This is a sweet and different dessert, often made with flour or semolina, butter, sugar, milk and nuts. In the Black Sea region, however, it is made with locally produced cornmeal and hazelnuts.
Halva is one of the oldest Turkish sweets and signifies good fortune. It is also traditionally prepared by a bereaved family to be served to relatives and friends after a funeral.
Make Ahead: The halva can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Cookbook author Nur Ilkin likes to serve it warm.
- For the syrup
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- For the halva
- 2 cups yellow cornmeal
- 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup finely ground skinned hazelnuts, plus 2 to 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped, for garnish (see NOTE)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, for serving
For the syrup: Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool completely.
For the halva: Toast the cornmeal in a large, dry skillet over medium-low heat for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the melted butter and stir to incorporate; cook for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring constantly, then add the ground hazelnuts and mix well.
Slowly stir in the cooled syrup; cook for 6 to 7 minutes or until all the syrup has been absorbed and the mixture has thickened. Remove from the heat.
Spray the inside of a 5 1/2-inch round bowl with nonstick cooking oil spray. Transfer the halva to the bowl, using the back of a wooden spoon to press it down lightly. Invert onto a round serving platter. Garnish with the coarsely chopped hazelnuts; serve with the cream.
NOTE: Toast hazelnuts in a small dry skillet over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking the skillet to keep the nuts from burning. Cool completely before chopping.
Adapted from "The Turkish Cookbook," by Nur Ilkin and Sheilah Kaufman (Interlink, 2010).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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