Graham Cracker Crusted Carrot Halwa with Milk Chocolate

February 19, 2010

carrot halwa tart 1

Most indian sweets are so so sweet that they make your teeth hurt.  Like immediate-cavity-formation-throb hurt.  And Indian aunties always seem to want to force feed you a huge piece of some sweet that’s prasad, blessed by the temple, so of course you can’t throw it away and have to eat it.  I try to swiftly pinch off a small bite, waggle my head back and forth to indicate I can’t possibly eat more and move away quickly.  Or I pinch off a piece and drop the rest into Rajat’s hand and then move away quickly.

There are few things in life that my husband wants.  His list is short.  I know that it includes a flat screen tv.  In fact, that may be THE list (having of course <of course> already crossed off beautiful wife and adorable child. teheehe.).*  Sure, it’s nice to know he’s not materialistic.  But it makes shopping for anniversaries and birthdays painful.  So I often end up giving him something I know he’s guaranteed to appreciate – good food.  And, in keeping with the Indian tradition of marking special occasions with a sweet, for his birthday this year, I made one of the few sweets that appeals to his usually savoury tooth.  Carrot Halwa.


carrot halwa tart 2

Carrot Halwa is shredded carrots cooked first in ghee then in a sugary syrup along with khoa, concentrated milk solid, studded with roasted cashews.  The carrot halwa recipe I used is based on a traditional recipe, but I served the halwa in individually sized store bought graham cracker crusts which I lined with melted milk chocolate.

The graham cracker crust provided an almost salty, savoury base for the sweet halwa (i.e. reduces the tooth-hurt factor), and the milk chocolate mellowed out the sweetness as well with – well – a chocolate-y mouthfeel.  A combination of bittersweet chocolate and milk chocolate would make for a nice balance as well.

Graham Cracker Crusted Carrot Halwa with Milk Chocolate
~About 8 servings~

Khoa, concentrated milk solid, is used in many Indian sweets for a creamy taste and texture.  You can find khoa in the refrigerator section in most Indian grocery stores.  Alternatively, you can use milk powder or unsalted ricotta cheese.  You can also add plump raisins to the halwa as well.  I’m not a huge raisin fan, so I left them out.

1 tablespoon ghee or butter (see below)
Approximately 3-4 cups shredded carrots
1 cup sugar
1 12 ounce package khoya
2-3 strands saffron
3 cardamom pods
1/2 cup roasted cashews
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1 package store bought graham cracker crusts

1. Peel and shred the carrots.  You can do this by hand or in a food processor with the shredder blade (which is what I did).  Don’t shred the carrots too finely or the halwa will become too mushy.

2. Remove the shell from the cardamom pods and smash the seeds inside with the back of a spoon.

3. Heat the ghee in a wide, deep skillet on medium.  Add the carrots and cook for 1-2 minutes until the carrots are soft.

4. Mix in roasted cashews and cardamom.

5. Stir in the sugar and 1 cup of water.  Mix thoroughly to incorporate the sugar water into the carrots.

6. On a cutting board, use your hands to break up the block of khoa into teeny crumbles.  Add to the carrot mixture and stir well to break up any lumps.

7. Bring to a gentle boil and reduce heat to a simmer.  Continue cooking on low heat, stirring frequently, until all of the water evaporates.

8. Melt the milk chocolate in the microwave according to the instructions on the package.  Spoon about a tablespoon into each crust.

9. Fill the rest of the crust with the halwa and smooth the top over with a spoon.  Serve warm with a glass of milk.  I heated the crusts in the toaster oven on the “bake” setting.  It crisped up the tops nicely.

I hadn’t had ghee in years. As a kid, one of my favorite foods was basmati rice mixed well with ghee and a pinch of salt. I was pretty excited to make it (especially since we rarely even use butter). You can follow these instructions for making ghee. There are nit-pickers who will argue that ghee is essential for Indian sweets. I personally think you can get away with using regular butter. Maybe I’ve gotten too used to cooking with olive oil but the smell of the ghee almost made me ill.
golden ghee

*Rajat thinks this makes him sound deprived.  He asked me to clarify that he could get  a flat screen tv.  But he just hasn’t.  Because we already have an enormous tv with apparently good picture quality.  He tells me it’s rear projection.  So when we move and have space for a second tv, he’ll get his flat screen.  I bet no one even paid attention to this part of the post.  But now Rajat will feel better about my mention of his tv desire.  I noticed that he didn’t ask me to correct the part about a beautiful wife and adorable child.  So I can only assume that part was correct.

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Nadia February 19, 2010 at 1:24 pm

What a great twist on classic gajar ka halwa. It looks really sweet in the individual portions!

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nithya February 22, 2010 at 1:02 pm

@Nadia. @Shelly and @Sowyma – These individual portions definitely make the carrot halwa look a little more elegant! I agree – The presentation would be great for a dinner party. You could top it off with a few cashew pieces as well for a nice look.

