In some countries, there are food traditions that offer more healthy options. In Greece, a sesame honey treat called Pasteli is associated with their Orthodox Easter celebration. In Mexico, a Cinco de Mayo fiesta wouldn’t be the same without Tamarind Ball candy. As food allergies have limited my options for typical American treats, I am finding all sorts of new flavor experiences as I explore the foods enjoyed by other cultures.
Pasteli may look like something a Peep would eat, but they are quite tasty and will satisfy most any sweet tooth. They also are great for a grab-and-go snack year round, as they do not need to be refrigerated.
This Pasteli recipe is simple to make and modify with other add-ins. I used less honey than other versions, but there is enough for a nice chewy texture. Mine came out crunchy on the outside with a bit of chewy inside, which suited our tastes here. Both husband and son love them and keep nibbling. I find this amusing since my husband has stated that he hates both honey and dates.
Pasteli with Dates
I put chopped dates in these, but they can be made plain or with any number of other dried fruits, nuts or seeds mixed in. If you are adding a large quantity of add-ins, increase the amount of honey until you have enough to absorb the volume.
This amount made 40-45 small pieces for me.
Toast sesame seeds by heating them in a skillet over medium high heat, stirring frequently. It will take around 10 minutes. You will see them turn golden brown and the aroma of roasting sesame seeds will fill your kitchen.
Meanwhile, bring the honey to boil in a small saucepan and then lower it to medium to simmer for about 10 minutes. When it starts to turn a deeper amber color and thicken, add the seeds, dates and sea salt. Keep simmering and stirring it all together until the honey is absorbed and it is a thick mass. Do not let it get too hot that it darkens and starts to burn (see pictures).
Spread out the sticky mass onto a greased pan or parchment paper. Press it down and spread it out on the pan until it is approximately 1/4 inch thick. When it is just slightly cooled, you can cut it into squares, diamonds, sticks, or even roll it into little logs. Be careful as the hot honey can burn you. It cools quickly and hardens, so you don’t have a lot of time to form shapes. I used a pizza cutter to make squares and then tried rolling a few into tootsie roll type shapes. Serve warm or at room temperature. They do not need to be refrigerated.
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