Sukkariyya/Helvah

While our original source is Arabic, there are references to similar dishes in Jewish and Catholic Spain.

Original: Sukkariyya, a Sugar Dish from the Dictation of Abu ‘Ali al-Bagdadi

Take a ratl of sugar and put in two ûqiyas of rosewater and boil it in a ceramic pot until it is on the point of thickening and sticks between the fingers. Then take a third of a ratl of split almonds, fried, not burnt, and pound well and throw the sugar on them and stir it on the fire until thickened. Then spread it out on a dish and sprinkle it with ground sugar.
Source: An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the 13th Century, trans. Charles Perry

Redaction

A few T butter
1 lb whole almonds
Canola or Safflower oil (something without much flavor)
3 lb sugar
¾ c water (can use rose or orange flower water)
  1. Butter square 9×9 pan.
  2. Fry almonds in oil until fragrant. Chop finely (food processors are your friend) and spread in prepared pan.
  3. In a small saucepan, mix sugar and water. Stir to mix; ideally, get all sugar dissolved before heating; if this won’t work, starting heating on low while stirring. Once all sugar is dissolved, cook on medium high heat without stirring. Cook to firm ball stage (in the general area of 247 F, give or take a couple degrees).
  4. Remove from heat and pour over almonds; stir slightly to combine and smooth with a wooden spoon. (You may not need the full amount of sugar syrup: you want the sugar to cover the almonds completely, but not more than that).
  5. Let cool very slightly, then score deeply with a sharp knife. Let cool completely before cutting/serving.

Notes and Choices

We wanted to focus on the almond flavor here (since another dessert already tastes like flowers) so didn’t use flavored water.

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