The Melting Pot

Halva

Rebecca Christensen, Cactus Writer

Candy is a near and dear subject to my heart. As such, halva caught my attention when described as “fudge-like”. Halva is a kosher dessert that hails from the Middle East, though the specifics of where halva (also known as halvah, halwa, halawa, etc.) have been long disputed by many scholars. Some believe it existed as far back as 3000 B.C.E., while others believe it originated around the 1100s in Byzantium.
Halva is made in one of two different ways; it’s either flour-based or nut-butter-based. Flour Halva is a bit more jello-like, and usually contains sugar, flour, and ghee. On the other hand, halva made with nut-butter almost always uses tahini, which is ground up sesame seeds and oil. Halva can be made with other nut butters as well, but tahini is the most commonly found one.
Both types of halva can be made plainly, but are often filled with ingredients and flavorings. Some of the most popular add-ins are pistachios, almonds, rosewater, dried fruits, nuts, and so on. Some people also flavor their halva with ingredients such as chocolate and vanilla. A common variant of halva uses honey instead of plain sugar.
Tahini
Ingredients
● 2 cups sugar
● ½ cup water, room temperature
● 1 lb (500 grams) raw tahini paste
● ⅛ tsp ground cinnamon
● 1 tsp lemon juice
● 1 tsp vanilla extract
● Pistachios as desired
Directions
1. Grease a 9 inch pan or line it with parchment paper.
2. In a two quart saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil. Stir lightly and reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes, or until the syrup reaches soft-ball stage, about 235-240 degrees*. It should coat the back of a spoon thickly. Do not stir after reducing the heat.
3. Once the soft-ball stage has been reached, remove the pot from heat and let cool for a couple minutes. Do not let the syrup cool for very long.
4. While the syrup is cooling, heat up the tahini in another pot until warm, stirring often.
5. In a large bowl, combine the tahini, cinnamon, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Working quickly, add the sugar syrup and mix all the ingredients.
6. Pour into the prepared pan and let cool completely. Once cooled, cover with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated for at least 24 hours before eating. When the halva has been chilled sufficiently, it can be eaten cold or at room temperature.
* I cooked my syrup until a bit over 240, and it came out well. If you like softer or harder fudge, adjust accordingly.