ODE TO HALVA

My last post featured tahini, which is pretty much peanut butter made from sesame seeds. To my personal taste, it is perfection. If you join tahini with sugar and perform some magic tricks cooking them together, you’ll get halva. Until recently I was a halva-virgin, which means my life had a void I was unaware of. When I first tried a little bite, I thought it was quite unusual, with a bit of an unpleasant texture. But then, as the taste slowly developed, I was hooked. Today I share two recipes using halva, Ottolenghi’s Brownies and Cheetah Macarons with Halva Buttercream. Very hard to pick my favorite.

Starting with the brownies, the original recipe is from Ottolenghi’s Sweets. I used a halva containing pistachios, and loved the way every once in a while you bite into a little green gem with a burst of additional nut flavor.  The recipe is available in plenty of websites, I share the one published by Joanne, from Eats Well with Others.

FOR THE RECIPE, CLICK HERE

Comments: This is such a beautiful batter both before and after baking, it will sure give you a smile as you go through the preparation.  Some people might object to brownies because they are too sweet, so this recipe will almost certainly please those in that team. The tahini and halva completely change that aspect.

Moving on, let’s talk macarons. I was dying to try painting shells, even though I have exactly zero artistic skills. I watched many youtube tutorials, gathered the right tools for the job, took a deep breath, and went for it. Maybe they would make a cheetah fume, but I can tell you I had so much fun that I might offend other animals in the future.

CHEETAH MACARONS WITH HALVA BUTTERCREAM
(from The Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by Eats Well with Others)

For the shells:
200g  powdered sugar
115 g almond flour
115 g egg whites at room temperature (approx. 4 eggs)
1/8 tsp of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
¼ tsp vanilla paste or extract
yellow or gold food gel dye (I used gold from Sunny Side Up Bakery)
Sweet Sticks purple and gold edible paint

For the halva buttercream:
7 oz vanilla halvah, cubed
2 oz white chocolate, melted
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp kosher salt

Make the shells:
Line 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment/baking paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar, and ground almonds in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 12 pulses. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl or to a sheet of parchment/baking paper. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Make sure that the bowl and the whisk are impeccably clean. Starting on medium speed, whip the whites with the cream of tartar until they look like light foam. The whites should not appear liquid. The foam will be light and should not have any structure.

Slowly rain in the granulated sugar in five additions, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme (marshmallow fluff). Add the vanilla. Whip the egg whites until the mixture begins to dull and the lines of the whisk are visible on the surface of the meringue. Check the peak. It should be firm. Transfer the whites to a medium bowl.

Fold in the ground almond flour mixture in two increments. Paint the mixture halfway up the side of the bowl, using the flat side of a spatula. Scrape the mixture down to the center of the bowl. Repeat two or three times, then check to see if the mixture slides slowly down the side of the bowl. Put the mixture in a piping bag fitted with your choice of piping tip. Pipe shells, I like to count numbers in my head and use the same count for each shell so they end up similar in size.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter/worktop. Let the unbaked macarons dry until they look dull but not overly dry. Drying time depends on humidity. In a dry climate, the macarons can dry in 15 to 20 minutes; in a humid climate, it can take 35 to 40 minutes.

While the macarons are drying, heat the oven to 300 F. Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide or move (independently of the ‘feet’ when you gently twist the top), then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. Check one or two. If they move when gently touched, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes until they don’t move when touched. Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. The macarons should release without sticking.

Make the halva buttercream: Place the halvah in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth. Drizzle in the melted white chocolate and again blend until smooth and incorporated.

Add the butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment along with the sugar. Beat on medium until fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add in the vanilla and salt and mix again until incorporated, about 1 minute. Add in the halvah paste and mix until smooth. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with the frosting. Use to fill macarons. Allow them to mature overnight in the fridge before consuming or freezing for storage.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you watch videos on how to paint the cheetah motif, some people do the outlining first and then paint the centers. It did not work well for me, the gold paint sipped into the outlining bit, so I prefer to add the centers first, let them dry and then go with the purple around it. Most bakers favor Sweet Sticks brand of edible paint because it is so user-friendly. You shake the bottle well, and it is ready to use. I got mine at Etsy.

The Halva Buttercream was straight from Joanne’s blog, she used it to fill shortbread cookies. I adjusted slightly the composition to accommodate the amount of halva I had. The recipe makes a lot, so you can conceivably make half and it will be enough to fill a full batch of macarons. Once again, the halva cuts through the excessive sweetness of buttercream, and goes well with the almond shells.

If you are interested in more uses for halva, I found these recipes that seem pretty tasty too.

Halva and Chocolate Babka 

Halva Sesame Ice Cream

Halva Chocolate Bark

Tahini Halva Truffles 

ONE YEAR AGO: Brazilian Pao de Queijo (re-blogged)

TWO YEARS AGO: Apricot Linzer Torte

THREE YEAR AGO: A Trio of Air-Fried Goodies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Focaccia with Grapes, Roquefort and Truffled Honey

FIVE YEARS AGO: Moroccan Carrot Dip Over Cucumber Slices 

SIX YEARS AGO: White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Cilantro-Jalapeno “Hummus”

EIGHT YEARS AGO: A Moving Odyssey

ELEVEN YEARS AGO:
 Shrimp Moqueca

15 thoughts on “ODE TO HALVA

  1. Halvah is my FAVORITE treat. My husband is Jewish and halvah is always around for weddings and special occasions. When we went to Israel a few years ago, it was commonly sold in the spice markets in giant blocks and in so many flavors. It’s also often served at the breakfast buffets in hotels where we stayed. For years, I’ve been on a mission to make halvah that had the same texture as the commercial brands. I have not yet been successful, but I’m still trying. Pretty much most of the recipes I’ve seen don’t take the sugar syrup to a hot enough stage, which results in a fudge texture, rather than that telltale sandy texture. I love the idea of a buttercream using it in macarons. I may have to try that…soon! Thanks for the lovely post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I first tasted the classic halva in my pre-teens as my mom worked in a Jewish deli for 20 plus years. The marbled (chocolate and plain) was my favourite though the pistachio has grown on me. I never thought of using halva in a brownie though. Cool. And those macarons are pretty amazing. Not something I can see trying though … I know my limits. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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