We’ve reached out 40th bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person—can you believe it?! We’re getting closer and closer to the halfway point. Wow! This latest recipe from the Bars and Cookies chapter was for Salted Halvah Blondies, which used some unique ingredients and had us a bit torn on the results.
I can’t lie friends, I’m really enjoying these one page bakes. You look at the ingredient list in the morning, pick up a few things, and are able to bake within an hour without any extreme form of pre-planning whatsoever…I mean?! As a very low maintenance person, I’ve been a big fan of cookies so far.
What I will say, regrettably, is I was not a fan of this bake at all. I already was going into it a little skeptical. Don’t get me wrong, I love tahini and mid-eastern flavours, but on a dessert? I was a bit thrown to start.
What was cool about this bake was being exposed to some new flavours and ingredients, specifically Halva. Halva is a Turkish candy type thing! Quite crumbly and sweet and comes in a bunch of cool flavours! I went to the Mid-East Food Centre in Ottawa (such a clutch grocery store), and found everything I needed for this bake! I decided to get pistachio flavoured halvah because yolo.
The bake itself comes together very easily: mix the dry ingredients, mix the wet, and then combine. The wet ingredients portion of the recipe is a base of melted white chocolate, tahini, brown sugar, and eggs, with the halvah and dry ingredients gently folded in. The mixture becomes a super sticky and kind of firm (?) batter, that is spread into the pan, topped with sesame seeds and flaky salt and then baked.
The recipe warned not to overtake the blondies as to not dry them out, so I baked for 21 minutes. My edges were golden brown and the centre still wobbled like I was instructed. I let it cool, removed from the pan, and cut them into bars and the inside did not look cooked. It still looked kind of gummy like the batter was, but the rest was a golden brown colour? That was where my confusion started. Then I took a bite and my mouth was confused. I felt like I was chewing hummus but then I would get a hit of sweetness.
I love the idea of the flavours and the attempt at the combination, but this girl was not a fan and neither were a few taste testers. But hey, one dessert being not great out of the 40 we’ve made ain’t bad. I give it 1 star unfortunately.
I have such mixed emotions over this bake, and I’m still trying to sort out exactly how I feel about this recipe. First off, I should say that I’m not the biggest blondie fan. While I do like vanilla-flavoured anything, as well as brown sugar, I tend to find them a little overwhelmingly sweet most of the time. I was optimistic that the addition of sesame in various forms, which tends to be a savoury ingredient, would help mellow this out—and I’m assuming that was part of Claire’s thought process when she was developing this recipe (could be completely wrong about that one, but sounds legit).
As much as I miss the challenges and amazing results from the Pies and Tarts chapter, it has already been SUCH a nice break to be baking one-page bar and cookie recipes. I’ve gotten in to the habit of really coordinating my time/schedule around a Dessert Person bake, knowing it will take at least a full day to prepare my various components, and so I’ve found myself putting off the last couple of bakes wondering when I’ll have time to get to them. Then, I finally open the book and start getting ready, and within half an hour I’m all baked up and good to go. What?! How can it be? I’m convinced I’ve done something wrong because it feels too easy, and then I remember we’re in brand new territory now. I’ll take it!
This one was super simple. The dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder) are mixed together in a bowl. The wet ingredients (white chocolate, butter, tahini) are melted down and combined over a double boiler, and then the brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla are whisked in. Then you gently fold in the dry ingredients and the signature ingredient for this bake—some crumbled halvah. I’d never heard of halvah before coming to this recipe; I learned it’s a Middle Eastern confection that is often sesame based but comes in a variety of different flavours. It sort of looks like firm tofu and crumbles up in a similar way. I wasn’t able to find any in the stores in North Bay, but tracked some down online.
The batter felt more like a dough to me in many ways—it was thick and sort of really held together as you folded it, rather than moving loosely like a liquid would. I love the beautiful, rich golden brown colour it became as I combined all of the ingredients and there was no mistaking the smell of the sesame. Once the batter was spread evenly into the pan, the whole thing is sprinkled with sesame seeds and some flaky sea salt, and then into the oven it goes. The recipe says to bake for 20-25 minutes; I went with the full 25 and they were fully baked through but not dry.
Ultimately, I’m just not sure how I felt about the taste. I did like it—the balance of sweet and savoury was what I was hoping would be achieved with this flavour combination. I didn’t find it veered too much in one direction vs. the other. I really love sesame, so that appealed to me, and the little flecks of salt you get once in a while were perfect. But I just didn’t find myself dying to grab another one. I don’t think I could eat more than one at once, and I think that’s just because the flavour profile was so distinct. I definitely did enjoy the taste and texture though, so I would give this bake 3 stars overall!
Coming up next week: Brown Butter and Sage Sables!