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Halva Biscuits – Flavours of the Middle East

Halva Biscuits

These halva biscuits, adapted from a recipe for Sesame Crisps in Bake it Better Biscuits by Annie Rigg, really do taste like halva, only not as tooth achingly sweet.

When I first visited Egypt at the age of seventeen, I was already addicted to this ancient and ubiquitous Middle Eastern sesame confection. My mother had acquired the taste on her travels and from time to time whilst I was growing up she managed to find an occasional box of it – I’m not quite sure how she achieved it in the remote and craggy reaches of Cornwall. Our tiny boxes were completely put to shame by the massive tubs of halva I found in Alexandria and they were so much cheaper too. I lugged one home with me and and it lasted us the entire year.

Sesame seeds are the main ingredient in halva, other than sugar and they account for its rich and oily nuttiness. They are an excellent source of copper, calcium, manganese, magnesium, iron, phosphorous, antioxidants and polyphenols. They are said to help alleviate or even prevent rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, high blood pressure and colon cancer. Guess what? Sesame seeds are a superfood – well I never. As an advocate of wholefoods, I always use the unhulled variety; the nutrient density is much higher as is the fibre content.

Halva Cookies

Nowadays I find halva far too sweet, my mother does too. But in memory of our former passion, I made her some halva biscuits to go in her Christmas stocking last year. They are quick and easy to make and I’ve been promising myself I’d make another batch soon; somehow it hasn’t happened yet. Tahini and honey are such strong tastes, a little goes a long way. These Middle Eastern flavours combined with ground almonds and just a little cocoa powder really did the trick. I coated mine with a mixture of black and white sesame seeds for an interesting contrast, but I couldn’t actually tell the difference in taste. Crunchy, but with a sort of similar texture and taste to halva, they were absolutely delicious. Luckily my mother thought so too.

Halva Biscuits
Yields 26
These quick and easy to make crunchy halva biscuits really do taste like Middle Eastern halva, only not as tooth-achingly sweet.
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Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
35 min
Ingredients
  1. 65g unhulled sesame seeds
  2. 25g black sesame seeds
  3. 75g golden caster sugar (I used cardamom sugar)
  4. 125g unsalted butter
  5. 2 tbsp honey
  6. 2 tbsp dark tahini (made from unhulled sesame seeds)
  7. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  8. 75g wholemeal flour
  9. 75g plain flour
  10. 25g ground almonds
  11. 15g cocoa powder
  12. ½ tsp baking powder
  13. pinch of fine rock or sea salt
Instructions
  1. Toast 40g of the unhulled sesame seeds. either by dry frying in a pan or by baking in the oven for 3-5 minutes at 180℃. Leave to cool.
  2. Cream the butter, sugar and honey together until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the tahini and vanilla extract.
  4. Sift in the dry ingredients and mix in together with the toasted sesame seeds until all is incorporated.
  5. Cover and leave in the fridge or a cool place to firm up.
  6. Place the black and white sesame seeds onto separate plates. Roll the dough into small walnut sized balls and then roll in either the black or white sesame seeds to coat.
  7. Place a little apart on a lined baking tray and flatten slightly.
  8. Bake at 180℃ for 8-12 minutes until they are firm and golden, but not brown.
  9. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes, then place on a baking rack to cool completely.
Adapted from Bake it Better Biscuits by Annie Rigg
Adapted from Bake it Better Biscuits by Annie Rigg
Tin and Thyme https://tinandthyme.uk/
Treat Petite LogoLove is in the Air for Treat Petite this month. Whilst these were not made for romance, they were very much made with love in mind, so I’m sending them off to The Baking Explorer and Cakeyboi and United Cakedom who is hosting this month.

 

Bake of the Week LogoThese halva biscuits also go to Helen at Casa Costello for #BakeOfTheWeek

 

Other biscuits reminiscent of halva – i.e. using sesame seeds or tahini

38 Comments

  1. Henk Kooiman

    11th February 2016 at 5:38 pm

    How much butter ?
    Not sure yet whether I’m going to try these. I was tempted because you’ve done such a nice job with how they look ! But I am not very keen on the taste of tahini. Once every five years I buy a jar and try one or two recipes and after that the jar disappears in the back of the kitchen cupboard. I love to sprinkle sesame seeds on salads though, or add some to a bread dough.

    Reply
    • Choclette

      11th February 2016 at 5:51 pm

      Eek, butter is a rather crucial ingredient. Glad you spotted its absence and thanks for letting me know. Does this mean you are not a fan of hummus?

      Reply
      • Henk Kooiman

        12th February 2016 at 7:00 am

        No, not really a fan of hummus, but if the recipe is good I will eat some in combination with a delicious piece of bread.

        Reply
        • Choclette

          12th February 2016 at 8:24 am

          It’s a bit of an acquired taste, but one the West has recently embraced with gusto. I remember how surprised I was the first time I saw it for sale in a supermarket.

          Reply
    • Mukta Varma

      12th February 2016 at 3:53 pm

      Lot of interesting combinations in the biscuit. They look nice and crunchy.

      Reply
      • Choclette

        16th February 2016 at 9:07 pm

        Thanks Mukta, they were delicious.

        Reply
  2. Nayna Kanabar

    11th February 2016 at 5:40 pm

    These look really delicious I bought some halva in Cyprus and we are still eating it 6 months later.

    Reply
    • Choclette

      11th February 2016 at 6:15 pm

      Haha Nayna. Is that because you don’t really like it or are you savouring it like we used to do?

      Reply
  3. Rachel Cotterill

    11th February 2016 at 5:47 pm

    Halva is too sweet for me, too, these days. These sound like a marked improvement! 🙂

    Reply
    • Choclette

      11th February 2016 at 6:17 pm

      Thanks Rachel. It’s quite astonishing just how much sugar I could take when I was a wee lass.

