My Halvah Surprise
The last thing that I thought I would rediscover in Amsterdam would have to be halvah. On my recent trip to the city of Canals and VanGogh, I was wandering from shop to shop, just checking things out, when I happened into a place called Sum Sum. There, loaves of smooth, velvety halvah were beautifully displayed, and the staff shaved off sample bites upon request. The place was packed with enthusiastic samplers. Suddenly I was all-in on halvah, sampling creative flavor combinations, all of which melted in my mouth. Cinnamon Orchid, Whisky, or Matcha Halvah sound appealing? Yes, please.
Stop Forgetting Halvah!
I have to admit, I had kind of forgotten about halvah. Joyva halvah appears in the Kosher section of the store every year for the holidays, and I think, maybe I will get that again, some time. Years ago, one of the vegetarian places I worked in made a version of halvah that wasn’t cooked, just honey and sesame stirred up and chilled, and it was pretty gooey.
I figured it was something you had to grow up eating to really crave. Let’s face it, there are so many options in the sweets department, why would you opt for something dry and crumbly?
Until I walked into this little shop in Amsterdam. And I knew I had to start making halvah.
Since Easter is upon us, I decided to make my halvah into the shape of eggs. I based the recipe on one by Michael Solomonov, but I made my own tahini, and as long as I was at it, decided to make it half pistachio. The green of the pistachios would amp up the green of the matcha, and taste delicious, too. Dipping it in chocolate would give it Easter candy appeal, and a sprinkle of pistachio or sesame covers up the fact that I didn’t temper the chocolate.
If they last long enough for anyone to care.
It’s Not Hard to Make Your Own
If you don’t want to make your own tahini, buy an organic one, not the thin, smooth kind. I love Joyva and the other Middle Eastern brands because they are smooth and runny enough to drizzle, but for this, you want the thicker kinds.
Cooking the syrup requires a candy thermometer, so make sure you have one before you start.
Halvah is a fantastic treat, and meets my standard of having some real food in it as well as sugar. Sesame and pistachios are nutritious food. These eggs could probably qualify as energy bars, if you compare their stats.
We eat peanut butter and chocolate together all the time, why not try a sesame and chocolate treat? These cute little bites will convince you to get into halvah. If you can’t make the trip to Sum Sum, make your own.
Matcha and Pistachio Halvah Easter Eggs
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 cup sesame seeds
- 1 cup raw pistachios
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 tablespoon matcha powder
- 2 cups organic sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 8 ounces semisweet chocolate melted
- pistachios for garnish
- In a Vitamix or other blender or food processor, place the oil. In a small saute pan, spread the sesame seeds and place over medium heat. Swirl for about 5 minutes, until the seeds are fragrant and toasty. Transfer to a bowl and let cool for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with parchment for the finished eggs.
- Add the cooled sesame seeds, pistachios and pinch of salt to the blender. Secure the lids and use the tamper to press the ingredients into the blades as you start at Speed 1 and increase slowly to 5, then up to high, as the mixture starts to become nut butter. Keep pressing until a smooth paste is produced.
- Scrape the nut butter into a stand mixer fitted with a batter paddle and add the matcha powder. Set the speed on low and mix, then turn off.
- In a 1 quart pot, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Clip a candy thermometer on the side of the pan and swirl the mixture as it cooks, lowering the heat so it boils but doesn't boil over.
- When the syrup reaches 240 F, take off the heat. Turn on the stand mixer to medium speed, and slowly drizzle the hot syrup into the bowl. Beat in all the syrup, then raise the speed to beat for about 20 seconds.
- Use a small (1 tablespoon-sized) scoop to scoop the warm dough onto the parchment lined pan. Dip your hands in cool water and use your palms to roll each portion into an egg shape, then place back on the pan. Chill for an hour or overnight.
- Melt the chocolate and dip the eggs, and garnish with chopped pistachios and a sprinkle of matcha, if desired. Chill until set. Store, refrigerated, for up to 2 months.