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Halvah, a favorite confection


Darienne
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One of my favorite confections is Halvah, the kind my Bubi gave me as a child.

Just made some awful-tasting awful-textured Halvah from a recipe from Bruce Weinstein The Ultimate Candy Book. I can't think it was the recipe: Sesame oil, white flour, tahini and honey. I probably got something terribly wrong.

There appear to be dozens of different halvah recipes. Might try an egg white based one next with sugar.

Does anyone have a halvah recipe that turns out well?

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

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* raises hand* Can I send you my address? I love Halvah, I grew up with it in Florida( the awful stuff covered in fake chocolate). The best I ever had was last year in Brooklyn, NY. It was freshly made and I curse myself for not buying more.

A former eG member gave me a recipe for a Halvah parfait and I want to make it badly, but I know i'd eat the entire thing so I havent made it. Its the first PM I ever got on Egullet.

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How coincidental, Darienne, I was just looking at a halva recipe yesterday that I have bookmarked and not got around to making yet... i hope i might get to it this weekend!

So I can't say anything about its quality, but you can look at it HERE.

You'll notice that the site has a few recipes - "simple" halva, soft halva, honey halva.

And I think you are right about there being many different types... the first one I tried was quite fudge-like, but I have also had a very flaky, almost crisp one which was very different (still great!). There is also an indian dessert called Halva which I think involves carrots, perhaps more of a pudding type thing. Dunno... so many things to try!

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* raises hand* Can I send you my address? I love Halvah, I grew up with it in Florida( the awful stuff covered in fake chocolate). The best I ever had was last year in Brooklyn, NY. It was freshly made and I curse myself for not buying more.

A former eG member gave me a recipe for a Halvah parfait and I want to make it badly, but I know i'd eat the entire thing so I havent made it. Its the first PM I ever got on Egullet.

I would be interested in the parfait recipe, if it doesn't call for the inclusion of halvah. I mean if it ends up being a halvah-type flavor, good. But if it calls for halvah per se, then nope.

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

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How coincidental, Darienne, I was just looking at a halva recipe yesterday that I have bookmarked and not got around to making yet... i hope i might get to it this weekend!

So I can't say anything about its quality, but you can look at it HERE.

You'll notice that the site has a few recipes - "simple" halva, soft halva, honey halva.

And I think you are right about there being many different types... the first one I tried was quite fudge-like, but I have also had a very flaky, almost crisp one which was very different (still great!). There is also an indian dessert called Halva which I think involves carrots, perhaps more of a pudding type thing. Dunno... so many things to try!

Hi Stuartlikesstrudel (aka SLS I guess). That looks like an easy recipe. Doesn't even call for anything which I have to go out and buy. I'll try it also and we can compare notes. :smile: Please feel free to PM or email me any of your halva recipes and I can send you the ones I have found. Thanks.

Interesting. Went back and re-read all my downloaded halvah recipes and not one of them calls for kneading. All the recipes in your selection call for pulling, folding and/or kneading to give the halvah the flaky texture. I am looking forward to trying your recipes. Thanks. :wub:

Edited by Darienne (log)

Darienne

 

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Life in the Meadows and Rivers

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Darienne I have a recipe somewhere I will look and ask around here also. Let me send you a bit and one day I guess you will return the favor. I have to go anyway to the post office for Rina, Mark and CaliPoutine if she sends me her address!! It is not a big package-no big deal.

I accept with joy. :biggrin: There are few things in this world of eating that can compare with halvah. Well, for me. I think the wonderful memories of such a few years knowing my Bubi are a big part of that. (Perhaps a thread of remembered memories of food plus events, people, etc might work well. :hmmm: )

Now I have about 10 different recipes for halvah, not counting the desserty, carroty kind. It might be good to work through all the recipes and note what I can come up with. The first batch was finally tossed just this morning. A sort of halvah cook-off. And yes, I would love your recipe. I'll send you my address PM.

Again, my thanks. :wub:

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

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As noted above, first try at Halvah ended up in the trash (garbage for Canadians), Recipe called for flour base.

Second try, base of condensed milk, now sealed, in the fridge for 36 hours to 'allow sugar crystals time to grow'. This recipe is one of the four passed on above by stuartlikesstrudel.

As I began to make the halvah, in my usual half-informed way, I realized that the instructions called for boiling sugar, condensed milk and flavorings until the soft ball stage, but gave no directions as to heat, no stir or don't stir, no pot size...very little. So I stirred, as the milk browned heavily and merrily on the bottom of the pot. On and on. I had no idea of what to do. Perhaps I should have used a very low heat? I used medium. Perhaps I should not have stirred? It was too late for second thoughts.

