Sesame Seed Candy
Marc’s halvah post had me contemplating sesame seeds. I have always really enjoyed the flavor of sesame seeds and am fascinated by their versatility in both sweet and savoy dishes. My personal preferences generally categorize certain flavors and seasonings as sweet or savory and never the twain shall meet, but sesame I like in a variety of forms. One of my favorites is in sesame candy. My first exposure to it was the packaged variety from the Brooklyn based kosher candy maker Jovya. (they also make packaged halva and an odd array of kosher marshmallow product) Later I discovered an almost identical treat in Asian grocery stores. In general, every country on the Asian continent and around the Mediterranean has a recipe for sesame seed candy, all of which call for sesame seeds and some form of sugar to be cooked, cooled, and cut. (Indians call it Til Gajak, the Greeks, Pastelli and of course, Sukariyot Soomsoom in Hebrew) This isn’t surprising given that sesame seeds are one of the world’s oldest know condiments and have been incorporated, in someway, into most cuisines. Additionally, sesame seed have high nutritional content, being a good source of fiber, protein, iron, and calcium. This way you can almost claim that this is a healthy candy…and it is incredibly easy to make and allows me to use more of my honey. These candies are a particular favorite among the Sephardim, and Israelis, as a Hanukkah treat.
recipe after the jump
In Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda shuk (outdoor market), you can finds stands full of halvah
Halvah is really the epitome of Jewish cuisine. Since about two mellenia ago, the Jews have been in exile, moving from one place to another, finding a new home whenever they were kicked out. While all this was happening, they incorporated the local food from the region into their diets. So, for example, traditional Ashkenazi food is very similar to Polish, Germany, Hungary, etc food (eg, kosher dill pickles). Halvah is no exception – the Jews borrowed it from their neighbors and changed it a bit.
Halvah probably originated in India. Traders from there brought this treat over the the middle east, and hence the name Havlah is derived from the Arabic word meaning sweet. In each country, this sweet dessert has a different base: semolina, beans, and pumpkin, for example. Though I am not sure, I would imagine that Jews in middle eastern countries (Mizrachim) have been munching on this sweet for centuries. But since the early 1900s, it has been a mainstream all-around Jewish treat. As a matter of fact, the first US halvah factory was established in… you guessed it… Brooklyn in 1907. Today, Jewish halvah, as opposed to others, is made from sugar/honey and tahini (sesame paste). Jewish/Israeli Halvah is fairly distinct in that it is dairy-free (pareve), as the Jews took a great treat and adapted it to fit their dietary needs.
When it comes to desserts, I am a schlemiel – I always seem to screw it up. I figured that this though, couldn’t be too hard. But…. well… Anyway, be sure to heat the sugar syrup to the corect temperature (click on the link to read more), and be sure to have ample time to allow for refrigeration.
Recipe after break…