Traditional Greek Pasteli: Sesame, Pistachio, and Honey Candy

INGREDIENTS:

  • Mild vegetable oil for the work surface
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 1/3 cup shelled pistachios, broken in half
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup mild-flavored runny honey

METHOD:

  1. Lightly oil a wooden spoon and a flat, heatproof work surface, such as a slab of marble, a plastic pastry sheet, even a large, flat plate. Have a small bowl of ice water ready and your rolling pin ready.
  2. Place the sesame seeds and pistachios in a nonstick skillet and toast them lightly over low heat just until they take on a hint of color. (Editor’s Note: You want to be careful not to overdo the toasting, as the seeds and nuts will remain in the skillet and will continue to take on a deeper, richer hue and taste. If you happen to turn your back and accidentally toast them a little too much, transfer them to a plate and continue with step 3, melting the sugar without the seeds and nuts in the skillet. Then return the seeds and pistachios to the skillet when you add the honey. Trust us. We’ve been there.)
  3. Add the sugar to the seeds and nuts in the skillet and cook, without stirring, over low heat until the sugar melts and takes on a pale golden hue.
  4. Standing back so as to avoid any potential splatters, carefully add the honey to the skillet. Working quickly, stir the honey into the sesame seeds and pistachios and mix it while you can, as the mixture will soon turn sticky and thick. Scrape the pastelli out onto the oil-slicked work surface and flatten it a bit with the back of the oiled spoon. Still working fast and furious, dip your hands in the cold water and then use them to form the pastelli into a rectangular shape. Grab your rolling pin and level the surface, stretching it to a rectangle that’s about 1/4 inch thick and roughly 6 by 7 inches in length.
  5. Let the pastelli cool for just a few minutes, and then cut the pastelli into 1 1/4-inch squares. But don’t dally or the pastelli will become too hard to cut. (The pastelli keeps in an airtight container for many days.)

Version 2: A simpler method

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/3 cups of honey
  • 3 cups of hulled white sesame seeds
  • 1 strip of lemon peel (about 1/4 x 1 inch) (optional, lemon peel will give to the pasteli a light hint of lemon.)

METHOD:

  1. In a saucepan, bring honey and lemon peel to a boil. Add sesame seeds stirring continuously and continue to cook while stirring to mix completely and thoroughly. When the seeds are fully mixed in and the mixture has boiled again, remove from heat. Remove and discard lemon peel.
  2. Spread a piece of baking parchment on a cool work surface and spread out the hot mixture thinly and evenly, on the paper (about 1/4 inch high).
  3. When the pasteli cools to room temperature, refrigerate, as is, on the parchment paper (it doesn’t need to be covered). Chill for at least 2-3 hours.
  4. With a kitchen shears, cut the pasteli into small pieces, together with the parchment paper on the bottom, and serve.
  5. To eat, peel off the parchment paper.
  6. Store in the refrigerator.

Serving suggestions: Pasteli can be eaten as a candy at any time, as an energy booster, and it goes wonderfully well as an accompaniment to tea. Because it is very sweet, cut in small pieces. Those with a sweet tooth can always select several!

To increase or decrease quantity: The recipe calls for equal parts by weight of sesame seeds and honey.

  • 1 pound of honey (16 ounces) = approximately 1 1/3 cups
  • 1 pound of sesame seeds = approximately 3 cups
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