Then I heated the tahini to 50 degrees Celsius while it too browned quickly on the bottom. Mixed the two together as noted, beating as directed. Turned it out onto a silpat to 'knead until the mixture begins to set'. It was HOT. HOT!!! Who could knead such a hot mass? And it was setting like crazy. Tasted good. :wub: So I kneaded it as much as my hands would bear. Now it's in the fridge and I'll be back in 36 hours to report.

Anyone care to comment on my errors? Etc?

Next try will be the sugar based recipe with lemon juice, etc. I can't burn it at least.

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

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Hmm, i'm not sure if it will matter but I think there are a few things to note for the future :) (bear in mind that i'm no expert myself, i only dabble a little with all this too!).

You can probably think about the halvah as similar to caramel in procedure, so in that way, I think it's best not to stir as it heats. My understanding is that if you keep stirring sugar/toffee/caramel, it can make the sugar crystals start to form which will make the texture all wrong. You may have read instructions to wash the side of your pot with a wet pastry brush to get off any stuck sugar... this is to avoid having to stir, and makes sure that there are no stray grains which will later start the crystalization forming too soon. I normally don't bother with it though. Check out this link for some good tips (and he give a link to another one of his 10-tips somewhere too).

http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/2008/01/how_to_make_the.html

In terms of Halvah specifically, it's pretty similar to fudge in technique. I am a bit interested in some of the thinking behind this kind of thing so i looked up fudge making to find out why it is the way it is. If you are interested, check out this link for a bit of the science involved... it's not heavy, and it's explained pretty simply.

Bottom line is for a smooth, dense texture, apparently you need to avoid crystallization while heating, then wait until it's lukewarm before giving a vigorous knead/stir, so the crystals suddenly form and end up very small which = smooth. But I noticed the recpies I suggested don't address this... they ask you to stir straight away, so I don't think you did anything WRONG here. Might be something to look at if the results aren't right though :)

I wonder if perhaps adding the tahini makes it cooler than straight sugar, so the kneading can be done sooner (though as you said it was stil hot hot hot!).

Look forward to hearing your results, hope it's successful :D

- stu

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I looked at the ingredients. Here the halvah has saponaria root which I thinks is used not for flavor but for whipping qualities (soap root?). Anyway here are two recipes that seem rightish to me although I have not used them YET (I will also try). They do not include this root!! :wacko: :

halvah1

and translated:

Halva

1 cup tehina

1 cup sugar cooked to syrup

1 cup water with juice of half a lemon

more water according to need

Put the tehina in a big bowl. Gradually add the syrup while whipping the Tehina. The tehina will darken (?)(I thought it gets lighter...) and get thicker. When it is homogeneous whip in right to left movements only-NOT circular ones. This creates the right fibers. At this stage taste the halvah. If the tehina taste is too strong, this is not desired, add more water or if not sweet enough you can add more syrup. The mixture should be more than thick. Place in a plastic container with sides. Leave in fridge uncovered for a day or two.

Your Halvah is on its way by the way!

Edited by Lior (log)
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Stu first. OK. Thanks. Bits & Bobs:

Caramel: I have made wonderful caramel a number of times. Use Kerry Beal's recipe which is adapted from L'Ecole Lenotre, Vol.2, posted in her 101 eG course. Caramel recipes don't start out with milk, do they?

Halvah: Never thought of halvah in terms of caramel. Halvah is so flaky...but you could be right. Never thought about the "not starting the crystallization process too soon". Will think about it some...later in the day.

Big Problem: cooking milk for such a long time and not over a very low heat. If I had not stirred it, the browned/aka slightly burnt part on the bottom of the pot would have simply gotten thicker and more burnt.

Tahini: it was warm...50 degrees...not actually hot.

Lord, it is all so confusing when you are the in middle of the muddle. What I shall do is try one or more of the sugar & water recipes and see what happens. I can't burn it the same way.

I'll be baaaack. :raz: and thanks again

Edited by Darienne (log)

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

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Ilana. Thanks. I already have the Eclectic recipe and thanks for it and the other one. As noted in last post, I'll do a water and sugar recipe next.

And I'll search around again about the milk recipe to see what I can find. It must be that I cooked it on too high a heat. Also that I am probably too lazy to make something on low heat when I can do the sugar and water instead.

Or as the DH pointed out...they didn't have condensed milk in the 'olden' days. Hmmm...they didn't have sugar either...but they had honey. But then honey is such an iffy thing. So much variety.

I asked at our health food/bulk food store a couple of days ago and they keep only clover and buckwheat honey. This is a small town and there isn't the wide range of stuff you could get in Toronto. (I'd rather do without than go to Toronto any more than I have to. :sad: )

Onwards and upwards...

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

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from Wikipedia

Israel

Heavily sesame-flavoured tahini halvah (חלבה) is very popular in Israel and among people of Jewish background all over the world.[12][13] Spelled "halvah" in English, it usually comes in slabs or small packages and is available in a wide variety of flavours, chocolate and vanilla being very common. The halvah is almost always parve, meaning it does not contain any meat or dairy ingredients, ensuring that it can be eaten with/after either milk or meat dishes according to the laws of Kashrut. Israeli halvah will usually not contain wheat flour or semolina but will contain sesame tahini, glucose, sugar, vanilla and saponaria root extracts (soapwort) which are not always found in other recipes.[14]

Question: if the halvah contains dairy, then it can be eaten with dairy dishes but not meat according to dietary laws. Well, yes.

But Israeli halvah...the kind we are trying to make...does not contain any milk, but does contain saponaria. Can't yet get any ingredient equivalent for this. It makes me wonder if the recipe for halvah with egg white is aiming at this.

OK. From Eclectic Recipes website:

Halva from Tadjikistan includes both soft and solid varieties, with eggwhites in the soft version. Some of the Tadjiki Halva (or Khalva) recipes also include soap root. This is not normally the European soapwort—Bouncing Betty—Saponaria officinalis, but a variety of different roots all translated as ''soaproot''. These include a root, or perhaps roots, known in arabic as 'erq al halaweh (halawa root), and in Turkish as Çöven Kökü, probably these are the plants known as Levantine Soapwort or Turkish Baby's Breath—they are varieties of Gipsophila, perhaps G. pilosa or G. rokejeka, but G. paniculata L. G. effusa, and G. acutiflia fisch, are all mentioned by various sources. Acanthophyllum sp. is also sold, from Teheran, as white soaproot , expressly for the manufacture of halva. Eggwhites and the various soap roots all serve to lighten the halva. They are added to the sugar syrup so that it can be whipped to a foam (technically, they are used as a frappe), before incorporating the tahini. The bark of the soap tree,Quillaja saponaria—a central American native, also called bois de Panama—has similar properties. All of these—soapwort, soap tree, and the various soap roots—contain saponins, and can reportedly be used to produce halva.

For domestic production, eggwhites are easier to obtain. The method is like that for nougat or italian meringue; the resulting halva is light and soft.

(I trust that I have done the above quotes and provenance correctly.)

Darienne

 

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Life in the Meadows and Rivers

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I have never worked with/seen Saponaria, but I get the feeling that the effect/taste might be a little bit like marshmallow root, which, according to Wikipedia is also used in halvah.

The root extract (halawa extract) is sometimes used as flavouring in the making of a middle eastern snack called halva.

This all being said, halvah, like most desserts/foods that originate in far away places, can have a LOT of variations. Darienne, I think your best bet is to approach this regionally. I'm going to go out on a limb here, and, based on your present Ontario address, I'm guessing Bubi gave you New York style halvah as a child.

New York style halvah can definitely vary a bit, but for the most part, it usually contains egg whites and does not contain honey, milk or flour (seriously, flour?). If memory serves me correctly, it doesn't contain any root extracts either.

Making halvah has been on my to do list for quite some time. Like you, I have collected quite a few recipes. Even though I haven't gotten around to making it yet, I have gleaned a few important tips:

1. Like I said before, find a recipe that uses beaten egg whites

2. The sugar syrup has to be cooked to a candy stage. Don't ask me which one, but it has to be cooked to at least a soft ball stage. You might start at hard crack and then go softer than there in ensuing attempts. No matter what, you don't want the sugar syrup to color.

3. The sugar in NY style halvah is an uncrystallized glass. You'll want an anti-crystallization ingredient- I see Lior uses lemon juice, but for a more NY slant, I'd go with corn syrup.

4. At the very core of halvah's taste is the tahini. For the most part, tahini doesn't have a lot of turnover in North America. This means that the odds of getting not so fresh tahini are pretty high. Make sure you're using the freshest tahini possible. One rule of thumb that I go by when buying tahini is to buy it only in glass jars and to avoid any jars with a layer of oil on top (oil layer=age).

Egg whites, firm peak, corn syrup/sugar syrup cooked to ______ stage. Fold syrup into whites, then fold that (gently) into your tahini (it should be difficult to stir). Don't overmix it. The streaks/flakes- that's from having layers of slightly unmixed sugar/egg white between layers of tahini.

Good luck.

Btw, fyi, halvah can be purchased online:

http://www.economycandy.com/store/category.aspx?SID=1&Category_ID=5&

Edited by scott123 (log)
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Hello Scott. All good points.

I think your limb just broke underneath you...I was born and raised in Montreal. That's where my Mother's family lived. (The long story is, of course, very long.) Montreal bagels. Yumm. :wub: Can't get them around here...only Toronto bagels.

I have a recipe, amongst the many, which calls for egg whites. I was going to try the simple sugar and lemon juice recipe next, but maybe I'll go for the egg white version.

Although our nearby town is not big, the turnover in tahini is rapi in our health food/bulk food store. We spoon it out of a large pail. I must ask the owner why he thinks this is so. He also carries blocks of halvah, but I don't know where they come from.

The syrup stage is soft ball in several recipes: 240 degrees F/115 degrees C.

I'll get back to the halvah in a day or two when I decide what to do with the last failed experiment. Tastes good, but is crumbly. I was thinking about stirring it into melted dark chocolate and using it as a ganache. Maybe. Or just tossing it. The DH likes it, so I guess I won't.

Thanks again.

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

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Hello Scott. All good points.

I think your limb just broke underneath you...I was born and raised in Montreal. That's where my Mother's family lived. (The long story is, of course, very long.) Montreal bagels. Yumm. :wub: Can't get them around here...only Toronto bagels.

In terms of reasoning, however, the limb is still strong. Montreal is even closer to NYC than Toronto is, so it's still possible that you had NY-style halvah growing up.

Most grocery stores in Winnipeg carry the same kind of halvah which I would guess is the most common type of halvah sold across Canada (because if they have it in Winnipeg, they probably have it everywhere else, too). If you check out your nearest large grocery store (Safeway, Superstore or whatever Westfair foods chain, Sobey's or whatever Loblaw's chain), you can probably find it in the deli section and check out the ingredients. That will help you narrow down the type for which you're looking.

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I sent the following recipe to Kerry Beal last March.

I got it from a friend who makes it all the time.

Sesame Halvah

1 1/2 cups regular sugar

1/2 cup rose water

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

3 tablespoons lemon juice, strained

1 1/2 cups tahini

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (If you want other flavors, use what you like – my children love it when I add a few drops of cinnamon oil and orange extract.)

Using a candy thermometer, cook the sugar, rosewater and lemon juice in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

When the mixture boils and the temp shows 240 degrees, remove from heat.

Heat the tahini in a small sauce pan until it is 120 degrees.

Slowly add the warm tahini to the sugar syrup and mix with a whisk until combined.

Add the vanilla and continued mixing until it begins to thicken.

Pour the mixture into a 9 x 13 baking pan, lined with parchment or Release aluminum foil.

Cover with a sheet of the aluminum foil or heavy plastic wrap and refrigerate for a day and a half.

Turn out onto cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares.

There are numerous variations. You can stir pistachio (or other) nuts into the mix while warm.

When cool enough to handle, you can roll it into a thick rope and cut into sections and roll in toasted sesame seeds, etc. And you can also dip it in chocolate – I prefer the semi-sweet “buttons” from Guittard.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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In terms of reasoning, however, the limb is still strong. Montreal is even closer to NYC than Toronto is, so it's still possible that you had NY-style halvah growing up.

Hi prasantrin,

No problem with your reasoning. As a Canadian and a Montrealer by birth, I am simply trying to assert Montreal's independence. :biggrin: Who wants to be only an arm of something else? But, truth told, you are no doubt correct. My forebears came to Montreal from the States as scab labor before the turn of the 20th and no doubt their pockets were stuffed with NY style halvah and bagels. :cool:

But then where did the Toronto-style bagel come from? :huh:

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

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I sent the following recipe to Kerry Beal last March.

There are numerous variations. You can stir pistachio (or other) nuts into the mix while warm.

When cool enough to handle, you can roll it into a thick rope and cut into sections and roll in toasted sesame seeds, etc. And you can also dip it in chocolate – I prefer the semi-sweet “buttons” from Guittard.

Hi Andie. Thanks. Your friend's recipe varies slightly from the one I was going to make next. I shall actually try 'yours'. We can't get Guittard chocolate easily in Canada, but I do have Belcolade Noir Collection Ecuador 71. Alas, it costs me over $12.00 a pound.

Also. Although we both LOVE Polish/Israeli/NY/Montreal :rolleyes: style halvah, this is far less about eating it on a regular basis, than about making it to see if I can. Thanks. :wub:

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

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