People don't normally describe handmade confectionary with the phrase low effort, big payoff. But when it comes to halvah - a flaky, melt-in-your-mouth treat found in Middle Eastern markets - that's (delightfully) pretty much the case.
Traditionally, halvah – also know as halva, halawah, alva, haleweh, helva, we could go on – is made from a combination of nut butter and melted sugar. Halvah made with ground sesame seeds, a.k.a. tahini, is the style most Americans are familiar with, but half the fun of making this stuff at home is experimenting with nut butter variations. Sunflower seed butter, almond butter, cashew butter; each base makes for a wildly different treat, and if you're one to dabble in say, making bonbons, you find that each variation also offers a killer invitation to pair with other flavors and be enrobed in chocolate (which we will not be doing here - but if you're that person, just keep on being you).
Here, we're laying down the basics for a standard halvah, with a little help from The New York Times and Michael Solomonov. Making this classic with granulated coconut flower nectar instead of refined sugar does nothing to alter the recipe's directions, but it does reduce the glycemic index of the final product, keeping those candy-related sugar crashes at bay and making it a smart treat for nut-allergy free kids.
There are two tricks to halvah worth mentioning:
1) Nut butters often contain different oil content based on their type and manufacturer, which can result in halvahs of varying dryness / oiliness. The more times you make this recipe, the more you'll get the knack for how much oil is too much - for instance, we've taken to skimming about 1/4 cup of oil of the surface of our Joya tahini before stirring the jar and measuring it out, but have never removed oil from a jar of almond butter. The good news is any approach you take is going to taste awesome, so just do a little experimentation and find what results in your favorite texture.
2) Nut butter can be smooth, chunky, and lots of places in between. The smoother the nut butter, the smoother your halvah will be, which contributes to that melt-in-your-mouth vibe. Crunchy nut butter is cool, but expect textural differences in the final product.
Okay, that's a lot of talk for such a short recipe - let's get to it!
2 cups granulated coconut flower nectar
1 1/2 cups nut butter or tahini*
1/2 cup minus 1 Tbsp water
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1. Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper.
2. Place granulated coconut flower nectar, lemon zest, lemon juice and water in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until syrup is transparent and temperature registers at 240 degrees fahrenheit on a candy thermometer (soft ball stage). Set aside.
3. Place nut butter and salt in a large, heat proof mixing bowl, and use a mixing spoon to work the butter until smooth and fluid. We pop our nut butter in the microwave for a few minutes to soften it, which helps with this and with incorporating the melted sugar in step 3.
4. Pour syrup mixture over nut butter in a steady stream, stirring as you pour. Mix until syrup is incorporated and begins pulling away from the side of the bowl, about 30-60 seconds.
5. Working quickly, transfer mixture to your 8x8 pan. Place another piece of parchment on top and use your hands on top of the parchment to distribute and smooth out halvah. Cool to room temperature and cut into squares. Store at room temperature, well wrapped in plastic, for a week.