Tag Archives: Tahini

Hummus Heaven: The Best Hummus Recipe Ever

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It doesn’t get much better than good hummus.

Sadly, even with a simple ingredient list of chickpeas, sesame, lemon, garlic, oil, and spices, hummus is surprisingly hard to get right. Most variations of this quintessential Middle Eastern dip are not bad, per se, but they do seem to miss the mark ever so slightly. Be it too raw-garlicky, too sour from a heavy-handed squeeze of lemon juice, too bitter because of tahini-overload, or unappealingly thick and chunky from undercooked chickpeas, there are just so many ways to go wrong.

I say that it is time to do hummus some justice.

After a good deal of research, I can say with confidence that my hummus recipe is the best I have ever tried. This is not your run-of-the-mill, Average Joe bean paste in a month-old tub. No, this homemade hummus is worlds beyond anything you can buy in a store. It is perfectly balanced, velvety-smooth, and mouthwateringly savory. And on top of that, it is infinitely customizable! Like the sound of roasted red pepper? Sun-dried tomato? Or how about roasted garlic and freshly-cracked black pepper? Hummus is your blank canvas.

You can serve the hummus warm or chilled with anything from baby carrots and celery to multi-seeded crackers. Or, go the extra mile and make some homemade pita for a truly authentic appetizer platter. You really can’t go wrong with this hummus.

So, what are you waiting for?


Hummus Heaven: The Best Hummus Recipe

October 31, 2014


Ingredients:

  • 2 cans of chickpeas, or about 4 cups of cooked chickpeas, with the cooking liquid reserved
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (the juice of about one lemon)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter or ghee
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

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Empty the chickpeas and liquid into a microwavable bowl. Stir in the baking soda until it has fully dissolved. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and microwave for 2 minutes. When time is up, leave the bowl in the microwave with the cling wrap still attached to steam the beans even more.

You may be wondering what baking soda is doing in a hummus recipe. You see, as I was researching techniques to use in my perfect hummus recipe, I came across multiple sources swearing by the addition of baking soda to the cooking liquid. The idea is that the baking soda makes the water less “hard,” which yields beans that are creamier and significantly less starchy on the inside.

Upon testing this method, I found that the gritty, starchy canned beans quickly became soft and smooth, which is exactly what we want to keep our hummus velvety-smooth.

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Pull out your food processor or blender. I find that the food processor delivers smoother, more even results.

As the chickpeas are cooking in the microwave, blend the tahini, garlic, and lemon juice together before adding beans. The acidic lemon juice “loosens up” the tahini, which helps it integrate into the hummus better. And blending the garlic early helps to break it down completely, which means that you won’t end up with a bites of hummus with unwelcome raw garlic punches.

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Toss in the chickpeas, leaving the cooking liquid behind in the bowl. Blend until the chickpeas are completely broken down into paste.

If you are making some kind of variation like roasted pepper hummus or caramelized onion hummus, blend in the ingredients for your variation now.

1/4 cup at a time, add in the leftover cooking liquid until the hummus is completely smooth. I used about half of the reserved cooking liquid, but this can vary. The dip should be able to stand on its own, but it should also be very easy to spread. Somewhere between pasty and drippy is what you are looking for.
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Now, add in the spices. Smoked paprika and cumin are my spices of choice because they complement the chickpeas’ earthiness and the tahini’s nuttiness perfectly. However, feel free to add whatever spices you please!20141027_170503 20141027_170721

Fats are an integral part of hummus. While somewhat unusual, I opt for a combination of olive oil and cold butter (or ghee). I find that some takes on hummus are, quite frankly, too heavy-handed with the olive oil, which leads to a drippy, loose texture and a greasy mouthfeel. So instead of using 4 tablespoons of olive oil, I substitute 2 of the tablespoons with cold butter. I take the butter directly from the refrigerator and blend it right into the hummus. This creates a lovely “whipped texture”, which is slightly lighter than what you may be used to. And the creaminess is unparalleled.

Now is the time to taste the hummus for salt. I usually add anywhere from 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt, depending on how salty the chickpeas originally were. Definitely don’t be shy with the salt, as it truly brings out the layers of flavor that this dip has to offer.

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Dig in and enjoy! Or, if you are feeling fancy, plate the hummus with a variety of toppings. Here I used toasted pine nuts, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a few dashes of smoked paprika (sprinkled over the tines of a fork to create the stripes!), and one or two pinches of dried oregano that I have rubbed between my fingertips to release the aroma. Feel free to top the hummus however you want, with anything from caramelized onions to roasted peppers to a dusting of cracked black pepper! Or, keep things simple and serve this delectable hummus on its own!

For the ultimate platter, serve this hummus with warm, homemade pita! Enjoy!

And don’t forget, if you like this recipe, please consider giving back to the Syrian community by donating to The After School Special’s fundraiser for UNICEF’s Children of Syria charity, which helps Syrian children in need. Thank you so much!

Syria Donate Button

{click the UNICEF button to donate to The After School Special’s fundraiser for children in Syria}

Halva Studded With Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Halloween is on my mind.

I’ve always loved Halloween. From the scary stories to the cool costumes, Halloween is arguably the best time to be a kid. What kid wouldn’t want to run around with friends, sporting the costume of his or her favorite fictional character or real-life idol and collecting a lifetime supply of free candy?

Nowadays, however, Halloween doesn’t seem to carry the same magic for me. Maybe I’m just getting older. Honestly, at 16 years old, dressing up as someone else is probably the least appealing thing I can think of — I’m trying to figure out who I am after all, let alone act like someone else. Especially with college lurking right around the corner.

The only thing that holds that last glimpse of Halloween magic for me is the candy. With a sweet bite, I can take myself back to the days when I could go out and celebrate the holiday without worrying about studying for the following day’s tests.

And let it be known, not all Halloween candy is created equal. I have always been partial to the chocolaty candies, as the fruity ones tend to be cloyingly, tooth-achingly saccharine. Anything from Twix to Rolo to 3 Musketeers will do, but my all time favorite, however is Reese’s. The secret to this candy lies in the ratio — a perfect combination of smooth milk chocolate and salty, slightly gritty peanut butter. Yum.

Yesterday, the idea hit me that hit me that I should combine my favorite Halloween candy with a Syrian confection to feature on my blog. I realized that Syrian halva, which is a deliciously nutty, sweet, creamy-yet-crumbly sesame fudge, would go perfectly with Reese’s. Halva traditionally comes either studded with nuts or marbled with chocolate, so I thought that the peanut butter cups might just provide the best of both worlds to create a mind-bogglingly delicious dessert.

Boy, was I right.


 

Halva Studded With Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

October 21, 2014


Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lb tahini (sesame paste, can be found at most grocery stores)
  • 1 1/4 lb granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cup chopped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (or a combination of Reese’s, chocolate chips and peanut butter chips)
  • 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt


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Grease two 9×5 loaf pans.

Measure out the sugar, water, and salt, and mix them together in a large pot.
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Stir the sugar-water-salt mixture and scrape down the sides until the liquid reaches a boil, after which do not stir at all. Use a candy thermometer to make sure that it gets up to exactly 248F.

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Meanwhile, measure out your tahini and microwave it for 1 minute.

(is my tahini tub big enough???)

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Pour the warmed tahini into a stand mixer or large, sturdy metal bowl. Cover it to keep the tahini warm until the sugar comes to temperature.

Now is also the time to chop up the Reese’s.

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Once the sugar reaches 248F, turn off the heat and carefully pour it into the warm tahini.
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With the cover off to release steam, mix the tahini and boiled sugar on very low speed. It will look like a gloopy mess at first.

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This is how the mixture should look after about thirty seconds. You can start to see clear lines, but it is still very gloopy.

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After about a minute, the mixture will look crumbly but still moist, just like good cookie dough. Immediately stop mixing! If you mix more, your final product will be crumbly and not creamy.

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Working quickly, spread 1/4 of the mixture into each loaf pan, and cover the rest of the mixture so it doesn’t dry out.

Sprinkle the chopped Reese’s on top (as you can see, I opted for a combination of Reese’s, chocolate chips, and peanut butter chips because that is what I had on hand. Just using Reese’s is absolutely fine).

Divide the rest of the tahini-sugar mixture in half, spreading each half over the top of the Reese’s layer. Don’t worry about the candy melting, it actually creates a lovely marble effect.

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Spread the top layer evenly and press it down to make the halva nice and compact.

Cover the halva with plastic wrap and let it cool for at least an hour.
20141020_082406Once the halva is cool, cut it into cubes and serve! Or, for an even more decadent treat, try tipping the halva in tempered chocolate to create a sort of “Reese’s inside a Reese’s” effect.

Enjoy!

And don’t forget, if you enjoy this recipe, please consider donating to The After School Special’s fall season charity for UNICEF’s Children of Syria fund below. Thank you so much!

Syria Donate Button

 {click the UNICEF button to donate to The After School Special’s fundraiser for children in Syria}