Halva is just one of those things. Either you love it or you hate it. I happen to fit into the former group, the halvalover category. Like many other people, I first discovered halva when I lived in Israel. I had an Israeli neighbor who used halva like I use peanut butter. She spread it, baked with it, and sent it to school in lunch boxes daily. A walk through the Machaneh Yehudah shuk even makes halva’s pasty appearance appealing, with cakes of it layered with caramel, chocolates, and nuts of all flavors.
But halva remained in the background for many years, until my (latest) diet. I saw a nicely packaged, sugar-free box of halva. Perfect for a no-sugar diet, right? I’m not dumb, maybe slightly disillusioned, but I bought it anyway. It’s full of vitamins and protein, is so easy to stick in your purse, and is oh-so-delicious.
Maybe my diet was the impetus for a sudden notion to create a halva ice cream. I don’t think I’ve ever tried such a flavor in a commercial store, but halva and ice cream … what could go wrong? With some pareve whipping cream, egg yolks, confectioners’ sugar (it has a better consistency for ice cream), and a bit of pareve milk, I had a beautiful base. I carefully added two small vanilla halva bars, scraping them with a sharp knife to get small, thin shavings.
The best part of my job is the tasting, of course. But I wasn’t happy with my results. The mixture didn’t have a real halva taste; instead it was a fantastic vanilla cream with a hint of halva. In a moment of inspiration, I added a tablespoon of raw tahini paste. Then another, and another … I stopped at five. It was perfect. Wow. Now I had to freeze it and see if the consistency turned out right.
I am happy to report that, 12 hours later (along with my morning coffee), the ice cream was rich and delicious, with a great scooping consistency. It was so decadent and delicious that it didn’t seem right to banish it to the elegant yet basic simplicity of the scoop.
Chocolate was the answer. (Isn’t it always?) I got out my favorite brownie recipe and made a few changes, including halving the recipe, so it would be easy to cut through once frozen. To prevent the cake from sticking, I traced the bottom circle of my springform pan onto a piece of parchment paper, cut it out, and placed it on the bottom of the pan. I even sprayed it with baking spray for extra peace of mind. No mixer necessary, and a few minutes later it was out of the oven. Not only were things looking good, but they were smelling good too….
After letting the cake cool for half an hour, I made a new batch of halva ice cream and poured it over the cake, spreading it evenly on top. Into the freezer it went.
Friday morning, I get a call from a local yeshivah — could we host three boys for the Friday night meal? Sure, I say, thinking of the special new dessert that I can’t wait to try on them. For a grand finale, I make a quick batch of my favorite ganache and pour it over the frozen ice cream. It freezes immediately. Next time I might add pistachios to the ganache, as they go really well together.
When my guests show up, I can’t hold back a smile when they tell me that they are originally Israeli. Halva and Israelis … a sure thing. I’m right. A thin slice of this decadent cake has everything I imagined, and more.