Frozen Brownies with Halvah
This recipe is an excerpt from:
Remaining Kosher Volume Two: A Cookbook for All with a Hechsher in Their Heart
UDJ Productions All text © 2016 Lauren Stacy Berdy All photos © 2016 John White
All other rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any other information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.
I don’t know what to tell you about first, so I will start by saying that these brownies benefit by being frozen.
Not because there is anything wrong with eating these deliciously chocolaty parve brownies at room temperature. Nope. It’s that thing that happens when certain sweets get frozen and claim a chewier pull of interest and climb a little higher towards unexpected heights. For instance, my mother threw chocolate covered marshmallow twists in the freezer. Perhaps yours did too? The Milky Way candy bars found their way there, too. Why? Because they became more interesting, more toothsome…
Yet the chill animated each candy in a different way- your bite made contact with that pull of ice-cold resistance.
These brownies, too, claim this transformative spirit. Chewy and cold, they offer a luxurious bite.
I’m just pointing out the obvious: that freezing animates an already good bite.
Halvah merits mention here. Halvah gives these brownies their density in this recipe. It works its magic by shouldering the other ingredients, lending its tightly spun web of sesame’s and sugar.
The best way to measure drier halvah is to place the dry the halvah into a microwave for 5 seconds. Now the halvah will be easy to densely pack into a measuring cup, just like brown sugar. These brownies are cocoa based. Buy dark cocoa to give the deepest, darkest results. And the dark cocoa is there on the grocer’s shelf, right next to the regular cocoa. I bet this last ingredient may already be in your kitchen- I’m talking about tahini.
Use a tahini that is soupy in its container, not dry. A dry tahini just won’t do. It won’t play well mixing and merging with the other ingredients.
Try to find oily, supple halvah (can be prepackaged). Halvah can be bought kosher with a good hechsher.
This rich and shiny batter gets made in a standing mixer bowl. Then the thick batter needs guidance to find its way into the corners of the baking mold.
I bake my brownies in common disposable aluminum pans doubled up. The batter is heavy! Cutting and decorating is up to your imagination.
I dip the cut edges into “flossed” halvah that looks like cotton candy.
Or just grind regular halvah in the food processor and dip in the baked brownies.Either way, the (halvah) covered edges echo the halvah residing in the baked brownie.
Just arrange the brownies on a platter, sprinkle the halvah (optionally add fresh strawberries), and serve. Alternately, cut the brownies into shapes and serve on popsicles sticks (sold in big box craft stores).
1 cup “vanilla” halvah, densely packed
½ cup tahini: soupy, very runny
½ cup olive or vegetable oil
1⅓ cup sugar
5 tablespoons corn syrup
1 vanilla bean, opened and scraped
or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extra
4 large eggs: checked and beaten
1 cup “dark” cocoa, sifted
½ cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Yield: about 35 brownies
Special Equipment: standing mixer, batter attachment, 2 disposable aluminum pans (½ size deep steam pan), pastry brush, sheet pan or cookie sheet
Double up the disposable aluminum pans.
Spray the top pan with Pam (or brush with vegetable oil). Next, dust with flour. Tap out the excess over the sink.
Place the standing mixer bowl on the work counter.
Use your hands or a knife to break/slice off a little more than a cup of halvah. If dry, microwave for at least 5 seconds.
Over-pack the halvah into the measuring cup. Slice off the excess until the halvah is level. Use a knife or spoon to scoop out the measured halvah onto a plate.
Use a glass measuring cup to measure out the tahini as a liquid, not a solid. Use a rubber spatula to scrape into the standing mixing bowl.
Measure out the olive oil (or vegetable oil) in the same glass measuring cup. Use a rubber spatula to scrape into the standing mixing bowl.
Measure out the sugar, place into the mixing bowl.Add in the halvah into the mixing bowl.
If using a vanilla bean: place the vanilla bean in front of you. Carefully cut the vanilla pod lengthwise into two equal pieces. Use a small knife to scrape the bean’s inner caviar from the insides of both halves. Scrape the “caviar” into the mixing bowl. You may want to tuck the empty vanilla pod into the sugar canister! If not using vanilla bean, add in the pure vanilla extract. Add the corn syrup into the mixing bowl. Break, check and beat the eggs. Set aside.
Preheat oven (convection if available) to 350º F.
On medium speed, use the batter attachment to beat the halvah, olive oil (or vegetable oil), tahini, sugar and corn syrup in the mixing bowl for 30 seconds- the mixture should resemble smooth peanut butter. Still on medium speed, slowly add in the beaten eggs then turn the speed down to low.
Add in the dark cocoa and beat for 15 seconds. Add the flour and teaspoon of kosher salt. Beat for another 15 seconds.
The batter will be rich and thick. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Use a rubber spatula to guide the batter into the corners and even out the surface.
