Sort-of Spooky Halloween Desserts Get Super Stormy with These Two Ingredients

October 20, 2016

The more Halloween-appropriate a baked good appears, the grosser it will taste. See exhibits O, M, and G.

Boo! Clockwise from cookie cauldron: tehina shortbread, chocolate crinkle cookies, tahini mousse pie, perfect chocolate cake. Photo by Bobbi Lin

But there are tricks for your treats: black tahini and black cocoa powder, two Amazon-available ingredients ready to spook your any dessert into Halloween costumes. In hack-like switcherooing, using them in any recipe that calls for their paler counterparts leaves you with desserts that are ghoulish, dark, and stormy, but not at all cheesy. They will look like you were thoughtful in making this year’s contributions holiday-appropriate, but without having to Martha Stewart the daylights out of a pumpkin. And your end products will actually taste good.

Black Tahini

Sarah wrote that black tahini is “the ingredient no one knows what to do with (yet)”—and by golly did we figure it out. Black tahini, which is made of organic, unhulled black sesame seeds, tastes like extremely toasted, verging-on-burnt regular tahini. You could make hummus with it (for what Kenzi called a “wood-fired hummus”), or you could take it to sweets, where it’ll add a slightly more bitter, mysterious flavor. It’ll also turn your desserts a much darker hue—an ashen grey-black.

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Just replace any of the tahini in a recipe with black tahini—we tried it with tehina shortbread cookies and tahini mousse pie. You might want to also up the sugar quantities if you love your desserts sweet.

Here are some tahini recipes ready for their Halloween debut:

Black Cocoa Powder

Whereas Dutch or regular cocoa powder is the color of milk chocolate, black cocoa powder (sometimes called noir cocoa) is jet black. It’s what goes into Oreo’s and should go into any baked good with cocoa powder that you want especially spooky.

Black cocoa powder is typically highly alkalized, so it lacks some of the fat, acid, and bitterness you find in alkalized Dutch process cocoa powder. The result is a cocoa powder that’s more intensely chocolatey, similar to unsweetened dark chocolate. Because of the lower fat, some sources will say you should only replace half a recipe’s cocoa powder with black cocoa, but our resident baking expert, Erin McDowell, said that if the recipe is naturally high in fat (like loads of cake and cookie recipes), you can go full throttle on the black cocoa. Be careful with quick breads and other lower-fat recipes; they may come out crumbly if there isn’t enough fat.

Similarly, sources say you may want to adjust the quantity of baking powder in a recipe since there isn’t any acid in black cocoa powder. But Erin (who uses black cocoa powder more than any other cocoa!) says you’ll only need to worry about fussing with the chemical leavener if the recipe has a large amount (like in biscuits).

We used 100% black cocoa powder in the frosting and cake in Posie’s perfect chocolate cake recipe, as well as these holiday crinkle cookies. We even rolled the crinkle cookies in the black cocoa, so instead of getting confectioners’ sugar up your nose at first bite, you’re immediately hit with deep, dark chocolate. The flavors of the desserts were no doubt rich and a little more savory—and their appearance? Well, they speak for themselves.

Clockwise from cookie cauldron: tehina shortbread, chocolate crinkle cookies, tahini mousse pie, perfect chocolate cake. Photo by Bobbi Lin

Have you ever used black cocoa powder or black tahini? Let us know in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Alma Mahler
    Alma Mahler
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  • Sarah Jampel
    Sarah Jampel
Editor/writer/stylist. Author of I Dream of Dinner (so You Don't Have To). Last name rhymes with bagel.


Alma M. October 22, 2016
While we're on the topic, would it be possible to find or reverse-engineer the recipe for the licorice bread at Yellow in Sydney? Please. Thank you.
peanut B. October 22, 2016
i think they are saying, "look how beautiful we are!" their appearance is rich, pleasant, and soothing, like a lake. i hope black baked goods become appropriate for more occasions than Halloween, and black ingredients less mysterious.
Sarah J. October 20, 2016
If I could just swap in black tahini for any food I was eating, cooking, or looking at... I would.