Cook: Sweet confections give festive flair to Simchat Torah

Simchat Torah is a joyous celebration marking the reading through to the end of the Torah and starting it anew. It’s also a festive holiday with a delicious tradition of eating something sweet.

Here are two Jewish-themed confections to serve on the holiday (which begins the evening of Monday, Oct. 8 and continues through Tuesday, Oct. 9).

The Honey, Tahini and Pistachio Candy was inspired by pistachio halvah but has a softer, moister and chewier texture. It does require a candy thermometer (also known as a deep-fry thermometer) but other than that is fairly straightforward to make. The hardest part is waiting for the candy to set up in the fridge.

The Chocolate Falafel for Jonah couldn’t be easier to make. They are a no-cook version of a treat a certain young friend and I had in a now-defunct Berkeley falafel restaurant. The restaurant called its confections chocolate falafels, so I do, too. These cookie truffles are perfect to make with young children. The recipe also multiplies well in case you need a larger batch.


Honey, Tahini and Pistachio Candy

Makes 32 small pieces

vegetable oil or oil spray

1⁄2 cup plus 1⁄4 cup raw or roasted pistachio nut meats

1 cup sugar

1⁄2 cup honey

1⁄2 cup water

2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

1 cup tahini (Middle Eastern sesame seed paste)

1 tsp. vanilla

Oil or spray an 8×8-inch baking pan or sturdy plastic container. Line with waxed or parchment paper. Grease or spray paper liner. If pistachio nut meats are raw and not roasted, toast in a dry, heavy fry pan until very lightly brown.

Combine sugar, honey, water and lemon juice in a pot over medium heat. Insert candy/deep-fry thermometer into pan. Stir occasionally and cook until thermometer reaches 250 degrees, adjusting heat as necessary to make sure syrup does not boil over or scorch. (Be careful when working with hot sugar syrup.) Remove from heat. Remove and wipe down thermometer.

Immediately put tahini into a second pot, insert thermometer, and heat on low to 120 degrees. Pour heated tahini into pot with sugar syrup. Add vanilla. Stir well. Stir in 1⁄2 cup of pistachio nuts. Pour into prepared pan. Let sit 20 minutes. Scatter remaining nuts on top, pressing down so they adhere. Cover pan with plastic wrap or foil, being careful it does not touch the candy.

Put in refrigerator for at least 24 hours (the candy should be somewhat firm but still pliable). Just before serving, peel the paper backing off and cut into small pieces. Serve immediately. Only cut what you need and keep the rest wrapped and chilled in the refrigerator until ready to use.


Chocolate Falafel for Jonah

Makes 12

1⁄2 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread (such as Nutella)

1⁄4 tsp. almond extract (or to taste)

1 cup plus 1 cup finely smashed graham cracker crumbs (plus additional if needed)

vegetable oil

Mix chocolate-hazelnut spread and almond extract. Stir in 1 cup graham cracker crumbs until well combined and a spoonful of the mixture can be formed into a 1-inch ball that holds its shape. You may need to mix in additional crumbs. Oil hands and roll mixture by the spoonful into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in additional graham cracker crumbs.

Set on plate and serve immediately, or wrap plate loosely in plastic wrap or waxed paper and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve chilled or take out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes before serving if desired.

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. She blogs at Contact her at

Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. She blogs about her food at Contact Faith at