Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Orange Blossom Halva Cake

This Arabic dessert is a bit like a cakey baklava in terms of flavour.  Halva simply means 'sweet' and this is a very sweet, sticky, dense and almost soggy dessert.  I use an awful lot of orange and honey syrup (more than The Spicery recommends) over the top of the cake as it cools, completely saturating it so that when you bite in you almost get a mouthful of the orange liquor with each morsel of cake.  Of course the amount that you use is up to you so if you prefer your cake a bit dryer and less like it has decided to bathe in orange I would recommend halving the amount of syrup listed below.
There are many versions of halva across the World, from Greece to India and this is based on a North African version.  It is comprised primarily of ground almonds and polenta and is very, very delicate in terms of structure with a propensity to crumble easily. It would not be my food of choice for a food fight.  You have been warned.
Because it disintegrates so easily you want to make sure you properly grease and line your baking dish to get the cake out in one piece.  Greasing really isn't enough - line the dish with baking parchment, leaving an overhang for handles to pull the cake out with.  You will be grateful for it later!
So you need...

1 1/2 large oranges (zest and juice)
3 medium eggs
160g unsalted butter
150g sugar
100g ground almonds
160g polenta
300g runny honey
2 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground star anise
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

300g runny honey
Juice of 1 large orange
200ml water
1 tbsp orange blossom
1 1/2 tsp crushed coriander seeds
1 tsp green cardamon pods
1/2 tsp allspice berries
Preheat the oven to 180C.  Cream the butter and sugar together until it is light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well.  Combine the ground almonds, polenta and spices with a pinch of salt then add to the butter and sugar and stir to combine.

Fold in the orange juice and zest and pour the mixture into your cake tin.  Bake for 30 minutes until a knife comes out clean.
Meanwhile bash up the syrup spices to release the fragrances.  Heat the honey, orange juice, water and spices together in a small pan. 

Once it comes to a boil, turn off the heat and allow to infuse.  When the cake is cooked scatter flaked almonds over the top and strain the syrup over the hot cake, allowing it to absorb and making sure that the whole cake is covered.  The more syrup you use, the wetter, stickier and more syrupy the cake will be.  Obviously.
Allow the cake to cool completely before cutting into small pieces.  Carefully.  This thing crumbles into a gibbering wreck at the mere threat of a knife.  It also won't keep for long so you will need to eat it quickly.

How self-sacrificing of you!

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