As our close friends Barbara and Ed Dorian drove us home from the food festival at St. Mary Armenian Church a few weeks ago, we began discussing our favorite Dikranagerdsi recipes. Barbara recalled a delicious dessert called Baneerov Halva
(Cheese Halva), and asked if we had it posted on our website. Doug and I realized
we did not – a terrible oversight on our part!
As soon as we got home I sifted through our recipes only to discover I did not have my mother-in-law’s recipe. I quickly called Doug’s cousin Alice Bakalian, our go-to person for certain family recipes.
Alice said her mother was the one who always made the baneerov
halva, but she learned by watching. Alice said, “I can recall my
mother using a round copper pan, which was made by my grandfather. It was the
same pan she used to make paklava. Mom placed flour in the pan and placed it in
the oven, pulling the pan in-and-out, stirring the flour until it began to
turn a light golden brown. She removed the toasted flour from the oven and
added melted butter to the flour, stirring until they were well-blended. To
that, Mom added the sugar water, and finally, the cheese. All was mixed until
combined. Baneerov halva was always served warm.”
Alice couldn’t provide exact amounts, because, as we
know, our grandmothers and great-grandmothers cooked ‘achkee chop’ – meaning they ‘eyeballed’
The baneerov halva recipe that is the closest to Alice’s
mother’s comes from two cookbook sources – the “Assyrian Cookbook”, a collection of recipes very similar to those
of Dikranagerd, and Alice Antreassian’s ”
Armenian Cooking Today”.
Helpful Tips before you start: 1. Prepare the simple syrup and clarified butter in advance. Have the cubed or shredded cheese ready, also. 2. Before starting the cooking portion of this recipe, assemble all of the components (mise en place), and have them within easy reach.
Baneerov Halva (Cheese Halva)
Yields about 20 pieces
Simple Syrup Ingredients:
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup water
A few drops freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup clarified butter,** melted (directions below)
2 cups flour, sifted
½ lb. cheese curd, cut into small pieces –or- shredded fresh
mozzarella cheese, or other mild cheese
1. Making the Simple Syrup: In a small saucepan,
combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for about 10
minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a few drops of lemon juice during the last
few minutes. Remove from heat. Store, covered and at room temperature, until ready to use.
2. Making the Halva:
In a large deep skillet, brown flour over medium-low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until it
becomes lightly golden in color, about 10 to 12 minutes. Do
NOT burn the flour!
|Flour with melted clarified butter |
3. Gently and carefully add ½ cup melted
clarified butter to the flour. Keeping the heat low, continue to stir with the
wooden spoon until the butter and flour brown thoroughly. This should take only a few minutes.
4. Gradually stir in the room temperature simple syrup. Stir briskly until
the mixture is smooth.
5. In the meantime, in a separate pan, add the cubes or shreds of
cheese and a few drops of water. Turn heat to medium-low. As the cheese melts
it will become stringy. Keep a watchful eye on this. Remove from heat.
6. Add melted cheese to the flour mixture, stirring quickly
|Melted cheese-flour mixture |
7. Spread the baneerov halva onto a serving platter.
Create a diamond pattern, or other desired design, on the surface and cut into about 20 pieces. Serve warm.
Cover any leftover halva and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before
**To Clarify butter:
Melt about 1 lb. unsalted butter over low heat until foam appears
on the surface. Skim foam and keep on low heat for about 15 minutes or until
solids settle to bottom of pan. Cool about 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully
pour clarified butter into container, leaving solids at bottom of the pan.
Use the amount of clarified butter needed for the recipe.
Cover and refrigerate remaining butter for another use.