Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Almond Halva Disaster Of '09

This post mourns the sad passing of a friend. My Cuisinart SmartDuet Blender / Food Processor. A constant companion since I first became my own woman (i.e. moved out of my parents' house in Canada to fend for myself here in the US). At least it went out with a bang. Well, more like a slow burn. But at a MOST inconvenient time.

Let me recap for you, dear readers, the last few moments of its very productive life.

There's this Almond-Semolina Halva (Roat Halwa) recipe that's been in my family for decades, if not centuries. The original dessert is very popular all over the subcontinent (India-Pakistan-Bangladesh), and most families have their own take on it. My mother passed it on to me, but she got it from an older cousin of hers, who got it from her mother, who definitely got it from her own mother (or mother-in-law or family cook). So this recipe originates from an era way before my birth-country Pakistan was even created, back when my ancestors were nawaabs and princesses who lorded over the royal state of Hyderabad, India. Huh, no wonder, only they could've afforded to use all the saffron that goes into this recipe! Oh, and on a separate note, I'm sending this recipe in to Scrumptious at In My Box, who is hosting Sugar High Fridays for this week, with the theme "Test Of Time".
Anyway, so halfway through this recipe, I'm supposed to blend the whole fragrant mixture of ground almonds, semolina, saffron etc. Silly me goes ahead and tries to blend all of it at once, instead of half at a time. That's when IT happened. In just a few seconds of turning the blender on, I start getting this metallic burning smell. At first I'm in denial as to where it's coming from. Then I start to see the actual smoke, slowly seeping out from the base of the blender. *Groan* ... what should have been a cheerful whizzing sound became a melancholy buzz that faded into nothingness. And that's all she wrote.

Ignore the dirty floor, ok?

After multiple futile attempts (mainly me jabbing every button on the machine) at starting it up again, I knew this was the end of my blending / food-processing days with this little guy. However, that still left me with a whole lot of lumpy Almond-Semolina Halva. So out came the hand-mixer, and what should've taken me a few minutes with the blender, took me an HOUR with the hand-mixer! Coagulated cooked semolina takes a loooooooong time to mix properly. On the bright side, my right arm is now quite well-muscled. (owee, typing hurts)
Hyderabadi Almond-Semolina Halva (Roat Halwa) - thanks Mom ... see, I'm giving props to my heritage!
Serves a crowd

Ingredients:
10 oz semolina (sooji)
22.5 oz confectioners/powdered sugar
5 oz almonds (boiled for a minute, peeled then ground)
8 oz unsalted butter (melted) OR ghee
2 cups milk
15 oz milk powder (mixed in a 5oz glass of water)
1/2 tsp saffron, or more if you like

Method:
1. Bring milk to a slow boil with the saffron sprinkled in, then slowly add the semolina, stirring continuously. When all the milk is absorbed and the semolina cooked (it turns color from a greyish-white to a pale gold), take it off the heat and let it stand for at least 2 hours.

2. Add all the rest of the ingredients to the now-cold semolina mixture. Blend it in a blender, in parts, till you no longer see any lumps. NOT all at once like I did! Taste to check for satisfactory sweetness and saffron flavor - add more if needed.

3. Preheat oven to 350 F.

4. Pour the mixture into a 9" springform pan (slightly smaller or bigger is fine too). Place it on a baking sheet, then put it in the middle shelf of the oven for 45 minutes. It may need more time, depending on your oven. You're looking for the edges to turn a golden brown and come away from the edges of the pan. I like to brown the top as well, so I turn on the broiler for a few minutes at the end. (the original recipe doesn't use the oven obviously)

5. When it's done, take it out of the oven, let it cool then refrigerate it overnight. The next day you can take it out of the pan, and cut it into 1-inch pieces (it's pretty rich). It can keep in the fridge for almost 2 weeks, so it'll keep your sweet tooth happy for a long time!
Verdict: This dessert is quite rich and decadent. But I love it. No let me rephrase that, I luuuuuuuuuurve it! The edges turn crispy, the inside is tender and buttery. The saffron and almond flavor is pronounced and just permeates all your senses. You just want to place each piece on your tongue and let it melt slowly. But the minute you put it in your mouth, it's gone because you gobble it up in less than a nano-second! *sigh* ... I don't know what makes me sadder (more sad? saddier?! Oh f--- it), the death of my Cuisinart or when I see the last piece of this dessert.

