Halva means sweets or desserts. There are many different types of Halva that are made with a variety of ingredients and different texture and taste. Most Persian Halvas are made by making a roux with flour and butter and then cooking it with a sweet syrup until it has a soft-dough consistency. Today I’m so happy to be making this Tabrizi dessert called Zanjafil Tarayee in Azeri, or Halva Zanjabil in Farsi that translate to Ginger Halva, which is made without the syrup. My lovely sister who is visiting me from Tabriz, Iran is demonstrating the art of Halva making for us and I am the photographer!
Zanjafil Tarayee is made in Tabriz (Capital of Eastern Azerbaijan) and is enjoyed in many different occasions including the evening dinner gatherings for Iftar (breaking daily fast during Ramadan). This halva is made with only four simple ingredients: Flour, butter, powdered sugar and ground ginger.
If you are a ginger lover, you’re really going to love this halva. It melts in your mouth with a mild sweetness and an intense warmth that gets its heat from the ground ginger that is believed to have many health benefits with therapeutic properties.
The Ginger Halva is perfect for an after dinner sweet bite. In some restaurants in Tabriz small cubes of this halva is served on the side of black Persian tea.
Zanjafil Tarayee does not have as much butter as the other halvas. It is also not made with the sugary syrup that most halvas are made with, so it is not excessively sweet. This halva has an airy texture that crumbles if you are not careful when you’re slicing or serving it. Ginger Halva is easy to make but the directions must be followed carefully as it is so very delicate! So let’s make this delicious treat called Halva.
Heat the flour by stirring it constantly in the skillet. Add butter cubes and stir until the mixture resembles crumbs. Cut butter into the flour by stirring and breaking up the crumbs with the back of a wooden spoon. Remove the skillet from the heat and add powdered sugar and ground ginger and mix for a few extra minutes while breaking up any possible crumbs until you have a uniform powder. The skillet will still be quite hot.
Transfer the warm mixed ingredients to a shallow serving platter and press with the back of the spoon until flat and even. Pat down the ingredients by pressing on the surface with the palm of your hands until the surface is very firm to touch.
Sprinkle the top with powdered sugar and wait a few minutes and if the sugar has dissolved sprinkle more sugar. Cool completely before cutting into equal squares or diamonds.
Sprinkle sliced or chopped unsalted pistachios in the center of each piece and enjoy your Zanjabil Halva (zanjafil tarayee) with tea, coffee or simply by itself after dinner or lunch.
Yield: About two dozen 1 ½ -inch squares
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 5 ounces unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- ¼ cup + 1 TBSP ground ginger
- ½ cup + 2 TBSP powdered sugar
- Extra powdered sugar as needed, to be sifted on top with a fine-mesh sifter
- Sliced or chopped pistachios for garnish
- Sift 2 cups flour into a heavy bottomed stainless steel skillet. Heat over medium low heat while stirring constantly for 10 minutes. The flour will get very hot to touch and will smell nutty. The color will be a little richer but it should not burn or get golden brown.
- Add the butter cubes to the flour and stir over medium low heat until the mixture resembles crumbs. Cut the butter well into flour by alternately stirring and breaking up the crumbs with the back of a wooden spoon and pressing them to the bottom of the skillet. Continue doing this for 5-6 minutes until the mixture resembles a uniform powder without any crumbs. At this point the mixture should stick together when pressed with the spoon.
- Remove the skillet from heat. Add ground ginger and powdered sugar to the skillet and continue stirring and pressing the mixture with the wooden spoon to the bottom of the skillet in order to get rid of any crumbs. This is going to take about 5 minutes.
- Transfer the warm mixture to a shallow 8 or 9-inch plate, no more than 1 inch deep. Place a nonskid pad under the plate to prevent it from moving around. Spread the content evenly and then use the palm of one hand to press the mixture into the bottom of the plate. Press the sides too, until the surface feels very firm. This part is very important in getting a beautiful presentation where you will be able to serve the halva as squares. You should continue pressing the mixture to get it very compact, otherwise the Halva will fall apart when you try to cut it or pick it up; however, it will still taste delicious.
- Add some powdered sugar to a fine-mesh sifter and sprinkle enough extra powdered sugar to cover the entire surface of the Halva.
- Let the Halva cool on the counter without being covered for 20-30 minutes. Some of the powdered sugar on the surface may dissolve into the Halva. Sift more powdered sugar as needed to have a uniform coverage. Allow Halva to cool completely for about an hour, or until the bottom of the dish feels completely cool to touch. This cooling is necessary to make sure that the butter in the recipe has cooled down and the Halva is firm enough to be sliced.
- Slice the halva into squares or diamonds and top each pieces with sliced or chopped unsalted pistachios.