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Halva and Chocolate Cake

By: Deanna Linder

In the opening sequence of one of my favorite movies, Amelie [1], there is a sequence which portrays the main character’s (Amelie) likes and dislikes in a very sensory fashion. One of her likes, dipping her hand into a sack of dried beans, is depicted in such a way that you can almost feel the feeling yourself.

One of my likes, in Amelie fashion, is getting home from the supermarket, opening up and smelling a package of fresh yeast.  It’s a bit odd, I know, but I love the smell of fresh yeast.  What is even better is the smell of a house after baking with fresh yeast-and this cake does the job beautifully.

A yeast cake may sound a bit difficult, but it’s really easy to make. The filling I used here contains halva spread, which can be found in Middle Eastern markets or online here [2]. You can swap the filling halva spread, halva and chocolate with a variety of substitutions:

-melted butter, cinnamon and sugar

-nutella and ground almonds

-melted chocolate (any kind of your liking)

-poppy seeds

 

Halva and Chocolate Cake

As with many yeast dough’s, you can allow this dough to rise overnight in the refrigerator and bring it room temperature before working with it.

 

Ingredients for 2 cakes (in a loaf pan):

4 cups flour (I prefer to use bread flour, but it’s not mandatory)

1 cup water, at room temperature

2 oz./50 grams fresh yeast

½ cup sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

1 egg +2 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3½ oz.(100 grams) butter, softened

 

For the filling:

1 cup halva spread, warmed (in the microwave for about 45 seconds)

1 cup halva, crumbled

3½ oz. (100 grams) good quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

 

For the syrup:

½ cup sugar

½ cup water

 

Preparation:

  1. Using a mixer fitted with a hook attachment, mix together the flour, water, yeast, sugar, salt, egg, yolks and vanilla extract on medium speed for about 7 minutes. Add the butter and continue kneading for an additional 5 minutes, until all ingredients are combined, and the dough is very soft and sticky. Transfer dough to a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise to double the original size (about 1-2 hours, depending on room temperature).
  2. Once raised, divide the dough into two equal pieces. Working on a well-floured surface, roll one piece out to a 9-inch by 12-inch (20 x 30 cm) rectangle.
  3. Spread a thin layer of the warmed halva spread onto the piece of dough. Evenly sprinkle half of the crumbled halva and half of the chocolate onto the dough and then roll into a log lengthwise.
  4. Slice the log lengthwise and braid the two pieces together. Place in a loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Repeat with the second piece of dough.  Allow to rise in a warm area until twice the original size (about 45 minutes-1 hour).
  5. Preheat oven to 450ºF (350ºC). Bake the cakes for 35-40 minutes, until golden.
  6. Meanwhile prepare the syrup: place the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10-12 minutes.
  7. Remove cakes from the oven and immediately brush with syrup. Allow to cool for 20-25 minutes before serving.