Salted Halvah Blondies

Season: All | Active Time: 20 minutes | Total Time: 45 minutes, plus time to cool | Difficulty: 1 (Very Easy)

As a sesame lover, I was psyched when sesame seeds and all their derivative products started appearing on supermarket shelves many years ago. I have an affinity for sesame because its strong, bitter flavor marries particularly well with sweet flavors, producing desserts that are intense but well balanced. Halvah is a Middle Eastern candy made with sugar and ground sesame that has a crumbly, dissolving texture. It’s perfect folded into these white chocolate–based, tahini-laced blondies. Topped with a blanket of sesame seeds and a bit of flaky salt for texture, they make an unexpected (and super delicious) bar cookie.

Makes 16 blondies

Special Equipment: 8 × 8-inch pan (preferably metal)

Butter for the pan

1¼ cups all-purpose flour (5.6 oz / 163g)

1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt (0.11 oz / 3g)

½ teaspoon baking powder

6 ounces (170g) white chocolate, coarsely chopped (1 cup)

1 stick unsalted butter (4 oz / 113g)

¼ cup tahini (2.5 oz / 70g)

½ cup packed light brown sugar (3.5 oz / 100g)

1 large egg (1.8 oz / 50g)

2 large egg yolks (1.1 oz / 32g)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

4 ounces (113g) halvah, crumbled (about ½ cup) ①

2 tablespoons sesame seeds (0.63 oz / 18g)

Flaky salt, for sprinkling the top

Preheat the oven and prepare the pan: Arrange an oven rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8 × 8-inch pan with 2 sheets of foil, crossing one over the other and pressing the foil into the corners and up the sides. Butter the foil generously and set the pan aside.

Mix the dry ingredients: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder to combine. Set aside.

Melt the white chocolate mixture: In a large heatproof bowl, combine the white chocolate, butter, and tahini and set it over a medium saucepan filled with about 1 inch of simmering (not boiling) water. Warm the mixture gently, stirring occasionally, just until the white chocolate and butter are melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat and let cool slightly.

Add the sugar and eggs: Whisk the brown sugar into the white chocolate mixture. It will look grainy and you might see some of the fat start to separate from the rest of the mixture, which is normal. Add the whole egg, egg yolks, and vanilla and whisk vigorously until the mixture comes back together and looks very thick, smooth, and glossy and is starting to pull ever so slightly away from the sides of the bowl.

Add the dry ingredients and halvah: Add the flour mixture and stir with a flexible spatula just until the dry ingredients are evenly incorporated into the batter. Add the crumbled halvah and fold in gently to avoid breaking it into smaller bits.

Bake the blondies: Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it in an even layer all the way to the corners. Sprinkle the sesame seeds across the surface of the batter, then top with flaky salt. Bake until the blondies are puffed across the surface, golden brown around the edges, and slightly jiggly in the center, 20 to 25 minutes. ②

Let cool and serve: Allow the blondies to cool completely in the pan. Use the ends of the foil to lift the blondies out of the pan and slice into 16 bars.

The blondies, stored in an airtight container at room temperature, will keep up to 5 days or can be frozen up to 2 months.

① Use any flavor of halvah you like, such as vanilla, marble, or pistachio.

② When they’re finished baking, the blondies will look slightly underdone but will set as they cool. Try not to bake them longer, which could dry them out.

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