molten halva lava cakes

with maya from bazek alim!

the other day i was strolling around tel aviv and i was a little bit blue because all of my travel companions had left the country without me (!!) and i still had one day until my flight. i mean, it was exciting because i still had one whole day and i could spend hours at the market debating between this za'atar and that za'atar or walk around my airbnb with no pants on if i wanted to, but that feeling of my trip being nearly over and that other feeling of having to navigate the bus system all by lonesome made me bluer than i should have been in such a sunny city. it felt like the last day of camp :(

but then suddenly, a jingle on my phone! (did you know that phones work kind of pretty well overseas now?!)

it was maya from bazek alimsaying something to the effect of, "hi! would you like to come over and make molten halva lava cakes???"

and all of my blues were gone. vanished! because halva and cake are my safe words and my kryptonite and my drugs of choice, all smashed together. maya inviting me over for halva cake was kind of like how in college if ever one of the percussion boys knew that i was in a salty mood, they could just compliment me on my hair and suddenly they'd be my best friend.


within five minutes of sitting down in maya's apartment/prop room, i had a halva cake from test batch #1 in my belly, a stack of not-yet-available-in-the-states cookbooks sitting on my lap, and a high powered air conditioner covering my person. fantastic!

we baked the afternoon away. we made halva pizza and inbal's cake. maya introduced me to tonka bean, i perused her prop shelves, we talked about blogs... halva was everywhere, caramel was everywhere.... it was glorious. the tastiest of afternoons.

when maya offered me a molten halva lava cake, i did what i always do with dessert. i ate one bite and savored the living daylights out of it, planning to not eat anymore since i knew that there would be more sweets soon. usually i can stick to this plan pretty well. this time i absolutely could not. somewhere between the chewy eggy outer cake and the smooth puddle of caramel that was flavored with just the right amount of tahini, i tossed my plan to the wind and downed the thing. i was bonkers for it.

they're fussy cakes to make, they over bake sooo easily (and i know from experience), but when they're right, they're right. and it still amazes me that they require such basic ingredients.

this recipe is all maya's doing. it is loosely adapted from this french book. (lol, maya, do you even speak french?!) and you can find maya's post and recipe, in hebrew, here

molten halva lava cakes

makes 6


3/4 c sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tb water

1/2 c heavy cream

1/2 c unsalted butter, cut into cubes

3 eggs

4 tb raw tahini

2 tb flour

flaky sea salt, for topping


preheat the oven to 350f. grease six 1-cup individual ramekins or muffin tins. 

place the sugar and salt in a wide heavy-bottomed pan. stir in the water and cook over high heat until sugar melts into a sandy puddle. once this happens, avoid stirring, to prevent crystallization. continue cooking sugar for 2-4 minutes until it turns a light amber color. reduce heat to low and carefully stir in the cream. continue to stir until mixture smooths out. add butter, cube by cube, stirring, until mixture is thick and homogeneous. remove from heat and let cool slightly.

gradually stir the eggs into the warm (but not hot) caramel mixture, one at a time, and then stir in the tahini. add flour and stir until smooth. 

scoop mixture into the muffin tins and bake until puffed with a 1-inch jiggely circle in center, begin checking for doneness at 8 minutes. 

sprinkle with flaky salt and enjoy!


israel, part two

tel aviv

if the farm was just one of those things like a couch that could be strapped to a u-haul and moved to another place and if with some crazy effed up futuristic wizardry, the spot where i'm sitting right now just vanished and minnesota went missing and we were forced to relocate where would we go?? what would we do? could i bring my little town and all of its cozy winters?

would we go to montana? maybe!

asheville? when we retire.

tel aviv?????? right now??? yes.

that place is the tits! i have never felt more at home in a place that was so far from my home. sure, the food is great, the sun is always shining, there's a party every night, etc., etc., but what really made this place more than just a hummus-y beach vibe backed by the sweet sounds of matkot and hydration via shoko b'sakit was the people. everybody that i met was so welcoming and nice. not just nice in a pleased-to-meet-you/that's-a-pretty-shirt way, but nice in a real honest warm way, like how they all make sure you have somewhere to go for friday night dinner, how they open up their home if you feel like inviting instagram over, and how if you mention that you'd like to sharpen your pita skills, they're there with flour and an oven. 

if i was tel aviv's mum i'd be kvelling. 

i had countless wonderful experiences in my short time there, from making tahini cake and pretzel challah for al hashulchan, to feasting on three courses of the best shrimp i ever ate with naama and lamato l'chaim-ing with so many amazing friends, old and new...

