Pasteli, sweet snack as real food
A traditional Greek sweet bar made of sesame and honey that dates back to ancient times.
Nuts and seeds are highly energetic foods because they contain mainly fats which have the highest energetic potential (9 kcal/gr) among macronutrients. These fats are mostly ‘healthy fats’ and together with a good content of micronutrients constitute nuts and seeds as healthy foods. They can be eaten raw but also cooked. In the second case we usually toast them before incorporating them in the recipe. In this way, they release some of their oils and add a more deep and pronounce flavour to the preparation. One way to enjoy nuts is to mix them with sugar or honey to make bars that can be crispy or chewy.
For example, the combination of sesame seeds with honey, results in a sweet preparation typical for many countries around the Mediterranean, but not only. In Greece it is called Pasteli and you can find it everywhere. Interestingly similar preparations existed from the ancient times as mentioned in the writes of Herodotus, one of the most important ancient Greek historians. Therefore Pasteli is the closest we can get to the sweet delicacies of our ancient ancestors.
Pasteli is made typically by mixing same amounts of sesame and sugar/honey. Even though the high content of sugar, Pasteli is a nutritious food due to the high amount of sesame. Therefore can be considered as a great sweet treat to be enjoyed regularly as a snack.
Usually, in almost all sweet preparations the typical recipes ask for amounts of sugar that exceed by far the sensing limit of our taste buds. Additionally, too much sugar covers the taste and aromas of the other ingredients. In that sense by adding less sugar in a recipe not only you reduce the sugar intake, but also you eat something tastier while still being able to feel the sweetness.
In the present recipe instead of equal amounts, I have used three times less sugar compared to sesame. This results to a product with higher nutritional value that can be considered as a real food, while still retains the ability to pleasure our sweet buds.
To add some aromatic kicks I have included grounded clove and orange zest. The sugar component is half table sugar and half honey, but can be used soley only one or the other (even though some sugar helps to set the bar better and not become very soft and sticky after cooling down). The same procedure can be used to prepare bars from other nuts or combinations of different ones. Here, I have added additionally pistachio.
Pistachio or other nuts (optional)
(I don’t give specific amounts. These depends on the how much you want to make. The important is to combine 3 parts of nuts/seeds with 1 part of sugar/honey)
- Toast in a pan the sesame and the pistachio (cut roughly in smaller pieces) in medium to high heat until darken in colour, starting releasing aromas. It should take few minutes but stir frequently to avoid nuts burning.
- When well toasted add the sugar and mix constantly with a spatula/spoon.
- Add the honey, reduce the heat, and keep mixing.
- Add the grounded clove (small amounts because is very intense), and the orange zest, remove from fire and do a last thorough mix.
- Apply the mixture onto baking paper. Put another sheet of paper on top and press with your hands. Continue pressing and rolling using a rolling pin until you shape it to a hard consistency like a bar.
- Let it cool down for half an hour to set, cut in pieces and enjoy!
(You can also make big amounts and store in a jar for several weeks)
* This is a revised version of the original post.