@Ramani – You could definitely use pre-shredded carrots. I would make sure they aren’t shredded too finely though to avoid the carrots getting mushy as mentioned in my post. A double boiler is a good way to go for melting the chocolate. I don’t have one, so the microwave was the easiest option. I found the graham cracker crusts in my local grocery store. They are Keebler brand (there’s a link in my post) so I think they are available in most grocery stores.

@Cooking Foodie – I’m myself more a traditionalist usually when it comes to Indian food, but the crust and chocolate made a really great addition. Let me know if you try it with any other sweets! I would love to hear about it.

@Apu – I love the red carrots that you get in India. I’ve never seen those in the US. Also, I think you’re right about that point of Western tastes maybe being tuned to less sweet…or perhaps a different kind of sweet.

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Ramani February 19, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Hi Nithya,

A very unique idea and twist on the original carrot halwa, kudos to you.

A few questions: Ok to use a bag of pre- shredded carrots? (being totally lazy here) Also, I’m a big fan of the double boiler and plan to use that to melt the chocolate as opposed to a microwave. Any objections? Lastly, in which shop do you find the mini graham cracker crusts.

Thoroughly enjoy reading your blog, please keep up the great work. p.s. Beautiful wife, eh? he he!

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shelly February 19, 2010 at 2:32 pm

gajar ka halwa is my favorite winter dessert!! yours is a sophisticated idea for making individual portions. ghee over here does have a “unique” smell, so when possible we try to get it from india!

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rachel February 19, 2010 at 11:35 pm

A novel twist to the halwa.

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Cooking Foodie February 20, 2010 at 3:44 am

Interesting twist to an old favorite. I am partial to old school halwa but can think of some other Indian sweets which would go wonderfully in graham cracker crusts!

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sowmya February 20, 2010 at 6:12 am

love the twist to everyone’s favourite dessert…would be great to serve this way during parties and get togethers..

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chitra February 20, 2010 at 6:22 am

New to me,,its surely an interesting twist to the normal carrot halwa.Must try once !!

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notyet100 February 20, 2010 at 11:27 am

omg this looks so delicious

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apu February 22, 2010 at 8:57 am

Are Western tastes tuned to much less sweet stuff? I am a huge, huge fan of gajar ka halwa, and think it tastes great with less sugar; the sugary versions in many restaurants take away the taste of the carrots. Also, by making it in winter, when red carrots are available, one can reduce the quantity of sugar – the carrots have such sweetness of their own. Also, I use milk instead of khoya. Ghee to me, is an essential for this dish – just the smell of it is heaven! I don’t think butter smells quite the same way.

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Parita February 22, 2010 at 10:38 am

Thats so different dessert! I read the title 3 times just to make sure i have read it correctly..lol..graham crackers with carrot halwa ..with milk chocolate..what can i want more?

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Bria @ West of Persia February 22, 2010 at 11:18 pm

Thanks for demystifying a dish I’ve been curious about for a long time. Plus, I like your creative spin on it!

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sra February 24, 2010 at 2:17 pm

How innovative! And this post made nice reading!

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uma March 19, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Hi Nithya,
What a wonderful idea!.. using graham crackers and choco chips..
Cheers,

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Ali S May 25, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Planning to try this recipe this week, though I think it might go better with semisweet chocolate, rather than milk; too, I couldn’t find graham cracker crusts, so going to try phyllo dough

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Ali S May 28, 2010 at 2:36 am

Checking in – a couple of points, the khoa wasn’t easy to crumble with fingers, at least right out of the fridge; ended up cutting it into 1/4″ chunks and then tossing in center of skillet in batches; after a minute or so, was able to mash up the khoa chunks and stir into the carrot mixture … that worked pretty well, but required some time. Maybe next time I’ll take the khoa out of teh fridge a few hours b4hand?

BTW, tried the carrot halwa in phyllo dough with semisweet chocolate – worked out quite well, if still a little sweet; next time I’ll try 70% chocolate. Thanks again for the recipe, was actually relatively easy to make! (and daughter claimed it was better than my mom’s, though I didn’t tell my mum that 😉

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nithya June 4, 2010 at 9:16 am

@Ali S – Thanks for the feedback and the comment! I love hearing how recipes turn out. I agree that the khoya doesn’t just crumble that easily. I also find that the heat makes it easier to mash up although I haven’t had to take it out that far ahead of time. I could see that helping though. Just made some paneer bhurji this past weekend, and I shredded it in the food processor (with the shredder blade). That might work for the khoya too.

p.s. thank your daughter for me too!

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Asmi May 24, 2011 at 3:56 pm

I have a question, where did you find packaged khoya? I’ve looked around Curry Hill and haven’t been able to find it thus far. Thanks!

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