      Reply
  4. Nadia

    11th February 2016 at 8:33 pm

    I love sesame seeds, tahini and anything related to them 😀 I add tahini almost everyday to my porridge for some sesame goodness. Sesames are such an underrated food! These halva cookies sound so delicious! I can guarantee I would inhale the whole batch in a second 😀

    Reply
    • Choclette

      12th February 2016 at 8:18 am

      Thanks Nadia. I know some people add tahini to their porridge and I keep thinking I ought to try it, but much as I love sesame I can’t quite bring myself to do it.

      Reply
  5. Heidi Roberts

    11th February 2016 at 10:42 pm

    I don’t really know halva very well even though I have tasted it years ago. Need to give it a re-try!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      12th February 2016 at 8:19 am

      It’s delicious, but very rich and sweet, so a little goes a very long way Heidi.

      Reply
  6. Diana

    11th February 2016 at 11:50 pm

    I love tahini and sesame seeds! And these biscuits look incredible! Would love to try one, or a dozen!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      12th February 2016 at 8:20 am

      Haha Diana, thank you. A virtual dozen are now flying your way 😉

      Reply
  7. Johanna @ Green Gourmet Giraffe

    12th February 2016 at 1:51 am

    Looks delicious – I love halva though I don’t think I ate it til I was an adult – though I agree it is really sweet. But now I want some. And I really love the sound of these biscuits – especially if they are not too sweet.

    Reply
    • Choclette

      12th February 2016 at 8:22 am

      All this talk of halva has made me want to try it again too Johanna. In Egypt they used to eat it sandwiched in flatbreads, that took some of the sweet edge of it, but I never really took to eating it that way.

      Reply
  8. Daphne Goh

    12th February 2016 at 4:36 am

    I adore both black and white sesame in desserts. Your halva biscuits look really crunchy and delicious!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      12th February 2016 at 8:22 am

      Thanks Daphne. I’ve only recently started using black sesame seeds, though I have been a fan of white ones for a very long time.

      Reply
  9. Jemma @ Celery and Cupcakes

    12th February 2016 at 7:11 am

    I really love tahini, so think I will really love these. I’ve never tried baking with it funnily enough so think it’s time I started.

    Reply
    • Choclette

      12th February 2016 at 8:25 am

      It’s one of those flavours that go equally well with sweet food as with savoury Jemma. Give it a try.

      Reply
  10. Sarojini

    12th February 2016 at 7:41 am

    Superb! As you may now I’m crazy about Middle Eastern flavours. Take a look at our pistachio halva ice cream if example… I’m so gonna try thes, but with agave cos of being vegan. Thanks

    Reply
    • Choclette

      12th February 2016 at 8:27 am

      Oh yes, your pistachio halva ice cream sounds delicious. Middle Eastern flavours are definitely up there as one of my favourites, if not the top spot. Agave, or better still maple syrup would be fine.

      Reply
  11. Dom

    12th February 2016 at 8:29 am

    oooh, these sounds so good. I love halva but haven’t had any for years… there’s a lovely little healthful shop in our local town that sells it and i’m going to make a special visit this weekend to get that wonderful taste! or I could make your biscuits…

    Reply
    • Choclette

      12th February 2016 at 8:45 am

      Oh make the biscuits Dom – go on!

      Reply
  12. Sus // roughmeasures.com

    12th February 2016 at 8:48 am

    Why have I never heard of Halva before? These sound incredible!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      16th February 2016 at 11:49 am

      Indeed Sus, where have you been hiding all these years? 😉

      Reply
  13. Cathy @ Planet Veggie

    12th February 2016 at 3:51 pm

    These look interesting – think I’ll have to give them a go!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      16th February 2016 at 11:50 am

      They are interesting Cathy, but also quite delicious – as long as you like sesame seeds of course.

      Reply
  14. Kate - gluten free alchemist

    14th February 2016 at 10:47 pm

    I agree Halva can be rather sweet, but the idea of a biccie which is flavoured with its base ingredients sounds lovely. Fab recipe Choclette!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      15th February 2016 at 8:01 pm

      Thanks Kate. This recipe is definitely a keeper and would be a great way to finish off a Middle Eastern feast with little cups of coffee.

      Reply
  15. Natalie Tamara

    20th February 2016 at 2:51 pm

    I adore tahini and love the idea of baking it into biscuits. The different colour sesame seeds look fab too!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      20th February 2016 at 8:11 pm

      Thanks Natalie. I realised after saying I’d not had it in biscuits before, that I made some flapjacks with it a few years ago. They were fab, so I’m not sure how I forgot about them – eek!

      Reply
  16. Helen at Casa Costello

    24th February 2016 at 11:48 pm

    I may have the most horrific sweet tooth but even I appreciate when a recipe has reduced sugar. Thanks for sharing these – most timely as we have a huge jar of tahini open! Thanks also for joining in with #Bakeoftheweek New roundup now open x

    Reply
    • Choclette

      25th February 2016 at 9:18 am

      Thanks Helen. I have a sweet tooth too, but I still don’t like things to be overly sweet – if that makes any kind of sense.

      Reply
  17. Lisa

    28th February 2016 at 4:51 pm

    Too sweet!! Never!! Well, I can’t comment because I have never had a Halva Biscuit, but I would like too! I have always liked sesame seeds and don’t use them enough in my cooking and baking! Thank you for sharing them with this month’s Treat Petite!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      29th February 2016 at 8:15 pm

      Thanks Lisa. Have you never had actual halva? It’s not a biscuit and it really is very sweet, but well worth trying.

      Reply

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