one of these days i'm gonna get on the mic and ask if any of you in tel aviv would like to swap houses for a winter. so get ready, go buy a coat.

here are some things i would like you to know about tel aviv if you're planning to go there:

going on a tour with delicious israel is a requirement if you care about food. inbal, the owner, knows everything about everything and will not take no for an answer if, for example, the special secret spice man at the levinsky market has closed up shop for the day but you're about to board a plane and need an emergency stash of ras el hanout. 

catit is where josh, jeff, and i lost our shit over what was easily one of the top three meals of our lives. it was fancy and beautifully plated and i yelled at jeff for wearing shorts to it, but it wasn't stuffy, it was just so good.

i had a really great almond pulpy cocktail situation at imperial.

yom tov's halva is a *revelation* and their cheese stuffed hibiscus is something everyone needs to try at least twice.

the turkish breakfast at the cookbook cafe is everything i aspire to make for the breakfast table.

bread and co was two doors away from my airbnb and i am positive that if i lived in tel aviv, this is where i would sit every day with my shakshuka in a bread bowl and a cold coffee and morning twitter.

feincook is a very cool hip kitchen studio space with fun cooking classes and the most delightful people.

the freshest, most beautiful sodas in the world may be found at café levinsky 41, and sipped alongside colorful balls of homemade marzipan.

dr. shakshuka, abu hassan, orna v'ella, lehamim bakery, and night kitchen were a few more places that i loved.

mizlala, miznon, north abraxus, eatwith habanot, mashiah, and port said were the ones that got away, but they're at the top of my list for next time.

food pictured in this post: a chocolate chili ganache cake with marzipan hearts and a halva + berry pizza made with the extraordinary bazekalima tahini + fig cake and kashkaval stuffed pretzel za'atar challah which will be in the november issue of al hashulchan, fig + silan + tahini + dukkah toasts, a feta + watermelon + mint cake which, ok, is actually #notacake.


israel, part one

haifa, jerusalem, the dead sea, tzfat, the negev, the galilee

the funniest thing happened this week! i got on a plane all sweaty and smelly from the thick israeli summertime and 24 hours later, got off in grand forks, shivering because suddenly i was in the center of fall. it's like i had traveled through time, so consider me a regular marty mcfly.

on my first morning home, i woke up right in time to hear macaroni sing his cockadoodledoo. what a sound!! i imagine it's kind of like hearing your human kid talk for the first time. i piled on a blanket and scurried into the kitchen to brew coffee from a little instant packet that's been hiding in my suitcase since the first kibbutz of my trip (and thank goodness it was there, apparently eggboy was too busy with harvest to replenish our coffee beans while i was gone). i sprinkled it with hawaij and then left it to cool while i ran outside to say hello to macaroni and yank some onions from the ground for my morning salad. oh man it was cold! two weeks in 110º will really make you forget what 60º feels like.

and then in the fall morning light, over salad and tahini and coffee laced halva and hawaij laced coffee, i unpacked and repacked all of my most favorite memories from the past two weeks into imaginary little jars that i will keep forever and ever:

the dash to the tzfat lahoh man, and his hotter than hot zhoug,

a successful (painless!!!) dip in the dead sea,

chili halva, nougat halva, stringy halva, nutella halva...

a rugelach threesome in the middle of mahane yehuda,

the hummus to end all hummuses, in haifa, with a hardboiled egg and a pool of magic tahini,

asaf avidan singing that one day, baby we'll be old, while we snaked through the desert and into an area that was so close to the border, my phone thought we were in jordan,

riding a camel named monica,

my first ever bites of kubbeh, 

a speakeasy in jerusalem,

40 new friends...

i could go on and on, but i'm saving some for my tel aviv post! and i've still got to unpack and find places for the pounds of halva and tahini that almost made my suitcase overweight. *almost* (and if it was, you know i would have chugged that tahini cognac-style so it wouldn't go to waste.)


thanks so much to israel experts for sponsoring this post! a majority of these past few weeks was spent as a staff member for israel experts' culinary themed taglit birthright trip. it was the same one i attended as a participant two years ago and i loved it! if you're interested in applying for this trip, you can find out more information here. registration opens september 8th, but pre-registration has already begun, so you can begin your process here with the referral code mynameisyeh33 and israel experts will contact you to choose a trip option. questions can be directed to: or 1-800-218-9851!