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Help Stein Improve His Halva, Which He Says Tastes Better Than It Looks

When I bragged to my Food for Thought partner Nancy Leson that I'd attempted to make halva, I was absolutely gobsmacked to learn that she doesn't like the sesame candy. 

Even though my homemade version was less than — OK, a lot less than — perfect, I've always taken it for granted that everybody in the world loves the stuff. After all, it's been around in one form or another for at least three thousand years. And there are lots of different kinds. Nations all around the globe each have their own versions of halva, made with various kinds of flours, nut butters and my own favorite, sesame.

It's been my lifelong goal to recreate at home the foods I might otherwise have thought could only be bought ready-made. The recipe I finally settled on seemed the one most likely to duplicate the Joyva brand I'd grown up with, but it turned out a bit disappointing.

Maybe the problem was in the recipe, maybe it was me. But, as I told Nancy, "It was about 70 percent as good as the Joyva." While the flavor seemed about right, the texture wasn't as dry and crumbly as the commercial product.  Also, it seemed to be oozing either sesame oil or sugar syrup. And it wasn't as thick a block as I'd hoped for.

Maybe I should have cooked the syrup to a higher temperature than the 250 degrees the recipe called for.  Or maybe my thermometer is off. And I definitely should have used a smaller loaf pan for a thicker brick. Other than that, I really don't know what I'd do differently next time.

Got a suggestion? Please post below. I just might be willing to give this another try.

"In eating, a third of the stomach should be filled with food, a third with drink and the rest left empty."

– Babylonian Talmud, c. 500

Dick Stein joined KNKX in January 1992. He retired in 2020 after three decades on air. During his storied radio career, he hosted the morning jazz show, co-hosted and produced "Food for Thought" with Nancy Leson and wrote and directed the Jimmy Jazzoid live radio musical comedies and 100 episodes of Jazz Kitchen.