tightly until you’ve rolled up half of the sheet. Cut the sheet across and then roll the second half tightly. You will have 2 (1 by 8-inch) logs. Sprinkle both logs lightly with fleur de sel, cut each log in 8 pieces. Cut parchment papers in 6 by 4 1/2-inch squares and wrap each caramel in a paper, twisting the ends. Store in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

TJT #8

I’ll admit, I love the color teal.   I also love aqua. And even mint. Alas, these colors are not always “in.”  In fact, I still think of those awful Laura Ashley puffy-sleaved tea-length bridesmaid’s dresses when I hear the color teal (I know you know what I’m talking about).   In the nicest way, of course.

Happily, teal is all over the place this fall.  So, I had to take advantage.    J.Crew, calls this color dusty jade.

Props for creativity, but, dusty jade=teal.

Is that a potato in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

Let’s see if you can figure out where I’m going with this.

Start: riced potato.


Add shredded coconut.


Two, yes 2 pounds of confectioner’s sugar (I know, just don’t think about it too much).

Patient folding.  More folding.  A lot of folding.

Into the fridge.

Pizza roller + ruler.  Yes, I  used a ruler.  I use them often when baking, they make me feel secure.

Back into the fridge,

A little chocolatey skinny dip.

And allow me to present:

The Needham.

So, I was sitting in traffic on PCH one weekend morning and in my channel surfing landed on a story on NPR about these candies.   Famous in Maine, they are a very much the homemade Mounds bar with a surprising ingredient: potato.  Intrigued, I tried them for myself.  And you should too.  They were fun to make and when I shared?  People lost their heads.  I’m not kidding.  Lost.  Heads.

The story behind them is also fun.  For the original broadcast, go here: Maine’s Needhams, A Sweet Treat of Earthy Potatoes.  Incidently, it wasn’t until I went to write this post that I realized the story was part of a larger series, Americandy, Sweet Land of Liberty.  I swear, my honeycomb post from last week was completely unrelated.  And yet, here it is again.  Coincidence? Karma?

If you like this, you might like these:

Coconut (Festivus) Cake 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bon Bons AKA Pete Schweedy’s Balls


New Mumford and Sons

Needham Candies

adapted from


  • 3/4 cup mashed potatoes (not seasoned) (you could easily get this amount from a single large russet potato)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 (1 lb) packages confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 (7 ounce) bags flaked coconut
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 18 ounces (about 1 1/2 packages)  chocolate chips or chopped bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/2 paraffin wax block, the same paraffin you melt to use on top jam (2 1/2 by 2 1/2)


  1. Pare, cook, and mash potato to make three-quarters of a cup. Add salt.
  2. If you are making recipes right after boiling the potato, use the still-warm sauce pan or dutch oven. The pan should still be warm enough to melt the butter off the heat.  If not, turn on heat to low and allow butter to melt.
  3. Turn off heat and add mashed potato, confectioners sugar, flaked coconut, and vanilla.
  4. Mix well and turn into a buttered 9X13 inch pan and spread evenly.
  5. Refrigerate to harden.
  6. When hard, cut into small squares.  A pizza cutter works wonders but a knife will work too.  Ruler optional. Cutting into 1-inch squares yielded about 117 pieces.
  7. Place cut squares back into the fridge until dipping.
  8. For the dipping chocolate, again use a double boiler or place a heat-proof bowl over a sauce pan of simmering water.
  9. Add paraffin and allow to melt.
  10. Add chocolate and allow to melt.
  11. Stir well to mix ingredients.
  12. Dip in the chocolate mixture (with a fork, toothpick, or cake tester–I found it worked best when I placed a square on the tines of an upside down fork, dipped everything, let the excess run-off and then gently slid off the back of the fork with a second fork).
  13. Place on waxed paper to harden.
  14. This halves easily.

It’s alive!

Remember the volcano you made for your second grade science project?  Well, this is sort of like that only you get to eat the post-apocalyptic results.  Today on Miss Wizardmisanthropichostess, we’re making honeycomb.  Well, honeycomb the candy (though, I may have some Queen Bee tendencies).

Honeycomb’s humble beginnings start with sugar, corn syrup, honey and a little water.

Then, you turn up the heat and do a little buzzing dance.

Slowly, the color will turn from nearly clear to pale gold.

