Ever heard about Halva? Or Halvah, helva, alva, or any of the other half-dozen or so labels under which this particular dessert is known and loved? Yours truly recently went to the Middle East, checked out a couple of the crumbly regional varieties, and became curious about whether the Halva also could be used to make some intriguing ice cream. How did it go? – Read on and find out!
Halva, or the many names for what we love …
Halva can be found (under slightly differing names) in many countries all over the world. Just as the name tend to differ slightly between regions and countries (Halvah, Helva, halawa, alva …), so do the recipes, ingredients and textures.
The Halva I will be using here is the nut-butter based, crumbly type made up of tahini (sesame paste) and sugar/honey. If you have easier access to other similar Halva-types, they should likely work as well.
According to ancient Assyrian myths, the gods who once met to create the world drank wine made of sesame seed (!). Since then, however, tahini (sesame paste) has become more known as the main ingredient in Halva (the nut butter-based type). The image shows Inanna, one of the more famous of the Mesopotamian goddesses.
The process: Make an easy-to-do ice cream base. Towards the end, add the Halva. And some pistachio!
Yes, it really is that simple! While most any ice cream base would do, I have opted for a simplified custard: a few eggs add to both the overall flavour and the stability of the ice cream, which also benefits from the nutty fat of the Halva’s sesame paste (in case you should prefer not to use any eggs, you can easily adapt the recipe and only use starch for stability and consistency).
Halva – this particular one is from Turkey (“Helva”) and is nut-butter based = consists basically of tahini (sesame paste) and sugar/honey.
The simplified base
The Halva will bring its own supply of fat and sugar, so a simplified custard base with a couple or so of eggs and limited sugar will be fine for our base.
Following the modernist approach, we begin by adding all the ingredients (except for the Halva and the honey) in a sauce pan.
Whisk well, and continue to whisk while you bring the dairy mixture up to about 82-85° Celsius (179,6-185 F): the so-called nappe stage.
If you have no thermometer, cook until the base is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon and leave a trace of your finger there: the so-called Spoon test.
Once the base is ready and has cooled down as it should (preferably spending at least a couple of hours or more in the refrigerator), it is time to churn it.
Ready for the last stretch: the crumbled Halva, the chilled ice cream base, and the chopped-up pistachio nuts. We will also add some honey during the churning.
During this final phase, we will also add the honey, the crumbled Halva and the roughly chopped pistachio nuts. The honey can go in early, but the Halva and the nuts should only be added once the base has frozen semi-solid: If added too soon, they otherwise risk ending up on the bottom of the ice cream.
The chopped pistachio nuts have been added – the churning will soon be over, with the nuts well dispersed throughout the ice cream (rather than sunk to the bottom, which would happen if they were to be added too early in the process).
Another possibility is to only add the honey during the churning and then simply add the crumbled Halva and the pistachio nuts into the churned ice cream. Since I wanted to ensure a somewhat quicker saturation of the Halva crumbles, however, I added mine during the churning itself.
Fresh from the churning …
Halva – a delicious and particular ice cream flavour
Halva ice cream
Halva is a popular sweet in many regions of the world, and it is easy to understand the attraction. I must confess, though, that I personally do not like the dry and somewhat sand-like consistency of ‘normal’ Halva, but that is no problem in the ice cream. And Halva-lovers should be pleased – the particular Halva-flavour largely comes from the tahini (sesame paste), which comes out very nicely in the ice cream. The pistachio nuts make for a perfect complement, and the overall ice cream turns out to be exotic, tasty and sweet!
Halva - a popular dessert in many parts of the world - can also be used for making an alluring Halva ice cream, complete with its pleasing tell-tale tahini flavour-mark.
300 ml (about 1¼ cup) milk
300 ml (about 1¼ cup) cream
3 egg yolks
40 ml (about 3 tablespoons) sugar
2-3 tablespoons honey
150 gram Halva (crumbled)
About ½ teaspoon genuine vanilla powder
About 30 gram or so of unsalted, roasted and roughly chopped-up pistachio nuts [and/or almonds and cashew nuts, should you so prefer].
Pour the milk, the cream the sugar, the egg yolks and the vanilla in a sauce pan and whisk.
While whisking, heat the the dairy mixture on medium-low temperature until it thickens slightly and the temperature reaches 82-85° Celsius (179,6-185 F). If you work without a thermometer, cook until the base is thick enough to coat the back of a spatula (just be careful - you do not want to end up with scrambled eggs!)
Cool the ice cream base as quickly as possible. Cover, and let the cooled ice cream base chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but preferably longer.
Pour the chilled ice cream base into your ice cream machine and churn according to instructions.
Once the ice cream begins to form (but before the churning has finished), add the honey and the chopped pistachio nuts.
Continue to churn until finished.
Enjoy straight away or place in container, cover with plastic wrap and cover, and put in the freezer for later use.
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