Bake the brownies for 45 minutes. Keep in the pan and let cool completely! Once cooled, the brownies can be refrigerated or frozen (and remain in the pan).
Make sure to seal the brownies against other odors.
Cutting and decorating: Turn pan upside down on cutting board to unmold the brownies.
Use a long sharp knife to cut off all the brownie’s edges. Keep all the trimmings as a treat for the “kinder”).
Get out a sheet pan or cookie sheet.
Slice the brownies into 1½” strips. Then cut each strip into the size brownie you want.
Slice each strip into triangles by angling the knife 45 degrees. Repeat.
Use a metal spatula to carefully place the cut brownies on a sheet pan.
Put the scraps into a bag with all the edge scraps.
Repeat with another strip.
If using halvah floss: use your hands to gently break up 2 cups worth. Put the floss on a plate. If using plain halvah: put 2 cups worth into the food processor. Process the halvah into crumbs. Scrape out and put on a plate.Dip each slice’s edge into either halvah. Place back onto the cookie sheet. Repeat. Cover the brownies and put into the freezer for ½ hour to firm. These brownies may also be served at room temperature with/without a stick. If using popsicle sticks: slide the popsicle stick into the flat bottom of each brownie. Try to keep your hands and the sticks clean! Cover and freeze the brownies for a least a couple of hours.
Frozen brownies: take out of the freezer. Put the quantity needed on a serving platter (put remaining back in the freezer) and serve.
Plain, unfrozen brownies: take out of the freezer. Put the quantity needed on a serving platter (put remaining back in the freezer). Bring to room temperature and serve.
If serving frozen on a stick: place the popsicle handles on the platter so each is easily accessible. I like to serve strawberries with any brownie. Wash and slice the tops off, blot dry and refrigerate until serving. These brownies can stay frozen for a couple of weeks. Make sure they are well sealed.
Rethinking Sweet Parve
by Lauren Stacy Berdy
My first interest here is to start a sweet parve conversation. Think of this as parve ecology. I changed the way I view sweet parve by changing my attitude towards it. I have faith in my skills. They have supplied me with a living for many years. Even with decades of culinary expertise, it’s always challenging working kosher to create parve desserts. I tasted many parve cookies, cakes and pastries that are disappointing to eat. They give taste the skip, often due to the use of margarine and other faux ingredients. Yet our world is also filled with wonderful sun filled ingredients, splendid staples like extra virgin olive oil, halvah and tahini.
Maintaining the kosher standard should have less to do with fast substitutions and wishful thinking (about taste) and more to do with just being in the nature of all things kosher. A sideway glance can rotate one's point of view.
I also ask: who doesn’t appreciate a delicious cookie?
Lauren Stacy Berdy earned her professional diploma from Ecole de Cuisine, La Varenne Paris, France in 1978, then spent a few years working in Europe before bringing it home. She spent more than three decades as a private chef-caterer. She now resides 130 paces from the beach with her husband in Hollywood, Florida, where she wrote Remaining Kosher Volume One: A Cookbook For All With A Hechsher In Their Heart. This eBook is available on iTunes. Volume Two is well on its way.
Even with more than three decades of culinary expertise it was always challenging when working kosher as a caterer to create parve desserts. I have tasted many parve cookies, cakes and pastries that are disappointing to eat. They give taste the skip. The fact is that most parve sweets, even homemade ones, have been co-opted by faux industrial ingredients like margarine. Margarine and I have no real relationship. It is like the friend of a friend of another friend. It’s a stand-in replacement. It is really just tasteless oil.
But nothing says that cannot be changed constraints can sometimes teach us more about ourselves. We are not bound by tradition. We do not have to be bullied by ingredients. Maintaining the Kosher standard has less to do with wishful thinking and fast substitutions and more to do with just being in the nature of all things kosher. My personal take on cooking kosher food is simple. It is valued because it invokes a delicious idea not just an adherence. My desserts are no different.
I have adopted another point of view, a new direction. I want to get the past into perspective. My interest is to start a sweet parve conversation. Think of this as parve ecology. I changed the way I viewed sweet parve by changing my attitude towards it. I have faith in my skills. They have supplied me with a living for many years.
Our world is filled with wonderful sun filled ingredients, splendid staples like extra virgin olive oil, halvah and tahini. I would be the last person to say that I am an originator of anything. All it takes is a sudden leap of thought to transform what seems like an elusive subject like non-dairy sweets and make something not only delicious but also memorable. A sideways glance can rotate one's point of view.
It is my hope in sharing these recipes that I help to expand the landscape of tempting parve sweets. Choices abound and many new roads have been explored. It’s all in the laws of succession. Replacement rather than continuity!
Also, I ask you who doesn’t appreciate a delicious cookie.