Chocolate and tahini and tahini caramel are two flavor duos that maximize the deliciously nutty flavor of tahini. When combined to create chocolate tahini caramel, the flavors accentuate tahini’s unique earthy, savory taste in a sweet bundle.

These chocolate tahini caramel buns are the result of constant experimentation with sourdough discard. I always hesitate to throw it away as I can’t bear wasting it! Chocolate and tahini caramel, like chocolate and peanut butter, or chocolate and caramel, are one of those wonderful culinary permutations. They blend so harmoniously in these chocolate tahini caramel buns, which are both sweet and savory, driven by the earthy, nutty tahini caramel and sesame seeds, dark chocolate, and fruity spice of aleppo pepper, all enveloped by flaky layers of chocolate dough. 


for the dough

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast ** see note
  • ½ cup lukewarm water
  • 3 teaspoons sugar, divided
  • ¼ cup sourdough starter discard
  • ½ cup neutral oil
  • 2 eggs

for the caramel filling

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon aleppo pepper
  • ½ cup chocolate chips
  • ½ cup sesame seeds

for the assembly

  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

Note: This recipe uses ¼ of sourdough discard. If you do not have sourdough handy, use a full packet of active dry yeast.

dough steps

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt, and set aside. Place the active dry yeast in a small bowl or measuring cup and add the lukewarm water and sugar. Give it a mix, and let it sit until it is bubbly, about 5 minutes. This is called “activation,” you know the yeast has been fully activated when it has bubbles on top. 

Once the active dry yeast is visibly activated, place it in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook, or a large bowl if you intend to knead by hand. Add the sourdough starter discard and mix until combined. Then add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, neutral oil, and eggs.

Slowly add in the flour/cocoa powder mixture, ½ cup at a time. Knead until the dough is shiny and slightly firm, about 5 minutes.

Grease the inside of a large bowl with oil and add the dough. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit for 2 hours until it has doubled in size.

caramel filling steps

About 1 hour into the dough’s rise, make the caramel filling so it has time to cool before assembling the buns.

Heat the sugar in a small pot on medium high. Do not mix the sugar yet, instead, swirl the pot continuously to redistribute the sugar as it begins to melt. Watch the sugar as it heats, it will happen quickly, about 4 minutes. Once the sugar begins to melt, add in the water then the tahini. At this point, you can safely mix the caramel. Let it continue cooking for 4-5 more minutes, it will become bubbly. Turn the heat to low and add in the cream, 1 tablespoon at a time. Mix until it is completely incorporated and bring it to a boil once more, and let it cook for about 4 more minutes. 

Remove it from the heat and mix in ¼ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon aleppo pepper. Let it cool for 40 minutes. 

assembly steps

Roll out the dough into a large rectangle and brush on the caramel sauce. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top, followed by the sesame seeds. Roll up the dough from the long side, turn it over on the seam, and cut it into 16 buns. Arrange cut-side up, evenly spaced apart in a rectangular baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise again for 1 hour. The buns will double in size. 

When you are ready to bake the buns, preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the buns with melted butter and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for 35 minutes until they begin to flake and the caramel is bubbly. Let cool slightly and dust with powdered sugar.

The tahini caramel is flecked with fruity aleppo pepper

Growing up, we ate cod weekly. It was generously spiced and flaky and delicious. Nowadays, I turn to cod as a healthy base for a delicious meal any night of the week. It’s nearly foolproof to prepare and pairs well with really any flavor combination. I am partial to cooking it with pepper and smoked paprika, probably because I grew up eating it that way. Cumin adds a nice depth to the spices which, when seared, become crisp and aromatic. Paired with tahini cauliflower and chermoula, this seared cod is a winner.

Chermoula is a bright fragrant sauce hailing from North Africa which is generally made of garlic, fresh herbs, lemon, and spices. Though it is traditionally paired with fish, I could pretty much eat it on anything.

Cauliflower, as some may know, has been having a moment for a while now. We have seen it served as a substitute or used as the main event in all sorts of dishes. I remember having smashed cauliflower for the first time at a restaurant in Naples, FL back in 2003 during the height of the Atkins Craze. I personally love simple roasted cauliflower with tahini, so this pureed tahini cauliflower and chermoula is a way to access those flavors with a totally different texture.

Serves 2


for the fish and cauliflower puree 

  • 12-16 ounces of cod
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, sliced
  • 3 cups cauliflower florets, fresh or frozen
  • ¼ cups fresh parsley, leaves and stems
  • 2 tablespoons tahini

for the chermoula

  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 cup parsley leaves and stems, packed
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves and stems, packed
  • ⅓ cup mint leaves 

fish and cauliflower steps

Place the fish skin-side up and gently pat on the paprika, cumin, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt to evenly coat the entire side. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet and add the shallot. Cook for 2 minutes then add the garlic. Add the cauliflower and cook, flipping the florets until they begin to turn golden and brown.

Heat a skillet over high and add the fish, spiced skin side down. Cook for 5-6 minutes then flip. A sign that the fish is done cooking on the first side is when it releases easily and does not stick to the pan. Cook for another 4 minutes on the other side. The fish is done when it begins to flake apart.

Add cauliflower, tahini, and ¼ cup fresh parsley to a food processor and blend until smooth. The consistency will be like that of hummus with specks of parsley evenly throughout. Serve with a generous spoonful (or two!) of chermoula.

chermoula steps

Place the coriander and cumin seeds in a saucepan and toast for 7-10 minutes until nutty and fragrant. Crush or add to a spice grinder. Add the toasted seeds, garlic cloves, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, smoked paprika, kosher salt, and crushed red pepper to a food processor or blender. Blend for a few minutes until evenly combined. Add the parsley, cilantro, and mint and process until smooth. Chermoula will last for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.