A three-layered bar with a shortbread bottom, halva in the middle, and a glossy tahini caramel on top. This was a winning combination just waiting to happen. And happen it did, thanks to Paulina Bembel, our head pastry chef.
Paulina, who comes from Poland, skilfully uses Middle Eastern favourites – tahini and halva – to transform the famously cloying millionaire’s shortbread into something so much better, with a slight bitterness and a touch of salt to offset all that sweetness.
– 40g icing sugar
– 35g cornflour
– 40g caster sugar
– 175g unsalted butter, melted, and set aside to cool slightly
– 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
– 250g plain flour
– 1/8 tsp salt
– 200g halva, roughly crumbled into small pieces
– 80g tahini
– 200g caster sugar
– 120ml water
– 100g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
– 80ml double cream
– 150g tahini paste
– 1/4 tsp flaky sea salt
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan/Gas Mark 6. Line a 20cm square tin with baking parchment, making sure that the paper rises up over the edges of the tin.
2. For the shortbread, sift the icing sugar and cornflour into the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment in place, then add the caster sugar and mix on a medium speed. With the machine still running, slowly pour in the melted-but- cooled butter and beat until combined. Add the vanilla and reduce the speed to low, then sift in the flour and salt and continue to beat until the dough comes together.
3. Tip the mixture into the tin and use your hands to pat and even out the surface. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside until completely cool. This will take an hour or so, so don’t start making the caramel too soon or it will have set by the time the shortbread is cool.
4. For the halva layer, place the halva and tahini in a small bowl and mix with a wooden spoon to combine. Spread the mix over the cooled shortbread and use the back of a spoon to smooth it out to an even layer.
5. To make the caramel, place the sugar and water into a small saucepan and place over a medium-low heat. Stir occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved, then increase the heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil and cook – still at a boil – for about 12 minutes, until the sugar is a deep golden brown. Remove from the heat and add the butter and cream: take care here, as the mixture will splutter. Whisk to combine and, once the butter has melted, add the tahini and salt. Whisk to combine again, then pour evenly over the halva layer in the tin, so that all of the halva is covered.
6. Place in the fridge for at least 4 hours until set, before cutting into bars, about 10 x 2.5cm. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over the middle of each bar and serve.
In his stunning new baking and desserts cookbook, Yotam Ottolenghi and his long-time collaborator Helen Goh bring the Ottolenghi hallmarks of fresh, evocative ingredients, exotic spices and complex flavourings.
Sweet includes over 110 innovative recipes, from Blackberry and Star Anise Friands, Tahini and Halva Brownies and Persian Love Cakes. There is something here to delight everyone.
Extracted from Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh (Ebury Press, €30). Photography by Peden + Munk.