Submitted by Leslie, Ancesister @ Ancestreats.
In general, my husband and I grew up in families with very different spice racks and menus. One of our shared favorites is Halva (חלבה). Not a surprise from his side, since he grew up in the Middle East. It may seem a bit out of the norm for me, having grown up in a small coastal town north of Boston.
My exposure to sesame sweets can be traced back to my grandfather. I never thought to ask him if Halva was a traditional family confection. In Mimi Sheraton’s book, The Bialy Eaters: The Story of a Bread and a Lost World, she mentioned that back in Poland, some families ate their bialys with a slice of Halva. It’s also entirely possible that grandpa first tasted it when stationed in North Africa during World War II. Either way, when I was little, my mum never failed to bring home a mouth watering chunk of it on the days she went to the butcher.
Fast forward to years later when we took our first trip to Israel with our little daughter, Bunny. Weekends at my in-laws were filled with family and tons of children running around. Bunny watched with wide eyes as her cousins gobbled down homemade halva (חלבה) cookies. In our opinion, she was too young to be eating cookies or cakes, so we didn’t let her try them. Boo. Now that she’s older I’m continuing the tradition and baking her these bite-size bits of yum.
- 2 ½ cups almond flour
- a pinch to 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup tahini
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- Optional ingredients: sugar, unsalted butter, cardamom, ginger and cinnamon
This recipe was regionalized; maple syrup was used in place of sugar to add a taste of New England.
- Pre-heat oven to 350°
- Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl
- Stir together wet ingredients in a smaller bowl
- Mix wet ingredients into dry
- Form ½ inch balls and press onto a parchment lined baking sheet (shapes can also be fun)
- Bake for around 10 minutes
Regions: Middle East and Europe
Country of Origin: Hard to say. Looks like it’s found across the globe.
Additional Halva Note: Back when we lived in Brooklyn, Damascus Bread & Pastry in Brooklyn Heights was my favorite shop for halva. Once a year when the climate inside and out was just right they would make a special batch of chocolate covered halva. And wow, it was worth the wait.