I'm always trying to come up with new ways to incorporate Halawa into desserts (also sometimes called Halva). I feel it has such huge potential, yet is completely underated (and under-used in desserts). The first time I wanted to bake with it I couldn't even find a recipe that calls for it as an ingredient (now there are loads...on my recipe page!)
The first time I came across halawa in the grocery store I asked my husband how it was inteded to be eaten...he shrugged and said as a kid they ate it on bread (he's Lebanese). This peaked my interest (and recipe radar) so it's like the Arab version of Nutella, I squealed?! Yes, Halawa is Nutella's Arab cousin, awesome.
However let's not be too quick to generalize, the Turk's are also big consumers of Halawa (although they refer to it as Halva) as are people in east and central Europe, central and west Asia, and the Jewish world too...now that the UN is happy, let's discuss Halawa.
Halawa is basically sweetened tahinni, aka sesame paste which is also one of the main ingredients in hummus. The paste is mixed with a simple syrup and cooked to a hard crack stage, similar to making a caramel. Halawa is most often sold in blocks or comes sealed in tubs. Traditionally pistachio's or pine nuts are mixed in with halawa, however my favorite flavor is the chocolate swirl, I mean come on look at that.....
Halawa melts quite easily and can be incorporated into desserts in a multitude of ways. Add melted halawa to cake batter or buttercream, sprinkle it over a cake, or swirl into some home made ice cream, really the possibilities are endless. Leftovers can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature for about a month or so. You may see some of the oil begin to separate, just give it a stir and it's ready to go.
I would love to hear how you grew up eating halawa, please leave me a note in the comments below.
Halawa & Pistachio Tart with Cornflake Cruch
makes one 9-inch tart
For the crust:
1 1/2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
1 cup pistachio halawa
½ cup sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup corn syrup
2 tablespoons rose water
2 tablespoons sugar
For the corn flake crunch:
1 ½ cups cornflakes
¼ cup slivered raw pistachios
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 cup milk powder
2 ½ tablespoons melted butter
First prepare the cornflake crunch which will be used as the garnish/topping. This can be made ahead of time and kept in an air-tight container at room temperature for a couple of days.
Preheat oven to 275F. Line a large cookie sheet with baking paper or a slip mat. Place the cereal in a large bowl and gently crush to about half the original size using your fingers.
Add the pistachios, sugar, salt, and milk powder to the cereal; toss to combine.
Pour the melted butter over the mixture and stir to form small clusters.
Spread the mixture evenly on pan and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and place pan on wire rack to cool completely.
To prepare the crust, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and salt in a medium sized bowl. *(as you can see I substituted butter biscuits as I didn't have any graham crackers on hand. Measurements remain the same)
*Note: if you don't feel like digging out the food processor with it's one million attachments (like me) simply place the graham cracker crumbs (or biscuits) in a zip lock bag (release the extra air inside) and crush with a rolling pin.
Pour melted butter over the mixture and use a fork to combine, gently pressing the crumbs together making sure they are evenly coated with the butter. The mixture should resemble wet sand.
Transfer the mixture to a pie pan and press firmly into the bottom and sides of the pan. Use a metal measuring cup to ensure the sides and bottom are packed well. This also helps to create an even surface.
Place pan in the freezer to firm, about 30-45 minutes. Once the crust is firm, proceed to preparing the filling. Additionally, ensure the cornflake crunch is ready to go as you will need to sprinkle it immediately after pouring the filling so it will stick to the top (as it hardens quite quickly.
I used an 8 inch pan although recipe calls for a 9 inch...used the extra crumbs to make a separate single tart...for myself...of course.
To prepare the filling, combine the halawa, sweetened condensed milk, corn syrup, and sugar in a medium sized saucepan.
Cook on medium heat until mixture is melted, stirring often as to not let the milk burn.
Remove from heat and add rose water. Stir to combine.
Immediately pour halawa mixture into the prepared crust. Use the back of a spatula to smooth the top.
Before the halawa filling sets, sprinkle the cornflake crunch over the top while still soft. Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours. Serve cold and keep any leftovers refrigerated.