Middle Eastern Millionaire's Shortbread 16.000

Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post

Oct 9, 2017

The twist on this classic bar cookie here is the use of tahini and halvah, which both bring sesame seed goodness (in the forms of paste and candy) and flavor to the mix.

When you're making the caramel, allow it to reach a deep amber/golden brown color -- you will be rewarded with distinctly colored layers in these bars.

Make Ahead: The shortbread base can be baked up to 4 days in advance; it freezes well. The bars can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Where to Buy: Halvah is typically located in the kosher section of large grocery stores; we found a variety of halvahs at Rodman's in the District.

16 pieces

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 16 pieces

  • For the shortbread
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (40 grams) confectioners' sugar
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons (35 grams) cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons (40 grams) granulated sugar
  • 13 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks, plus 1 tablespoon; 175 grams) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon (250 grams) flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • For the halvah layer
  • 7 ounces (200 grams) halvah, coarsely crumbled into small pieces (see headnote)
  • 1/3 cup (80 grams) tahini
  • For the tahini caramel
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 7 1/2 tablespoons (100 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt, plus more for sprinkling


For the shortbread: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line an 9-inch square pan with parchment paper, making sure the paper hangs over the edge on at least 2 opposite sides.

Sift the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch into the bowl of stand mixer or handheld electric mixer, then add the granulated sugar and beat on medium speed, just to combine. With the machine still running, gradually pour in the melted/cooled butter; increase the speed to medium-high and beat for about 1 minute.

Reduce the speed to low; add the vanilla extract, then sift in the flour and kosher salt, beating to form a soft dough. Transfer to the pan and use your hands to even out the surface. Bake (middle rack) for 22 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool completely; this may take an hour, so don't start making the tahini caramel too soon or it will have set by the time the shortbread is ready.

For the halvah layer: Use a wooden spoon to stir together the halvah and tahini in a small bowl. Spread the mix over the cooled shortbread, using the back of the spoon to smooth it out.

For the tahini caramel: Combine the granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved, then increase the heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil and cook -- not stirring, still at a boil -- for 10 to 12 minutes, to form a syrup that is a deep golden brown (see headnote). Watch carefully as it will go from light golden to a deep, amber color quickly (but be sure to let it get dark enough, or the caramel will be too soft.) Remove from the heat.

Carefully add the butter and cream: the mixture will sputter and rise up. Whisk to incorporate; once the butter has melted, add the tahini and flaky sea salt. Whisk until well blended, then immediately pour over the halvah layer in the pan, so the halvah layer is completely covered and the tahini caramel is smooth.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or until set, before cutting into 16 equal bars, trimming the edges as needed (they're good for snacking). Sprinkle a pinch of the flaky sea salt over the middle of each bar just before serving.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from "Sweet: Desserts from London's Ottolenghi," by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh (Ten Speed Press, 2017).

Tested by Kara Elder.

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