The pudding type of halvas is the more old-fashioned kind. It is a homemade pudding, with no dairy and no eggs, which makes it perfect for Great Lent or any fasting period. We have never acutally made our own halva, but we have eaten at other homes and always walk away telling ourselves that one day we will make this at home. So, today is the day!
Through all the reading that we have been doing in our cookbooks and online, we found that Halva can be made by following a simple formula: 1-2-3-4. That means that it is one part oil, two parts semolina, three parts sugar, and four parts water. The semolina is the interesting ingredient here. We all have sugar, water, and oil at home, but what exactly is the semolina?
Semolina is a coarse wheat product that comes from the process of milling wheat. When wheat is processed, the different parts are separated into the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. Semolina is the endosperm -- the coarse grains. It is the coarse texture that we are looking for, as opposed to the semolina flour which is highly processed to become fine flour, mostly used for pasta and dough.
When we went looking for the right, coarse semolina product, and we started asking questions, we learned a few things. We learned that the coarse semolina is actually what is used to make Cream of Wheat, Farina, and a variety of baby foods and cereals. When the semolina is boiled, it makes a creamy porridge type hot cereal, that is the consistency of halva. We found a lot of products that listed the ingredients as "farina" but wanted to stay true to the texture. Therefore, we bought the Cream of Wheat. The difference is that farina is a finer ground product. Either one will work in this recipe, though. The other deciding factor for us is that the Farina brand is not sold in Canada, and it is sold only in some parts of the U.S. anymore. With that in mind, we had to use the Cream of Wheat hot cereal.
We wanted to follow the formula for a typical halva, and see if that held true, since it is what "everybody" knows as the recipe. We chose to use 1/2 cup oil, 1 cup Cream of Wheat, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and 2 cups water. The process seemed to be as simple as the formula.
Start by gathering your ingredients. You will also want to get a moulded pan (a jello or pudding mould will work, too). If you don't have one, don't run to the store just to buy one! You can simply use a glass baking dish, cake pan, form, or individual bowls. We had these interesting tortilla pans that seemed like they would work. We sprayed the inside with a little pan spray, just to make sure the pudding would slide out in the shape of the pan without too much fuss.
So, now that everything is together, the first step is to make the syrup. This is a basic simple syrup that is made by putting both water and sugar in a pot and bringing it to a boil. Let the mixture boil for about five minutes, then turn down the heat to a medium-low so the syrup will simmer. This is where the thickening actually takes place. Allow the syrup to simmer for about 15 minutes, until it is a syrup consistency. You may see that the syrup takes on a little colour, and that is from the caramelization of the sugar -- that's okay.
We also added 3 cloves, a little cinnamon stick and the zest of 1/2 a lemon. That was just to add a little flavour, but it is not necessary at all! For the sugar and the water, we stuck to the formula and used 1 1/2 cups sugar and 2 cups of water.
While the syrup is simmering, and close to the end of the cooking process, which should total about 20 minutes to make a rich syrup, start cooking the semolina.
Within a few minutes, you will see the semolina start to take on a light golden colour. We thought the smell was similar to burning flour or popcorn. It filled the house and stayed there for a few hours.
When it is almost chestnut colour, remove the pot from the heat.
Mix in the walnuts and raisins at this point.
Return the pot to the medium heat and continue to stir the mixture until the Cream of Wheat and the syrup have formed a pudding-like consistency, and all of the syrup is absorbed. The mixture will start to pull away from the sides and bottom of the pan. Then, remove the pot from the heat and put a lid or a towel on the pot. Let it sit for about 10 minutes. This gives you a chance to clean the pot where you cooked the syrup. You want to at least get some hot water in there so the sugar does not crystallize and make it difficult to clean.
After ten minutes, spoon the pudding mixture into whatever pan you decided. It will still be hot, so do this carefully. Like we mentioned, we have these two small tortilla pans that have interesting shapes. Then, set the pans aside and let the halva cool completely.
Turn out the pudding onto a serving dish and garnish with a little sprinkle of cinnamon and maybe some chopped nuts.
Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled. Store this in the fridge, unless you live in a house like ours where it won't last overnight!
So, this halva recipe was better the second time using the full cups. We don't know why this is true, it just is. There are some recipes that do not double well, and we suppose that this is a recipe that does not split well. That means that we will need a couple more pans so the next time we make it, we can share! Good luck and good eats!
Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.