Making Halvah for Sammy Spider and the Great Chocolate Pudding Mural of 2018

Inspired by the book "Sammy Spider's First Trip to Israel," I tried making halvah! Joss tried making instant chocolate pudding.

One of the wonderful things about having Joss in a Jewish daycare is that he–and therefore I–get to learn about Jewish culture and traditions, which sadly is something I know very little about. Joss even takes Hebrew lessons once a week, and I was so excited the first time we were walking home and he was teaching me the new word he learned in Hebrew! Now that we are well into the school year, whenever he says something I don’t understand, I always wonder if it’s because he’s literally speaking another language. I just never realized that even at 2 years old, he might know more than I do about certain things!

One way the Hebrew teacher teaches the children about Jewish holidays, etc., is through the Sammy Spider book series, which Joss adores. Leading up to Halloween, all of the spiders adorning people’s houses were “Sammy Spider.” So when we attended Shalomfest at Temple Israel this fall and I saw that their used book vendor was selling a couple Sammy Spider books for around $1 each, I bought them both.

Joss’s favorite of the two books is “Sammy Spider’s First Tu B’Shevat,” which teaches about not only Tu B’Shevat but also about the four seasons. At the beginning of the book, Josh Shapiro, a young boy whose family owns the house where Sammy and Mrs. Spider live, plants a tree. Throughout the book, Sammy watches the tree change with each season, asking his mother questions about the changes along the way.

Eventually, “One crisp winter morning, Sammy awoke to a delicious smell. Mrs. Shapiro placed a freshly baked date nut bread on the counter next to a basket of nuts and dried fruit.” Sammy asks his mother what is going on, and she explains to him about Tu B’Shevat, the birthday of the trees.

Our other Sammy Spider book is about Sammy’s first trip to Israel, in which he accidentally stows away on Josh’s toy airplane. In addition to learning about Israel, this book also teaches you about the five senses, explaining different sounds, tastes, smells, etc., that Sammy encounters in Israel. For taste, the Shapiros eat lunch at a kibbutz farm, where Sammy samples hummus and falafel, olives, pickles, and–his favorite–sweet halvah.

Knowing how much Joss enjoys these books and his literary friend Sammy Spider, I couldn’t resist picking up a piece of Cocoa Halvah at World Market when I went there the other day with some friends. We enjoyed it so much, and having remembered that I had an unopened jar of Tahini in our pantry–I decided to look into making halvah. Turns out, it’s pretty simple! Although, to be truthful, I used the easiest recipe I could find and made it even easier, so it’s possible my version is not very traditional.

In researching halvah recipes, I learned that there are multiple types of halvah. I’d previously only been aware of the Israeli style using tahini and sweetener. But there is also Greek halvah, which uses semolina flour, and Persian halva, which I hope to make someday, too, as it also looks like it might be within my realm of capability. According to The Persian Pot, “Persian Halva is a sweet dense paste made of flour and butter, mixed with a syrup of sugar, saffron, rosewater and cardamom that gives it a pleasant taste and smell.” The website explains that it is also primarily served at funerals and during Ramadan, so it’s not an everyday treat.

The recipe I finally settled on was this one for Chocolate Cardamom Halva. Apparently you can also flavor halva in many different ways! I’ve only tried plain and, thanks to World Market, cocoa. For practical purposes, I omitted the steps that made this “chocolate cardamom” halva and just kept it simple. (I can only dirty so many bowls and pots at a time without heading toward the particular despair that results from living without a dishwasher for 6-7 years.)

Halvah for Sammy Spider


  • 2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c. cold water
  • 16 oz. tahini paste

1. Put sugar and water in a medium saucepan and attach a candy thermometer to the pan. Do not stir the mixture. Heat it over medium-high heat until the candy thermometer reads 248 F.

2. While this is cooking, heat the tahini in a small saucepan until warm.

3. When the sugar mixture reaches 248 degrees, pour it over the tahini and mix until combined.

4. Pour this mixture into a 9×9″ pan that has been lined with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

It may not be very photogenic, but it IS tasty! 

Since I consider one of the purposes of my blog to encourage families to bake with their kids, and since obviously this is a recipe that involves a lot of heating things on the stove (i.e., not something toddlers can really help with), I decided to let Joss “help” by giving him a bowl of instant chocolate pudding mix and milk and a whisk.

Things started out pretty well…

But then this happened…

As did this…

And a little of this…

And finally, this:

All of which ended in immediate bath time. Before you grow too concerned, we are in the middle of moving, so all kitchen surfaces will be undergoing a deep cleaning soon anyway. Plus, it didn’t take that long to clean up as it turned out, and I’m fairly certain most of it ended up on the floor rather than in his mouth, so the sugar high wasn’t really an issue, thank goodness!

If your family has a favorite halvah recipe, please feel free to share! I am always happy to learn something new!

Categories: Spaghetti on the Wall