Monday, July 11, 2016

Summertime Cookie Heaven & A Recipe for Tahini and Halva Cookies with White Chocolate


Summer holidays are here to stay for the next six weeks. That means a lot of fun activities, visits to markets and fair grounds, excursions and day trips to nearby Belgium and the Netherland. It means family movies and visits to the museum, swimming pools and suntan lotion, garden parties and BBQ´s, good books and great stories, and arts and crafts. It also means baking, despite the warm and summery temperatures in my tiny kitchen. I just cannot NOT bake. There is always something wonderful about baking. Combining different tastes and textures, putting the doughs and batters in the oven, and waiting for that moment when the scent of cookies, quiches and cakes whafts through the house and draws you into the kitchen.




These days, fresh cookies are a real must. I love to bake cookies and have done so extensively in the last couple of months. Some of the recipe have been blogged about, like the buttery French Sablés Breton (you can consult the recipe here), some have not, at least not yet.

I am also a strong believer of pairing fruits and sweets and I just know that soft and fudgy cookies are delicious paired with a handful of summer fruit. Come summertime, I will serve my Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies with tangy, juicy red currants or sweet cherries. And I adore serving my Biscoff Oatmeal Cookies (picture below) with sweet flat peaches, apricots and nectarines.




But these days I also love to experiment with different flours. I will bake my Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Cookies only with spelt flour, and I love to bake these Tahini and Halva Cookies with rice flour. Different flours and different and unusual ingredients is what grabs my attention these days.

The recipe that I am featuring today features not only rice flour but also Tahini as well as Halva. As most of you know, Tahini is one of the most popular spreads in Israel. People will eat it with just about everything, inside their pitta bread, as a simple sauce for vegetable salad, the love for this spread is intense. And Halva (pictured below), is a sesame confection made from Tahini sweetened with a simple syrup made with sugar or honey and fragrant orange blossom or rose water, sometimes both. It can be “plain” in flavor, strewn with pistachios or even swirled with chocolate. The mixture is molded and pressed into containers or molded into different shapes. It is a wonderful confection on its own and I love to bake with it. I have baked Ottolenghi´s Halve and Walnut Cake (you can look here) and I most certainly love to bake these Tahini and Halva Cookies with White Chocolate.




Tahini Halva Cookies with White Chocolate
(recipe inspired by my favorite hippest London baker Claire Ptak - for another recipe from Claire, please consult my blog here)

Ingredients
  • 100g tahini paste*
  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 125g golden caster sugar (I like to use Tate&Lyle „Light Soft Brown Sugar“)
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla (I like to use 2 tsps homemade vanilla sugar)
  • 1 egg (M), free-range or organic
  • 250g rice flour (easily available at your favorite health food store, I like to use the one from Müllers Mühle)
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon or opt for cardamom instead
  • 200g plain halva, broken into pieces**
  • 150g white chocolate, broken into pieces (use the very best quality you can afford, I like to use the one from Coppeneur)
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds, for topping (I like to use organic sesame seeds from my favorite health food store)




Preparation
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
  2. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment or silpat non-stick baking mats
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the tahini, butter and sugar until fluffy.***
  4. Add the salt and vanilla, then beat in the egg.
  5. Add the rice flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.
  6. Add the halva and white chocolate pieces, and carefully mix these through the dough.
  7. Scoop portions on to your prepared baking tray and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  8. Bake in the oven for 15to 18 minutes or until light golden brown.
  9. Let rest a few minutes on the baking sheets until cool.
  10. Serve straight away (which is what I do) or store in a cool place in airtight container/cookie tin between layers of parchment paper for up to three days.

*NOTE: for tahini check out markets in your community that specialize in Middle Eastern foods  or try a natural foods store – to find a brand that you like.
**NOTE: for those of you unfamiliar with halva, as this is a Middle Eastern confection typically made from tahini paste, nut butters and sugar, you may have to go to a specific shop to find it but generally, it is available at larger grocery stores and at Middle Eastern markets. While there are many different varieties of halva available, such as the chocolate-marbled one, you should try to use plain or vanilla Arab-style sesame halva for this recipe. Arab-style halva is said to be the best tasting.
***NOTE: if you don’t have a mixer with the paddle attachment, you can make the dough by hand, with the help of a pastry blender.




The sweet vanilla scented white chocolate pairs extremly well with the salty, melt-in-the-mouth Halva and sesame Tahini paste. As I said before, feel free to experiment with these lovely and a bit unusual ingredients and make sure to stock up on one or more tubs and jars if you enjoy their distinct nutty, sesame-infused taste. 





As much as I adore the combination of salty-sweet in my chocolate, I love it even more in cookies such as these Tahini and Halva Cookies with White Chocolate. Summertime Cookie Heaven.



14 comments:

  1. Sounds like a wonderful summer! The is such an interesting and unique cookie recipe Andrea, I love that each country has their own variety of delicious cookies.

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    1. Chris, cookies are great for baking in summer - quickly put together and the baking time is not too long! My tiny kitchen then does not heat up as much.
      Thanks for stopping by,
      Andrea

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  2. Summer is so much fun , enjoy it Andrea. I love your cookies and would love to try one. I have never baked with tahini and halva.

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    1. Dear Gerlinde, may I suggest that if you come across halva and tahini at a Middle Eastern store, get both ingredients, try them as is and then bake with them. If you enjoy the combination of salty and sweet in your desserts, you will ADORE these cookies. We do.
      Liebe Grüße nach Santa Cruz,
      Andrea

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  3. Summertime is the best. I am very interesting in baking with different flours, love the textures and flavors they bring. Beautiful cookies, love that you added white chocolate:)

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    1. Dear Cheri, summertime is indeed the best and why stay out of the (albeit warm) kitchen when at the end of the day you are rewarded with brilliant cookies?!
      Thank you for your kind comment,
      Andrea

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  4. I'm pretty much a cookie monster and must make a batch nearly every week! These sure look enticing---and I love how adventurous you are with adding some more unusual ingredients. Such lovely results!

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    1. Liz, and what a lovely cookie monster you are!!! You make the best cookies ever, my friend!

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  5. I absolutely love halva - I had my first taste in college in the 1970s. Many of my friends were of the Jewish faith, and halva was a staple in their diets. It was love at first bite. These cookies are exactly the kind of thing Mark would love! Liebe Grüße, David

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    1. David, halva was kind of new to me. I tasted it for the first time three years ago at the largest food fair in the world - it tasted devine and I was hooked and still am to this day. But it most definitely is not an ingredient that is used much around here...
      Liebe Grüße,
      Andrea

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  6. These cookies sound devine. I have never baked with halva.

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    1. Gaye, then you should because it is one amazing ingredient to use in your baking!

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  7. Awwww, SUMMER!
    I smell your lovely cookies all the way over here, Andrea.
    I wish I lived near you,
    because I'd love to smell you baking all year long! xx

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    1. Kim, oh, how I wish we lived closer so we could share not only great stories but great food too!
      Lots of love,
      Andrea

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