Oh, this story has a happy ending. Lookie lookie ...
My new baby, the KitchenAid 9-cup food processor (with a mini 4-cup attachment)!

22 comments:

Zaheer Iqbal Naru said...

Almond halwa is one of my favourites but in winter times only. The desert in the above pictures looks a bit cakish and offcourse healthier.
try almond or kaju (cashew nut) halwa of food festival (multan) whenever, u visit pakistan to experience the true taste.

Scrumptious said...

What an incredible post! From princesses in Hyderabad to adventures in the kitchen - it's epic! And your dessert looks incredible. Beyond incredible. I am drooling!

Thank you for such an awesome Sugar High Fridays entry! Please check back to my blog on March 27th for the round-up. (Oh, um, and please bring some of this Halva when you do. Seriously.)

Natashya said...

I haven't had halva before, sounds tasty!
Your poor little machine, RIP. Love the new one - so shiny!

Muneeba said...

Thks guys!
Zaheer, if I can, I'll definitely make my way to Multan and taste EVERYTHING it has to offer!
Scrumptious, it's a date for March 27th .. we're all headed for a sugar coma!
Natashya buddy, thks for mourning my old machine. But yes, I'm pretty giddy about the new one!

Donna-FFW said...

Nice new toy!! I bet that dessert was worth every minute of your flexing your right arm! Looks fantastic!

Varsha Vipins said...

lol..That was so sad,but still u got a beautiful Halwa there..yumm..:)
n wow new FP too..:)

5 Star Foodie said...

I'm sorry about your old machine but congrats on your new one - looks great! I have one like that too! And your halva is just gorgeous and I bet it's perfectly delicious!

Kerstin said...

All's well that ends well - your new toy is beautiful. I like the saffron in there - looks yummy!

Yasmeen said...

A lovely or should I say Lazeez halwa,definitely a sweet reminder of the city I grew up in:).A blender disaster,what can I say ,mine also broke last week.Only that this was my third one carelessly handled since me became the cook of the house.I admire your shiny new machine,I'm gonna have to settle with my
back-up,an old mini processor :(

Daily Spud said...

Gosh that post had everything - drama, overcoming adversity, sweetness, sadness ...and a happy ending!

Nicole (Sweetie Pie) said...

I'm glad you stopped by my blog because it led me back to you and to this very amusing/exciting/horrifying post!!!

I included "horrifying" because I own the same Cuisinart gadget, and will be so sad for our relationship to come to an end. I've had mine for several years now, and it often gets a workout. It's perfect for my small apartment kitchen. Although, seeing your shiny new toy makes me feel MUCH better about my future options. :-)

I'm sure that I would luuuuurve this dessert too! Chocolatey desserts that make many peoples' hearts go pitter patter are always second choice for me when something involving nuts, caramel or coconut is available. This is right up my alley! Thanks for the great story and the great recipe!

Sophie said...

Muneeba, this tarte looks divine!!! MMMM....

Teanna said...

A moment of silence for your beloved food processor...

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....

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I dread the day that happens to mine. I hope you drowned your sorrows in that GORGEOUS Halwa. That looks so good!

Lisa said...

When I worked at Sears over the winter, I always tried to get people to buy the kitchenaid processor. I honestly thought they were the best deal! I'm glad you like yours - and I'll definitely try this; my family would be quite intrigued!

Pam said...

I love stories with happy endings!

Maggie said...

The halva looks like it was worth the trouble. I love the gorgeous golden color of the edges.

Mommy Gourmet said...

Popping over from Donna at my tasty treasures. She was right, great blog. and that dessert looks soo good. I am so sorry for your loss :)

Rebekka said...

SO pretty! And I love the name of your blog :)

• friX • said...

Mmm ! I saw your post at the Round-Up of SHF, and I swear, the thought of this cake put water in my mouth. I think I would "luuuuuuuuuurve" it too !

Vicky said...

I was wondering if the measurement for the milk powder is correct? 15 oz. in a 5 oz. glass seems like it would be a big mess!

Muneeba said...

Well Vicky, this is one of those desserts that as you're making it, it looks like it'll never work ... but somehow it all works in the end! It is a big mess, but the final result is incredible!

Anonymous said...

Can you please convert this recipe to cups? Thanks.