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I followed this recipe (Hebrew; my loose translation below) for homemade halva, which is a candy based on tahini (ground sesame seeds). As you can see in the picture in the original recipe, the end product is supposed to have a rather firm consistency. I also understand from the recipe that after the mixing stage, when the mixture is poured into the pan, the warm mixture is supposed to be rather liquid.

  1. Place 500g raw tahini in a mixer bowl.
  2. Heat 500g white sugar with 1 cup water up to 121°C.
  3. Set mixer to medium speed, and slowly drizzle the hot sugar syrup into the bowl.
  4. Add 1 tbsp vanilla extract, and mix for 30 seconds until combined.
  5. Add 1 cup peeled, roasted pistachios and mix until evenly dispersed.
  6. Pour the mixture into a square pan, lined with a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Cover with a second baking sheet sprayed with oil and let cool to room temperature.
  7. Cut to small cubes and serve.

In my attempt to make this, the mixture became quite firm while still in the mixer, even before I finished drizzling all of the sugar syrup into it. I insisted on drizzling all of it, and by the time I was done (and combined the last ingredients) the mixture pretty much turned into halva crumbles. I tried pressing it into shape in a pan, but the crumbly mixture remained just as crumbly after it cooled down.

Can you figure out what I [could] have done wrong? Perhaps I have cooked the sugar syrup too long? I used a thermometer, and I took care not to touch the bottom of the pot. Or have I drizzled the syrup too slowly?

I'll appreciate any input.

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    If you let the water boil for any lengthy amount of time before adding the sugar, that would be a likely cause. What about your tahini? Usually it is an oily paste, since the natural oils in sesames separate when they are ground. As such, it can come with an oil slick surface, like with American peanut butter, and you must endeavor to mix it very well before using. People who don't do this often find that the bottom of the jar of tahini is overly dry and compressed where as the top is an oily goo. – AdamO May 20 '14 at 19:06
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    Did you measure the 121 Celsius exactly? Candy making is very sensitive to temperature. – rumtscho May 20 '14 at 21:36
  • My half'a halva half made of alfalfa crumbled in half a fella like David in the arms of Beersheva, or Samson in Delilah's. So I rather go for a falafel or a challah. – Cynthia Avishegnath May 21 '14 at 5:32
  • @ashkan, I added the sugar and room temperature water to the pot and started heating them together. Also, I used the freshest tahini I could find (it seems to separate more when it ages), and indeed mixed it thoroughly before using. – Yodan Tauber May 21 '14 at 6:53
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    121C would be 'hard ball' stage .... not much past that is 'hard crack' If your thermometer isn't calibrated well, or you didn't cool it back off quickly, it could explain what you're seeing. – Joe May 21 '14 at 13:09
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Brands of tahini can vary; you might try adding a bit of additional oil (sesame oil would be a natural choice).

The ambient humidity where you made this may also have contributed. If you're working in a dry area or kitchen, you may need to add another ounce or so of water to compensate.

Lastly, you might also (gently) try heating the tahini and proofing your work bowl with a bit of hot water to keep everything as warm and pliable as possible while it mixes.

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  • Thank you for your suggestions! I will try them and report back. – Yodan Tauber May 26 '14 at 12:46

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