In goes the baking soda, and you know what happens next (think exploding volcano).

Before we move forward, we need to move back a little.  In my first attempt at making this confection, I let it get a little too golden before adding the baking soda.  This is what burned honeycomb looks like.  You don’t even want to know what burned honeycomb smells like.  Trust me.  So that you don’t make the same mistake, I’ve made some adjustments to the original recipe and added some instructions on using a thermometer.  If you’d like to forgo the technology, just made sure you watch the sugar lava closely and as soon as it gets to a uniform pale gold, add the soda.

This is what it should look like after the baking soda is mixed in.

Once it cools, the magic happens.   If you’ve ever had the Australian candy Violet Crumble, you know where I’m going with this.  Honeycomb’s frothy texture is simultaneously crunchy and chewy.  Incidentally, the first time I saw Violet Crumble, I read it as Violent Crumble.  So, Violent Crumble stuck.  In my fantasy world, the Violent Femmes’ favorite candy is Violent Crumble.

This honeyed treat is very good on its own. It’s also very sticky…especially if there is any humidity in the air.  The solution?  Cover it in chocolate (because, isn’t the solution to many of life’s problems the addition of chocolate?).

Baking is a world of uniformity.  Uniform shapes, precise measurements, attempts at symmetry.  I think this is why I love the decidedly un-uniform (does that make it “iform”) shapes the honeycomb makes.

Once the chocolate has set, these will keep in a cool place for a month or so.

Totally fun to make.  Even more fun to eat.

Since it happens to be October, and since October happens to be the month of Halloween, I thought I’d go with a candy theme for the first three weeks.  I realize that attempting to hand out homemade candy to trick-or-treaters would probably end in incarceration for most of us–so let it be known I’m not suggesting using any of these recipes on trick-or-treaters.  But…I bet you can think of a few ghosts and goblins who might enjoy some treats form your cauldron.

If you like this, you might like these

Toffee (insert your favorite nut)


The Cure.  You thought I was going to say the Violent Femmes didn’t you?

Honeycomb Candy

Adapted from Gail Gand,


  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 cup corn syrup
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda, sifted
  • 12 ounces chocolate chips or bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 TBS shortening


  1. In a large saucepan, gently combine the sugar and water then add the honey and corn syrup.
  2. Boil until lightly gold colored and the sugar looks like light caramel (if using a candy thermometer, heat to 300 degrees).
  3. Add the baking soda and with a wooden spoon, stir in gently. It will foam up a lot.
  4. Pour the mixture onto a silpat or a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan, and let cool. Break into pieces.
  5. Over a double boiler (or using a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water), add chocolate chips and shortening. Using a rubber spatula, fold gently until chocolate is melted and smooth.
  6. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  7. One-at-a-time, drop honeycomb pieces into melted chocolate.  Using the back of a fork, quickly pull the candy out of the chocolate, let extra chocolate drip back into the pan.  Using a second fork, gently slide candy off of first fork and on to a parchment-lined sheet pan.
  8. Let set.  Store in airtight container in a cool, dry place.



So, this is cool

This is easily the coolest thing that’s happened to The Misanthropic Hostess blog since…well…forever.

Tuesday Dinner 

As Ann explains in the introduction, we share a certain sisterhood and alma mater in common.  More importantly though, Ann is a wonderful writer.  If you aren’t already, you need to read her blog and her books.  Fair warning:  if you have even the slightest predisposition toward wanderlust, Ann’s simultaneously lush and elegant narrative of her adventures abroad (and domestically) will stoke that flame into a full-grown fire breathing beast.

If you don’t believe me–and assuming I’m correctly interpreting (errr…stalking) Ann’s tweets, Ms. Mah has been listed as a  notable travel writer in 2012’s Best American Travel Writing anthology.  Do you have any idea how big time that is?

I borrowed the thumbnail image from Ann’s blog.  It’s the American cover of her first book, Kitchen Chinese.

TJT #6

I think of these as my conference shoes.  When there is walking and standing to be done, these fit the bill.  And yes, TD, I’m fairly certain I could kick a field goal in them.  Tory Burch, most likely spring or fall 2010…I’m not sure I bought them on sale from her online site.

And, just in case you thought the Kitchen Gods might miss out on a photo op: