Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sesame Halvah


Recommended Posts

I've scoured all the old threads and couldn't find any recipes for halvah except for some conjecture that halvah is sesame paste (tahini) mixed with honey. I've tried this and it doesn't match the block halvah that I'm seeking to replicate. I did a search on the web and was able to find one recipe that might fit the bill.

From http://www.tulane.edu/~abarroc/_disc1/00000014.htm

2 c sugar

1 c water

1 3/4 c sesame paste(tahini)

1 T pure vanilla

2 egg whites

1 c shelled pistachios(unsalted)

Combine sugar and water in saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook to the hard-ball stage (a few drops of syrup, when dropped into small basin of cold water, will form a firm ball that will not flatten on removal) or a temperature of 234 degrees. Set aside.

Put sesame paste with its oil in container of electric mixer or food processor. Add vanilla, blending thoroughly. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into sesame paste. When thoroughly blended, gradually add 3/4 c of the syrup, stirring. When completely blended fold in nuts and remaining syrup.

Pour and scrape mixture into loaf pan. Smooth over top. Cover tightly and refrigerate 3 days before unmolding. This halvah will keep for 6 months in refrigerator.

Before I attempt to make this, I am requesting your input and/or alternative recipes.

Edited by scott123 (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've been checking ingredients on my favorite halvahs for a few years now - not one ever had flour in them. It is quite possible that different middle eastern cultures make halvah differently. The recipe I'm looking for has no flour. Thanks, though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think its hard to say that any one halva recipe is more authentic than another, unless you are talking about halva from a certain region. It might not, for instance, be authentic to put semolina in Armenian halva, but expected in Persian halva. It might even vary between local region to local region.

Halva, helva, halava, halawa, halawi, halwa, are all different names for a similar candy. As I understand it, halva means sweetmeat. In some regions it is made with semolina, other sesame paste, Ive found recipes with both. Some use ground sunflower seeds instead. Some use honey, some use sugar. Some use egg whites to yield a fluffier product. Some add fruit, others nuts.

I think that the recipe Scott posted would yield a product very similar to the one I get from my local middle eastern market.

I think that if you took honey instead of the water and sugar, that could work and might even be tastier. I have been researching the "perfect" recipe, according to my own personal tastes. I am leaning more towards honey, sesame paste and pistachios. Probably because thats the first kind of halva that I was exposed to. I am looking to try the semolina variety as well, as my S.O. does not care for sesame paste unless it is in hummus bi tahini.

I say try that recipe. Once you do, then you can tweak it to your liking.

And pretty please report back! I promise to do the same when I get time to experiment. I'll even take pictures :raz:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

I believe the key to making halvah is the use of an extract of a root. On the packages I have read it is called halawa & one of the few ings. listed is halawa root.

It is my understanding that this comes from the mallow plant, it is a mucilagenous extract and once used to make marshmallows.

The recipes which use egg whites are simply trying to reproduce this extract, just as they use them now to make marshmallows.

Unfortunately I don't know how to get ahold of the extract. Though once I grew a nice mallow plant. I would bet it comes in a powdered form for confectionary production.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...

Okay, I got a little sidetracked from my quest for homemade halvah, but now I'm back.

Does anyone else have a good halvah recipe? Any tips/tricks you'd like to share? This time I'm making it, I promise.

And Michelle, my apologies for the delay in answering, but the brand of halvah that I'm endeavoring to duplicate is Joyva.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I gave a recipe a while back, in a different thread. Sesame halva.

I have made this, though it's been a few years. As I say further down that thread, I used a Japanese suribachi to grind the toasted sesame seeds (you are aiming for a fluffy, powdery texture).

It doesn't have to be a suribachi that you use. I was living in Japan at the time I last made this, so I was using what I had to hand. However, I think a food processor might simply turn the seasame into an oily mush unless you were very careful about grinding them only in very brief pulses. Or grind them in smaller batches in a coffee grinder.

I haven't tasted Joyva, but I think you're looking for the kind of sesame halva that is frequently sold in large blocks and you just slice off a piece, right? (sold as Turkish halva, Israeli halva, Greek halva, etc.)

If so, this is it. And it literally takes only a few minutes to make.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Okay, I got a little sidetracked from my quest for homemade halvah, but now I'm back.

Does anyone else have a good halvah recipe? Any tips/tricks you'd like to share? This time I'm making it, I promise.

And Michelle, my apologies for the delay in answering, but the brand of halvah that I'm endeavoring to duplicate is Joyva.

Hi Scott,

I am not familiar with the Joyva brand. I haven't seen any other halvah recipes that look different from what you found, the earlier one that I found and Anzu's. Try Anzu's and lets see how it turns out.

The only halvah I know that people make at home here is carrot halvah. We can buy some very nice halvah here, so I guess people don't bother making their own. I'll try and take some pictures of the different types when I get a chance.

Edited by Swisskaese (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Okay, I got a little sidetracked from my quest for homemade halvah, but now I'm back.

Does anyone else have a good halvah recipe? Any tips/tricks you'd like to share? This time I'm making it, I promise.

And Michelle, my apologies for the delay in answering, but the brand of halvah that I'm endeavoring to duplicate is Joyva.

Hi Scott,

I am not familiar with the Joyva brand. I haven't seen any other halvah recipes that look different from what you found, the earlier one that I found and Anzu's. Try Anzu's and lets see how it turns out.

The only halvah I know that people make at home here is carrot halvah. We can buy some very nice halvah here, so I guess people don't bother making their own. I'll try and take some pictures of the different types when I get a chance.

Well we make the Persian halva at home mainly for funerals though... It is basically flour fried in oil until it is very very dark but not burnt and you add sugar syrup, rose water and saffron to it and since the pan is very hot the liquid evaporates almost instantaneously leaving you with a thick mixture although it is not as solid as sesame halva which is usually bought in Iran and is called Halva Arde.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am not familiar with the Joyva brand.

Michelle - the Joyva halva is a similar type of halvah to the Achva brand. It's what I would think of as a typical Israeli style halvah.

Scott123 - I'd give Anzu's recipe a try - and let us know the results!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I believe the key to making halvah is the use of an extract of a root. On the packages I have read it is called halawa & one of the few ings. listed is halawa root.

It is my understanding that this comes from the mallow plant, it is a mucilagenous extract and once used to make marshmallows.

The recipes which use egg whites are simply trying to reproduce this extract, just as they use them now to make marshmallows.

Unfortunately I don't know how to get ahold of the extract. Though once I grew a nice mallow plant. I would bet it comes in a powdered form for confectionary production.

it is a root (shirsh al halaweh) and not from the mallow plant but from soapwort. we (helen Saberi, pombo villar and myself, under the aegis of alan davidson) did a whole investigation on that soon after i finished writing my lebanese cookbok. it was published in PPC and then in the wilder shores of gastronomy, the best of ppc. i am not sure how shirsh al halaweh is used in the sesame halva but it is used to make natef, a sweet dip used with karabij halab (a semolina cake filled with pistacchio nuts). the root is boiled in water for quite a while. when the water has reduced, it is whisked until it becomes white foam which is then mixed with sugar syrup to produce natef. the whole process is quite miraculous as you can't believe that very dark brown water can become like shaving foam. charles perry wrote an article about it for the LA times and he used the bark of the quillaja tree to make natef. as for other types of halva, there are lots. the persian one described in one of the posts, many turkish variations and greek ones as well. i love one of the turkish variations where the flour is cooked in butter with pine nuts until it is golden before sugar syrup is added. you eat the halvah warm -- 1000 calories a bite but absolutely delicious. nevin halici has a great recipe for it in her turkish cookbook.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

WoW. I never realized that it needed a culinary investigation of three people plus another one writing in the LA Times to uncover and cover the famous Aleppo Karabeej (which incidentally not only comes with Aleppo Pistachios but Aleppo Walnuts as well) and the Natef which uses Eirk el Halawah in its ingredients.

I thought a simple chat with any cook or housewife in Aleppo would have revealed the ingredients and preparation process of the Natef.

I assume a culinary expedition is being planned for the Halawa el Tehiniah use of Eirk el Halawa. Alternatively, I could simply pass on the mobile number of Mrs S.N. the Mrktg Mngr of Halwani Bros in Cairo, but that would be taking the fun out of the investigation.

I dread to think about the Kenafa bil Jibn code and I would cautiously point towards Ehden and hope to live to read the tale!

P.S. You might stretch your investigation to include Cuba and more specifically the El Floridita restaurant in La Habana Vieja where they use a variant of Natef on their special Ice Cream. Now that would be an investigation! but of course will never make it in the LA Times for obvious reasons.

Edited by Nicolai (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you for the information, helou.

The pistachio semolina cake (karabij halab ) sounds really delicious.

Saracasm on the thread is less tasty and more disappointingly, not enlightening.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I gave a recipe a while back, in a different thread. Sesame halva.

I have made this, though it's been a few years. As I say further down that thread, I used a Japanese suribachi to grind the toasted sesame seeds (you are aiming for a fluffy, powdery texture).

It doesn't have  to be a suribachi that you use. I was living in Japan at the time I last made this, so I was using what I had to hand. However, I think a food processor might simply turn the seasame into an oily mush unless you were very careful about grinding them only in very brief pulses. Or grind them in smaller batches in a coffee grinder.

I haven't tasted Joyva, but I think you're looking for the kind of sesame halva that is frequently sold in large blocks and you just slice off a piece, right? (sold as Turkish halva, Israeli halva, Greek halva, etc.)

If so, this is it. And it literally takes only a few minutes to make.

Thanks for the recipe. I'm sure it's delicious, but the kind of halvah that I'm looking for has egg whites. While doing some additional research on the subject, I came across this article that talks about the process Joyva uses:

It is that particular layered, almost glassy-sandy texture, which reminds me of cotton candy, that makes halvah so irresistible to its  fans. Achieving that texture is no easy feat, even for a professional.

The secret is careful, measured mixing by hand, said Richard Radutzky of Joyva Corporation in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the largest halvah producer in the country. ''We make at least 20,000 pounds of halvah every week, and all of it is mixed by hand,'' he said. ''We tried to build a machine to do it, but we couldn't get it right. Most machines mix it too much, which makes it too smooth. But then if you don't mix it enough, it's too rough, and it will fall apart. You are looking to get that perfect flaky texture.''

The halvah (all kosher) is mixed in large, bowl-shaped copper kettles by big, burly men, who alternately paddle, stir and knead a mixture of egg whites, sugar syrup and tahini (sesame paste). Flavorings, like melted chocolate for the marble halvah or pistachio nuts, are added at the end.

Thanks everyone for your help! I thought that Joyva-type sesame halvah (in block form) was an international thing, but now that I've seen the myriad number of responses/types of halvah, I get the feeling that Joyva is more of a New York phenomenon.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks everyone for your help!  I thought that Joyva-type sesame halvah (in block form) was an international thing, but now that I've seen the myriad number of responses/types of halvah, I get the feeling that Joyva is more of a New York phenomenon.

No... as I said upthread - Joyva is the same type of halvah found in Israel, and North America. There may be (obviously) other types of halvah - but the Joyva type is very common (at least in the Jewish food world).

I actually posted a few months back that I thought halvah had egg in it - but nobody's recipes seemed to have egg. I'll try to remember to look at the ingredients on a package at work tomorrow.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I actually posted a few months back that I thought halvah had egg in it - but nobody's recipes seemed to have egg.  I'll try to remember to look at the ingredients on a package at work tomorrow.

As far as I recall, Joyva halvah doesn't contain eggs, but I don't have a package in the house right now to read the ingredients label. I'll be curious to see what it says.

Arthur Schwartz (www.thefoodmaven.com) has a recipe for halvah on his website that supposedly replicates the Joyva product. It calls for sesame oil, flour, tahini, and honey. Halvah Recipe

There's also a new mail-order source called The Halvah Superstore (www.halvah.biz) that I'm planning to check out... not for halvah, which I can get easily here, but for Joyva's raspberry ring jells, which are impossible to buy here. :biggrin: I'd previously found other online sources, but the shipping was exorbitant.

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Scott it is very difficult to replicate the fluffy halvah.

There is a food program here called Garlic, Pepper and Olive Oil that is hosted by a famous chef here called Chaim Cohen. He visits various local food related places and also prepares various dishes on the show. On one of the episodes his staff visited a factory that makes halvah and it is reputed to be the best in Israel. They explained that it is impossible to replicate the fluffy type of halvah at home.

If you are able to do it, then more power to you.

I don't know what your definition of fluffy is. We have block-form halvah; all kinds of flavours and some coated with chocolate. We also have the type that is cotton-candy like. Not as cottony as cotton candy, but it is fluffy and it is not in a solid block.

I will have to take some pictures.

Edited by Swisskaese (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

Can an arabic speaker tell us what the root of "halwah" means?

In Turkey and Greece at least, the counterpart terms "χαλβάς" and "helva" could be considered blanket terms for pretty much any sweet where something is cooked/toasted in oil followed by the addition of a sugar syrup, and then poured out to set. I wonder, is it the same in Arabic-speaking countries? Here, saying "halwa has/doesn't have such-and-such" would be a bit like arguing what should be in "soup."

Necip Usta, a famous cookbookwriter and chef in Turkey, gives 11 recipes, none of which are for tahini halva. This is probably because it's gained status as a dish that one buys, not makes, either due to difficulty of preparation, the need to make large quantities to make it worth trouble, or the requirement of special equipment that most people can't fit into their kitchen...other examples are döner kebab, lokum, pişmaniye). Necip's book has ten recipes for halvahs made from semolina, flour and cornstarch with different additions and ways of adding the syrup and sugar, as well as one for carrots (cezeriye) which can be considered a kind of "helva" here. In Çanakkale and some other places they make one with cheese that is very rich and delicious (höşmerim). In Edirne it's called just "peynir helvası."

I have seen only one recipe for tahini halva, in a magazine in Greece. It didn't look so horribly difficult, it involved basically "frying" the tahini in oil and then adding a hot syrup to make it boil up. (You do this with the flour and semolina types as well, but...it's not so much oil involved...maybe this is why people hesitate to do it at home? The furious boiling when you pour a few cups of syrup into hot semolina browned in butter is fearsome enough; if you are going to pour it into a couple cups of boiling oil, you better have yourself a big pot!)

Around Istanbul I've mostly seen the semolina helvas made at home. In Greece, it's the only one I've seen. As you go east in Turkey the flour helvas become more common. Some of them use pekmez (grape molasses) instead of sugar syrup; they are delicious. These are mostly meant for quick consumption. There is also one, "yaz helvasi" (summer helva) that is made from an extremely fine semolina and is quite firm, with a much higher ratio of sugar, and it can be kept for long periods. It usually has walnuts in it, sometimes cocoa, and reminds me a bit of fudge.

As for additions - almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, orange peel, kaymak, lemon peel, sesame..you name it. Sometimes the syrup is made with milk instead of water.

"Los Angeles is the only city in the world where there are two separate lines at holy communion. One line is for the regular body of Christ. One line is for the fat-free body of Christ. Our Lady of Malibu Beach serves a great free-range body of Christ over angel-hair pasta."

-Lea de Laria

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am not a native speaker, but I thought the Arabic the word gandi or quandi is the origin of the English word candy and halvah, the candy, is originally Turkish.

I think gandi or quandi means "something with sugar".

I think the word Halvah comes from the Arabic root hulw, which means sweet.

Is the word sweetmeat a translation from Arabic?

Hulvah - This is a 15th century recipe for Halvah.

Edited by Swisskaese (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Halwa or Halawa حلاوه derives from Hala حلا or al Hala الحلا which is Beauty.

The common derivative is Female Beauty or any sweet preparation.

When you address a woman in Egyptian Arabic (slang) you say Halawa حلاوه and in Levant Arabic Halwa حلوه.

The person who prepares/sells Halawa is Halawani حلوانې.

Therefore the root is: Hala حلا .

I assume as it is dificult to pronounce the letter "wah" i.e "W" و then people shifted to the letter "V" and pronounce the word Halva. Because the letter "W" و preceeds the letter "T" which changes the spelling to "WAH". So in fact letter for letter it is Halawat but read Halawa.

And yes you are right as it is an elaborated cooking process.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Now I have become obsessed with finding out where Halvah originated. :smile:

Some people claim it originated in Northern Epirus, which is now Southern Alabania. Others say Turkey and still others say India.

Anyone have a history book on the orgins of food?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Now I have become obsessed with finding out where Halvah originated. :smile:

Some people claim it originated in Northern Epirus, which is now Southern Alabania. Others say Turkey and still others say India.

Anyone have a history book on the orgins of food?

Are you looking for the origins of sesame halvah or including halvah made with other grains or flours?

Also, are you still counting it as sesame halvah if formed into balls or other shapes?

Not sure if the following will help, or will just muddy the waters further:

Looking up K. T. Achaya A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food , it would seem that sesame originated in India, and sugarcane was also cultivated from early times in India. One of the members of Alexander the Great's expedition to India (327-325 BC) mentioned sweetened laddus (balls) of sesame for sale in the markets. He wrote that they were made from sesame and honey but Achaya points out that 'honey' was mentioned here because sugar was unknown to the Greeks (sugarcane was described by another member of Alexander's entourage during the same expedition). So the sweetener may have been sugar - probably less refined sugar (jaggery).

Again, according to Achaya, there are written references from Vedic era texts (1500 - 500 BC) to sweets made with sesame and jaggery.

Halvah in modern India usually refers to sweets that are soft, pasty, and usually eaten quite rapidly after preparation - they are made from a variety of materials, such as various grains, fruits, vegetables, or nuts. Many of these are similar to the Turkish and Persian halvas mentioned above.

For what it's worth, halvah is certainly referred to in the Mughal period (1526 - 1707), notably in the book Ain-i-Akbari which documents science, technology, food and many other subjects during the reign of Akbar (1556-1605).

So if your sources say when halvah is meant to have been consumed in Epirus and Turkey, maybe you can narrow it down.

Re qand/candy. I believe this is a Persian not an Arabic word. Qand means lump (i.e. of sugar). The i is a posessive marker (as in Ain-i-Akbari above). It is believed to be related to the Sanskrit word khand (lump). Qand certainly means lump sugar in modern Persian (or at least this is what my Persian teacher taught us!).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...