Updated: Jun 24, 2022
Halvah is the famed crumbly dense Arab confection made with tahini and sugar (the word halvah means “sweet”). The process of making halvah resembled candy making, sugar is heated until it starts to crystalize, then quickly blended with tahini.
The result is a soft confection, that becomes crumbly when you slice it and then melts in your mouth.
I grew up in a small town on the road from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem, and my family's day trips always included a visit to the Arabic village Abu Gosh located on the mountain slopes of Jerusalem. We were heading to the small local bakeries, where a fresh batch of halvah had been made every single day. After moving to the US, I discovered that it’s easy to make halvah at home, and you don’t really need to have a candy-making experience to succeed.
This recipe will guide you through the process, trust me - it’s easier than you could imagine, and the result is extremely rewarding.
1 cup (240 gr) tahini
1 cup (200 gr) cane sugar (DO NOT substitute with honey – as it would never crystalize and harden enough to form the halvah)
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
One of the following (optional): pistachio, almonds, any nuts or seeds, or cacao nibs.
Line a pan with parchment paper. It is important to make sure to have your pan ready first because once sugar is at the correct temperature, you will want to move very quickly.
Lightly toast the nuts or seeds in a skillet. Remove and set aside.
Place a flat layer of the toasted nuts on the bottom of the lined pan. OR – if you want the incorporate nuts inside the halvah and not just on top of it - wait until the next step and fold it into the tahini paste.
In a large bowl measure tahini.
In a saucepan combine sugar and vanilla with 1/4 cup water, stirring occasionally on medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to boil and let the mixture simmer into the syrup until your thermometer reads 245℉. If you do not use a thermometer – drop a small amount of the syrup into a small bowl filled with water. If it forms a ball – syrup is ready.
Once the syrup hits the right temperature, pour it into the bowl with the tahini and QUICKLY mix well. It is important that you work fast as the mixture is hardened very quickly.
QUICKLY transfer the mixture into the pan with parchment paper and press down to get rid of any air bubbles.
Cool to room temperature for about an hour before being ready to serve. If you put some nuts on the bottom of the pan – flip and transfer the halvah to a serving plate.
Store covered at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
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.