Presvytera Vassi Makris Haros is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Art, Architecture & Planning and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. She is the owner, designer and photographer of V’s Cardbox, In Service and Love. a greeting card company featuring cards with an Orthodox voice. She strongly feels that experiencing the Orthodox Faith through the church’s cyclical calendar of feasts and fasts is a gift that is too often overlooked.
When you need a fasting dessert for coffee hour or have unexpected company coming to your door during advent, Halva is perfect when you need a quick dessert. The ingredients for Halva are simple: sugar, water, cinnamon stick, orange peel, oil, cream of wheat and almonds (optional.) This Halva is not the sesame dessert you get in a block or can. This recipe is more of a cake or pudding.
Start with the syrup. Boil 2 c sugar in 2 c water for a few minutes. Add a cinnamon stick and an orange peel; be sure to cut only the peel and not the white part, or it will be too bitter. Boil for 10 minutes while you prepare the rest of the dessert.
Heat 1 c canola or vegetable oil in a heavy sauce pan. When it’s warm, add 2 c cream of wheat (not instant) while stirring. Stir consistently, over med-low heat, till it toasts to a golden color. (This can take 20 minutes to cook.) I use a wooden spoon or a heat-resistant spatula. Be sure to keep the cream of wheat from burning or cooking in the edge of the pan. I keep a bit of raw cream of wheat on the side so I can gauge how dark it is getting.
Before and after
Add blanched almonds if you like. Cook a few more minutes.
Remove the orange and cinnamon stick from the syrup. CAREFULLY add syrup to the hot saucepan by using a ladle or just pouring it in. The syrup will splatter and bubble as you pour it into the pan. Stir.
When all the syrup is absorbed, let it rest for 10 minutes until it thickens. Pour into a glass cake pan. When it has cooled, cut into squares or scoop out and serve in a bowl.
Tastes great with cut fruit.