Greek Halva ma ga z i n e
PHOTOS: “DRAPETSONA” HALVA - KOSMIDIS - GAVRILIS
one part cotton-candy airiness, one part dense fudge, halva is a unique delicacy Tradition & technology The making of halva is a delicate process that employs both traditional techniques and top notch technologies to create its unique texture –one part cotton-candy airiness, one part dense fudge– and mouth-watering flavor –not exactly sweet and not savory either. Halva consists of two basic ingredients: tahini (sesame pulp) and some kind of sweetener, such as sugar, honey, glucose syrup, fructose or carob syrup. The ground sesame pulp is collected in special large bowls, while, at the same time, the sweetener is melted in high-tech syrup tanks until all humidity is evaporated, and the caramel is formed. Once ready, the caramel is then combined with the tahini and hand-mixed by master-craftsmen following the traditional recipe. Mixing the halva is a difficult kneading process, first because the temperature of the dough is around 80°C, and second because the quality of the final product relies on the deftness and patience of the artisan. In this phase, the mix is enriched with other ingredients such as almonds, pistachios, cocoa, vanilla, mastiha, etc. to acquire a distinctive flavor, and, while still warm, is placed into molds. During the final preparation phase, halva is packaged using fully-automated packing machines, which guarantee its freshness and ensure the safety of the final product without the addition of artificial preservatives –in fact, sugar and honey are 100 percent natural preservatives.
Around the world Halva continues to win over fans and cross boundaries, especially as consumers are realizing its nutritional value and have started incorporating it into their diet. As a result, the famous sweet is shipped to over 50 countries around the globe. From the EU and the Balkans to the US, to Canada, and Australia, halva is a first rate ambassador of traditional Greek products. Consumption of halva in these countries is closely linked to the standard of living as well as the dietary habits of the population; it has been noted that the highest consumption rate takes place in regions where the Mediterranean diet is popular, and where there is a thriving Greek community. Therefore, halva is consumed mostly in Germany, the UK, Poland, the US, and Canada, although it is still most likely to be found in specialty stores, such as Greek markets. n
1 Halva companies are constantly developing new, exciting flavors.
HOW HEALTHY IS IT? The nutritional value of sesame is priceless as it contains high quality protein and is rich in essential sulfur amino acids (methionine, arginine, leucine, tryptophan). And although halva has high levels of fat and carbohydrates, its sesame seed base endows it with nutritious minerals, includ-
ing copper, manganese, tryptophan, calcium and magnesium, and with at least 17 amino acids. Most of the fat in tahini is monounsaturated, rich in omega-9 fatty acids, while sesame seed oil contains phytosterols, which are associated with lower levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL)
or “bad cholesterol”, and higher levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good cholesterol.” In addition, tahini also contains vitamins E and B1 (thiamine).