15 July 2009

Halva Mousse


I tried to make halva once, the sesame-paste sweet that is ubiquitous across the Middle East. It was a disaster, a sticky gooey, too soft mess that stuck all over every pan and surface it touched. Sometimes it's better to leave the candy making to the professionals. I often describe halva (halvah/helwa/halaweh) as the Middle Eastern equivalent of peanut butter fudge, only made with sesame seeds and slightly more crumbly. Halvah is made by mixing sesame seed butter (tahini) with a sugar syrup and cooking it to the hard crack stage, but it is a delate operation that involves just-right temperatures and constant even mixing.

Though popular all over the Middle East, halva is often associated with Israel where it has an entire section in every grocery (and where I'm sure Israelis an Arabs argue over the origins of the food, much like the do felafel and hummus). Likewise, halva mousse is found on nearly every menu in Israel, as common as chocolate cake, they range from dense and thick to light and fluffy.

This recipe is my own spin on halvah mousse, concocted out of my kitchen and imagination. While I normally dislike gelatin in mousses, it seems fussy and funnily textured, it is necessary in this recipe. As I found out in my first attempt, simply combining halva and whipped cream does not a dessert make. The gelatin works to make it smooth, an the texture is light and fluffy with a nutty flavor. The recipe here s a basic one, and you could experiment with adding a touch of honey or cinnamon, or folding in things like chopped apricots or toasted walnuts. Just make sure to visit a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean grocery and leave the halva-making itself to the professionals.

Halva Mousse

8 oz halva (preferably pistachio variety, or add a 1/4 cup of pistachios)
1/3 cup milk
2 tsp plain powder gelatin
1 pint heavy cream
3-4 tablespoons powdered sugar, to taste

1. Beat the cream to stiff peaks. Add the powdered sugar. Refrigerate until ready to use.
2. Place the milk in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over top and let sit 10 minutes. Heat the milk in the microwave and stir to dissolve gelatin. Combine milk with the halva in a food processor and pulse until fairly smooth.
3. Fold halva mixture into whipped cream. Divide among serving glasses, refrigerate at least an hour before serving.

13 comments:

Stamatia said...

Halva is one of the few things my grandmother (who lives in Crete) will still eat - mushed-up halva with bread, and yogurt. I'll have to try this as I have a can of halva in the back of the fridge - it's not pistacio though (the only pistacio brand I can find in town is from Turkey, and it's too oily and cloying for me), but I feel like this would be good with some cocoa in it maybe? Chocolate goes so well with nuts, after all...

M Smith said...

Oh my do I love halvah. Something I was exposed to when living in New York. I often wondered if I could make it myself, but I will take your advice and buy it whenever I see it. By the way, what store is in the photo? (I live in MD and would love to find that kind of variety...)

Ellen said...

Mm--that sounds really good...

Gretchen Joanna said...

When I was in Turkey I developed a serious halvah habit. I wonder if they have halvah mousse now, too? That is one thing I never saw. This recipe is a special gift---thanks very much.

Stephanie said...

Oh wonderful - I have a friend who particularly loves halva so this will be a treat for her sometime soon! Thanks for sharing through your terrific blog - on my top 10 list :-)

Miakoda said...

At first glance, I thought this halva is the same as the Indian Halwa. I think it isnt, I have to read up more on it, but this looks and sounds quite delicious!

Sophia from Kitchen Caravan said...

At Kitchen Caravan we consider ourselves to be serious halvah eaters, but we've never seen it used to make a mousse. What a cool recipe! This dessert definitely seems like a perfect dinner party conversation starter.

Hillary said...

Very clever! Halva is usually so dry so what a great idea to turn it into a mousse!

the twins said...

that looks great, thanks for the recipe! i'm glad i found your blog, i love middle eastern food =)

Anonymous said...

This blog is getting a little too fancy-schmancy pretentious. If you know how to write in Arabic, then you know to call it halawa.

M Smith said...

Isn't it amazing how people hiding behind the cloak of anonymity feel it is perfectly fine to be nasty and insensitive?

Anonymous said...

Ever tried making Halva or techina ice cream? Davine.

Kitchen Flavours said...

Wow...simple and delectable....very yum....