Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Recipe for Sesame Halva, or Tahini Halva: a sweet treat. Learn how to make the best halva.
Halva is basically a crystalized paste of sesame seeds (tahini) and sugar—a flaky sweet confection based on crushed sesame seeds.
Halva best translated as sweetmeat—derives from the arabic for "sweet". Halvas are traditional across a wide range of cultures, spread geographically from north Africa, through the Middle East, the Levant and the Balkans, to central Asia and India.
This sweet treat is produced from quality, natural ingredients and is regarded as one of the most nutritious and healthy natural foods. This is emphasized by the fact that sesame seed , grown in the lush, fertile fields of Thrace , is the basic ingredient (55%) used in the preparation of Halva.
Nutritional analysis results show it to be an excellent source of protein (26%) and polyunsaturated fats (60%), while being rich in vitamins and trace elements, such as iron and magnesium.
The following recipe is for Honey Sesame Halva which represents one of the variations.
2 cups (24 oz.; 700g) honey
flavourings—vanilla, coffee, chocolate,...
1½ cups (12 oz.; 340g) tahini — beaten to mix in any excess oil
optional 1½ cups nuts —try almonds
Heat the honey, stirring to prevent local overheating. If using a sugar thermometer, simmer until the thermometer reaches 240 °F (115 °C) — otherwise, test for a ``soft ball '' syrup. Once you have reached the soft-ball temperature, let the honey-syrup cool for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile, warm the tahini to about 50 °C; 120 °F. Fold the warmed tahini into the hot honey-syrup.
Before adding the tahini, you can add nuts (pistachio, almond, hazelnut) to the syrup. It's worth the effort to remove the skins and gently toast the nuts in a moderate oven (180 °C; 350 °F), and add the hot nuts to the hot syrup. Add as many as you want—this mixture will take up to 2 cups (8 oz.; 250g) of nuts if you like your halva that way; most shop-bought halva has far less.
Put the warm mixture into an oiled cake tin (either with a press-out base, or lined with baking paper), ramekins, or a plastic container. Once cool, seal to keep out any moisture and leave in the fridge for 36 hours (this allows the sugar crystals, which give halva its distinctive texture, time to grow). Cut while cold, with a sharp knife (if the halva is softer than the nuts it's difficult to make a clean cut, so this is easier when the halva is cold).
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