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  • Writer's pictureHila

Halvah


Halvah evokes sweet, pleasant memories of childhood. My family used to go on day trips on weekends, often stopping at one of the halvah makers in Abu Gosh, an Arabic village on the mountain slopes of Jerusalem. We drove down to the village center, where a few humble bakeries were selling baklava, Knafeh, sesame candy, and halvah, all freshly made in the shop's backroom. Large trays with all these sweet goods were lined on counters and shelves, and the air was filled with a strong smell of roasted sesame.


When I started to sell my tahini-centered creations in farmers' markets in the greater Boston area, many customers had a nostalgic reaction to the sesame butter and tahini cookies we were selling. They shared with me that they grew up eating halvah. A little research led me to Nathan Radutsky's story, who immigrated from Ukraine to the US in 1907, bringing his family recipe for halvah, which he would soon sell from pushcarts on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. In the late 1920s, he built a factory in Brooklyn, where he produced a variety of flavors and shapes of the old-world sesame-based treat. In the 1950s, his Independent Halvah & Candies company was renamed Joyva.


Across the globe and hundreds of years earlier, the first written recipe for halvah appeared in an Arabic cookbook from the early 13th century. The name halvah is derived from the Arabic word Hilo (chi-lou), which means sweet. The famed treat quickly crossed borders, and many cultures have adapted and developed their version of this sweet treat.


Top photo: Al Yasmin Halvah, Abu Gosh, Israel, 2022


Now, let's get into the kitchen!



Halvah

The process of making halvah resembles candy making. Sugar is heated until it crystalizes, then quickly blended with tahini. The result is a soft confection that becomes crumbly when you slice it and then melts in your mouth.

Making halvah at home is easy and more straightforward than you imagine. You don’t need to have a candy-making experience to succeed, so give it a try! The result is gratifying.


Servings 15-20


Ingredients

  • 2 cups (480 gr) tahini

  • 2.5 cups (500 gr) cane sugar

  • 1 cup (240 ml) water

  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

  • 1 cup of nuts (pistachio. walnuts, almonds...) unsalted


Preparation

  1. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.

  2. Lightly toast the nuts or seeds in a dry skillet. Remove and set aside.

  3. Pour the tahini into a mixer bowl and set it into the electric mixer with a guitar attachment.

  4. Combine sugar, vanilla, and water in a saucepan, stirring occasionally on medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer into a thick syrup until your thermometer reads 250℉. If you do not use a thermometer – drop about 1/2 teaspoon of syrup into a small bowl filled with cold water. If it forms a clear ball, the syrup is ready.

  5. Turn on the electric mixer and quickly pour the syrup into the bowl with the tahini. Mix until combined, then add the nuts and mix to spread them evenly. It would be best to work fast, as the mixture hardens quickly.

  6. QUICKLY transfer the mixture into the lined pan and press down to eliminate any air bubbles.

  7. Cover with parchment paper and set aside to harden at room temperature.

  8. Release from the pan, slice into small squares, and serve—store covered at room temperature.


Note

To remove the hard syrup from the saucepan, fill it with water and place it on medium heat. Place the spoon and the thermometer inside. Heat until all syrup leftovers melt, then wash with soap and water.





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