Ottolenghis Tahini Halva Shortbread: The Scottish classic reinterpreted

Ottolenghis Tahini-Halva-Shortbread: Der schottische Klassiker neu interpretiert
For once, this recipe doesn't contain chocolate, but it's still way too good to withhold it from you! If you've ever traveled to the UK or a former English colony, you're probably already familiar with shortbread, those delicious, buttery biscuits that go so well with afternoon tea. But in the long run, "normal" shortbeads might get a bit boring. That's why we strongly advise you to bake this recipe! Because the sweetness and bitterness of the Middle Eastern ingredients halva and tahini used in it and the salty caramel layer complement the Scottish classic perfectly!
If you want to learn more about shortbread, feel free to scroll down to our FAQs at the end of the article!

What you need for this:

To fill a square baking sheet with a side length of about 20 cm with the delicious, layered tahini halva shortbread, you need the following ingredients:

For the shortbread:
  • 40 g powdered sugar
  • 35 grams of cornmeal
  • 40 grams of sugar
  • 175g butter (unsalted, melted but cooled to room temperature)
  • 0.5 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 250 g flour
  • 0.5 teaspoons of salt
For the halva layer:
  • 200 g halva, crumbled into large pieces
  • 80 g tahini
For the tahini caramel:
  • 200 grams of sugar
  • 120ml of water
  • 100 g butter (diced and brought to room temperature)
  • 80 ml cream
  • 150g tahini
  • 0.25 teaspoon of sea salt flakes

Step 1: Bake the shortbread

  1. Start preparing the shortbread layer. Preheat the oven to 200 °C, 180 °C for a fan/ power setting 6 and line the baking tin with baking paper. The parchment paper may protrude beyond the edges of the pan.
  2. Then sift the powdered sugar and cornmeal into the bowl, add the sugar and mix together using either a hand mixer or directly in a food processor.
  3. Slowly add the melted butter, stirring constantly, and mix the ingredients until combined. Add the vanilla extract and stir this into the mixture as well. Then turn the mixer down a little and gradually add the flour and salt and stir until the shortcrust pastry is well combined.
  4. You can then pour the dough into the mold. Press into the pan evenly with your hands and then bake on the middle rack for about 25 minutes, or until the shortbread has turned golden brown. When the shortbread is done baking, take it out of the oven and let it cool down completely, at least an hour, before adding the other layers.

The topping: halva and tahini caramel

The halva layer is then very quick: simply mix the two ingredients, halva and tahini, with a wooden spoon and spread evenly over the cooled shortbread layer.

The caramel is then a little bit more complex:

  1. Place the sugar and water in a small pan and heat the mixture on low.
  2. Stir it all up every now and then. When the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, maintaining the heat until the color is a deep golden brown.
  3. Then remove the pan from the heat and add the cream and butter. Be careful when doing this as the hot sugar mixture may splatter. Give the mixture a good stir again and once the butter has melted you can add the tahini and salt as well. Stir well again, then you can put the tahini caramel on the halva layer of your shortbead and spread it evenly.
  4. Before you cut the shortbread into small slices, you should definitely let it rest in the fridge for at least 4 hours. The absolute highlight is when you sprinkle a little extra salt over the shortbread before serving!

This recipe is also from the highly recommended book "Sweet" by Yotam Ottolenghi and the dessert expert Helen Goh.

Tahini Halva Shortbread FAQs

For those who don't like Great Britain: A bit of shortbread history
Shortbread is a typically Scottish pastry that is common and popular throughout the United Kingdom. It is not known who originally invented the pastry. Some are convinced that shortbread was baked in Scotland as early as the 12th century. Other sources locate its origin a hundred years later. According to this, the inventor of these special biscuits was a baker at the court of Mary Stuart.
According to the second version, the infamous regent fell in love with the buttery treat and shortbread became a popular snack at the Scottish court. The common people of Scotland baked the biscuits in a slightly slimmed down version, with oats instead of flour and without sugar. Because flour and sugar were expensive goods at that time and the enjoyment of the original was therefore limited to special occasions.
Today you can find shortbread in probably every supermarket in Scotland and England. And even in Germany you don't have to bake it yourself, you can easily buy it in many shops. Of course, the baked version from this recipe tops every supermarket shortbread. ;)

What is Halva/Tahini and where can I buy these ingredients?
Both are specialties that come from the Middle East. It is best to look for an Arabic delicatessen in your city, they usually have both ingredients in their range.
As the name suggests, both ingredients are also used in our Halva Tahini Brownies . And of course our favorite baking ingredient: chocolate!

Is this also vegan?
Basically definitely! The only animal-based ingredients in this recipe are the butter and cream. For a vegan version, simply replace the butter with margarine and the cream with a plant-based alternative like oat or soy cream.
But keep in mind that the typical shortbread taste is heavily influenced by butter. The vegan version probably doesn't quite match the original in terms of taste. And be sure to use high-quality margarine!

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