Each of us has our own story about how we discovered Middle Earth. For me, it was a radio version of The Hobbit, produced by my friend Dan Rubin (who turned out to be a distant cousin, but that’s another story) while we were students at Reed College in the ’60s. Dan composed the best settings to Tolkien’s songs I have ever heard. Everyone who was in the production (I was the voice of one of the elves, and also one of the spiders) and everyone who listened every week went around saying things like “Beware the Balrog.”
During this time, I ran across a recipe that struck me as exactly right for the seed cake Bilbo feeds to the dwarves, while hoping he might save some for himself. It’s a quick bread, on the sweet side, flavorful with sesame seeds. Who knows if sesame seeds ever made it to The Shire? Authentic or not, this is wonderful hot out of the oven or toasted, with or without butter and honey.
6 T sesame seeds (don’t use the unhulled kind as they’re bitter)
3 c flour
3/4 c sugar
3 1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt
2/3 c melted margarine or butter
1 1/2 c milk
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Toast the sesame seeds in a pan until brown in the oven, watching carefully to make sure they don’t burn, something I myself am an expert at. Turn the oven up to 350 degrees. Separately mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; and melted margarine, egg and milk. Mix together with a minimum of strokes. Fold in sesame seeds, reserving 1T to sprinkle on top. Bake about 1 hour in a greased loaf pan (or a greased pie pan – it will not rise so high but will be more authentically round) or until a toothpick in the middle comes out clean.
This recipe lends itself nicely to a gluten-free version. I’d suggest using 1 1/2 cups each brown or white rice flour and ‘sweet’ white sorghum flour, with a teaspoon of xanthan gum or agar powder; then follow the rest of the recipe. For a finer-grained but less nutritious flour mix, substitute 1/2 c tapioca flour for 1/2 c brown rice flour.