Halvah – The Candy you Need to Try!

by Zehorit Heilicher, Tastemaker in Residence   

Churros? Nigiri? Sambal? Masala? These international foods and flavors have become an integral part of our cuisine as our world becomes more global. Our tables now feature items that only 10 years ago seemed foreign and out of reach. As June is Candy Month, let's focus on one of those foods - the candy of my childhood: Halvah. Not familiar with it yet? Not sure what it is? Well, here is the scoop...

Halvah is a popular candy in the Middle East made of ground sesame seeds. Are you acquainted with Tahini, the sesame seed paste used in Greek and Middle Eastern cuisines? Add sugar and some flavoring and the result is a sandy, crumbly candy that simply melts in your mouth, filling your palate with sweet and nutty flavor. Halvah comes in a variety of flavors; some of the most popular are vanilla, chocolate and pistachio.

Markets in Israel boast large loaves of Halvah in diverse and exotic flavors: chili pepper, cardamom, date studded, lemon-pecan, mango and more. Slabs are cut to order, wrapped in wax paper and get weighed, before you can pay and enjoy your purchase. [If you can, buy Halvah in bulk, sliced to order, not the prepackaged options. Those tend to be gummy and dry]. Halvah can be eaten plain (my personal favorite), or can be crumbled over ice cream, sprinkled on ganache for a finishing touch to a cake, or even added to yeasted dough or cookie batter before baking.

So go for a walk on the wild side (with your taste buds) and sample Halvah; taste it plain or add it to your dessert repertoire. 

Here are a few links to recipes utilizing Halvah.

(Halvah in bulk can be bought in Middle eastern grocery stores, or packaged online)

Yotam Ottolenghi's tahini and halvah brownies

Halvah babka

Halvah cookies