Halva Biscuits – Flavours of the Middle East
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.
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.
- 65g unhulled sesame seeds
- 25g black sesame seeds
- 75g golden caster sugar (I used cardamom sugar)
- 125g unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp dark tahini (made from unhulled sesame seeds)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 75g wholemeal flour
- 75g plain flour
- 25g ground almonds
- 15g cocoa powder
- ½ tsp baking powder
- pinch of fine rock or sea salt
- 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.
- Cream the butter, sugar and honey together until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the tahini and vanilla extract.
- Sift in the dry ingredients and mix in together with the toasted sesame seeds until all is incorporated.
- Cover and leave in the fridge or a cool place to firm up.
- 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.
- Place a little apart on a lined baking tray and flatten slightly.
- Bake at 180℃ for 8-12 minutes until they are firm and golden, but not brown.
- Leave to cool for a couple of minutes, then place on a baking rack to cool completely.
These halva biscuits also go to Helen at Casa Costello for #BakeOfTheWeek