In general, I was not allowed to eat sugar when I was little. There were a few exceptions.
- My grandparents took care of me on weekends and gleefully fed me as much homemade pie and cake as they could while mother was not looking.
- On each visit to the health food store, my mother would let me choose one giant fruit juice sweetened gummy bear from a big jar that sat on the counter.
- Halva. We occasionally shopped at an Indian (or Persian?) food shop, which attracted the health conscious and broke with their excellent prices on large sacks of legumes. The proprietress wore sparkly, colourful, draping fabrics. She had beautiful long black hair and heavy eye makeup. I wanted to look like her when I grew up. Under the glass counter at the front was a beautiful display of homemade halva, some naked and sesame coloured, some studded with pistachios, some dipped in chocolate…real chocolate, not carob! My mother always bought us some as a treat.
I crave halva pretty frequently, and luckily I now live in Brooklyn where world-class halva is made and sold. Read this beautiful article by Melissa Clark about halva production in Brooklyn. I have not made her recipe yet for Flourless Chocolate Cake with Halva Sauce, but I’m sure it’s wonderful. I do not offer a recipe for halva here. I’ll leave that to the experts. I made these meringues to combat the egg white collection that had accumulated in my freezer and I decided to flavour them with sesame, pistachio and chocolate because I had all of those things in my pantry. The result is reminiscent of halva!Since I like halva, and since I tend to always have egg whites, pistachios, sesame and chocolate on hand, I see myself making these pretty often. My friend Sarah Alden recently loaned me her standing mixer while she travels around the world. Meringue takes about 10 steady minutes of vigorous whisking to make, so you either have to use a standing mixer, an electric mixer or a small group of friends with strong arms and a cooperative spirit to get the job done. If you have one of these things, making meringues is pretty easy! Still, you might find these tips from Alice Medrich on Food 52 helpful…I did!
- 4 large egg whites (1/2 cup)
- 2 Tbsp corn starch
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- 8 oz (2 cups) icing sugar, sifted
- 4 oz (3/4 cup) dark chocolate, finely chopped
- 3 oz (3/ cup) pistachio nuts, finely chopped*
- 1 oz (1/4 cup) sesame seeds*
*You could use less pistachio and add more sesame if you like.
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
- Line two baking trays with baking parchment.
- In a standing mixer or using a hand-held electric mixer, whisk the egg whites, cornstarch and vinegar together on high-speed for about 3 minutes or until they resemble shaving cream. Then, with the motor still running, start adding the sugar 1 heaping teaspoon at a time at a steady pace until all of the sugar is added. This process will take about 7 minutes. You should have glossy white peaks. Using a spatula, gently fold in the chocolate, pistachios and sesame seeds.
- Pour the meringue mixture into six equally sized circular piles (3 on each baking sheet). Use a spoon to swirl the tops and finesse the shapes a bit.
- Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Some people like to leave their meringues in the cooled oven overnight before eating them.
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