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Halva and pistachio brownies (gluten free, grain free)

An aerial macro photo of a gluten free brownie square atop a white speckled ceramic plate. The brownie has a shiny, flaked top that is covered with sliced pistachios with a smattering of bright green pistachio dust.

The recipe for these halva and pistachio brownies is a request from my Instagram audience. A lot of people asked me to post directions and quantities for this halva and pistachio version after I posted them recently. They use my recipe for the best ever brownies, but have the added bonus of being topped with extra goodness.

It’s worth noting: pistachios are not FODMAP friendly and this is not a FODMAP friendly recipe per se. I’m opening up the floor to different dietary requirements, and this one is simply gluten and grain free. 

An aerial, macro photo of a white speckled ceramic plate topped with gluten free pistachio and halva brownie squares. The brownie tops are crackled and shiny and have pistachios, pieces of halva and extra bright green pistachio dust sprinkled on top.

Halva and pistachio brownies 

I am finding halva increasingly easy to find these days in Australia. I have found some at Coles, IGA and in independent grocers. Check the labels to make sure there’s nothing that doesn’t agree with you. I have found some brands contain wheat derived glucose syrup. 

In testing, I found that it’s easiest and best to simply press in the halva and pistachios into the batter before baking. Halva easily dissolves into the batter if you add it too early, and you don’t get those delicious halva chunks. 

You can use anywhere from 50-100g of halva and 25-50g pistachios. I used 75g of halva and 25g pistachios and found that to be the perfect amount. I also like to finish the brownie with some finely blitzed pistachio dust for a beautifully thematic finish to your halva and pistachio brownies. 

An aerial close up photo of a sliced slab of halva and pistachio chocolate brownies. The top of the brownies is shiny and dotted with halva pieces, pistachios and extra pistachio dust. The slab sits atop a white speckled ceramic plate on a white marble backdrop

TECHNIQUES FOR THE BEST-EVER GLUTEN FREE BROWNIES

  • Know what sort of brownie you enjoy and want to bake. I am firmly in the fudgy brownie category, as are these brownies. If you like cakey brownies, you’ll be disappointed.
  • Start with good quality chocolate, cocoa and butter. These are the primary ingredients, so the quality is extremely important to the end result.
  • Dutch processed cocoa is always advisable. It makes such a difference.
  • The recipe blooms the cocoa in coffee and water. Blooming cocoa brings out a deep and dark chocolate flavour, and is important to making these brownies super chocolatey.
  • Personally, I recommend using a dark cooking chocolate that is a little less than 70%. 70% definitely works here, but I prefer my brownies to err on the sweeter rather than darker side. I use chocolate that is roughly 50%.
  • You must beat the eggs into the melted butter and sugar for 5-10 minutes on a medium-high speed. This creates a meringue-like crust on the brownies, which is responsible for that smooth, crackly surface we know and love. You can overbeat – it will result on a bubbly (but still crackly) top. The mixture is ready when it’s lighter, thicker and fluffy looking.
  • Wait until the brownies are cool before eating. Everything melds together, and you minimise the risk of eating an oily brownie. They are also much easier to slice when cool. This FOOD 52 feed suggests making them the night before, which I’m inclined to agree with. I also recommend keeping them in the fridge.
  • Make sure your eggs are room temperature!!! Always!!!
An aerial macro view of a slab of gluten free chocolate brownie filled with pieces of halva and topped with chopped pistachios. The slab sits atop a dark metal rusty backdrop.

RECIPE NOTES

  • You could use hazelnut meal as a substitute for almond meal, if you like.
  • On the note of substitutions, you can use a whole cup of caster sugar, as opposed to half light brown and half caster. Light brown sugar brings a depth of caramel flavour that caster doesn’t, but it works in a pinch.
  • I use extra large eggs. The size of your eggs is quite important in gluten free baking, because gluten free has a tendency to be dry. Make sure they are room temperature. Cold eggs will ‘shock’ the brownie mixture and may cause the chocolate or butter (or both) to seize up in the batter, effectively ruining it.
  • The espresso, salt and vanilla bean paste work actual wonders in producing a super rich, flavourful brownie. I don’t recommend omitting any of them.
An aerial close up photo of a sliced slab of halva and pistachio chocolate brownies. The top of the brownies is shiny and dotted with halva pieces, pistachios and extra pistachio dust.

NOTES ON THE CHOCOLATE PERCENTAGE

If you watch my Instagram stories, you’ll know that I’ve been testing different chocolate percentages in brownies. Specifically, I want to know how differing percentages effect the shiny top of a brownie. This is because I’ve had a number of experiences in which the brownies came out of the oven inexplicably dull.

What have I learnt so far? The shiniest brownies are made with a 45% dark chocolate, or thereabouts. Of course, the shiny top depends on many things – eggs, sugar, quantities of each. However, using the same test recipe, I’ve found that 45% is the perfect middle ground between great taste and a shiny top. 

If you’re more interested in taste than aesthetics, I recommend using a 70%, ideally containing milk fat. This will still give you a bit of sheen, but it makes for a more complex tasting brownie. 

Under no circumstances do I recommend using milk chocolate in a brownie. It doesn’t have a bold enough taste to carry through in the final brownie. 

A side on view of a stack of two gluten free brownie squares that are filled with halva and pistachios. Large chunks of halva are visible in the brownie sides, as are chunks of browned and fresh, bright green pistachios. The brownies sit atop a dark blue metal surface and in front of a dark grey rusted backdrop

More brownie recipes

  • If you’d like a gluten and nut free version of this recipe, please see my recipe here.
  • For a vegan version, see my vegan brownie recipe. They use almond meal – I haven’t tested the whole trifecta – gluten free, vegan AND nut free yet, but imma get there.
  • Gluten free sourdough brownies are deliciously complex and a great way to use up sourdough discard. You can find my recipe here
A side on view of a stack of two gluten free brownie squares that are filled with halva and pistachios. Large chunks of halva are visible in the brownie sides, as are chunks of browned and fresh, bright green pistachios. The brownies sit atop a white marble table against a white backdrop

Halva and pistachio brownies

Gluten free, grain free
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Ingredients
  

  • 175 g butter browned
  • 220 g (1 cup) caster sugar (or 1/2 light brown and 1/2 caster)
  • 3 extra large eggs
  • 200 g dark chocolate I use 45-70% (see body of post)
  • 2 tablespoons Dutch processed cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon freshly brewed espresso or hot water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste optional
  • Good pinch of fine salt
  • 1 cup (100g) almond meal
  • 50-100 g gluten free halva see notes
  • 25-50 g shelled and chopped pistachios see notes

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 180C or 356F, and line a 24cm x 24cm square baking pan. I like to put a bit of butter or oil in the bottom so the paper doesn’t slide around.
  • Melt and brown the butter in a medium-large saucepan over a medium-low heat. Some butters tend to bubble over as they brown, so I recommend sizing up. Cook the butter until it smells nutty and medium brown flecks appear in the bubbles. Once the bubbles recede, the mixture should be a medium brown. Take off the heat and add in the chocolate. Stir and set aside.
  • Add the eggs and sugar to your kitchen mixer and use the whisk attachment. Beat on a medium speed for 7-10+ minutes until the mixture is light (almost white) and fluffy. This will help create the crackly meringue surface.
  • Add the salt, vanilla bean paste and cocoa to the chocolate mixture. Pour the hot water and coffee over the cocoa to ‘bloom’ it – it brings out the depth of the chocolate flavour. Stir until the additions are mixed in with the chocolate and butter.
  • With the motor on a low speed, pour the chocolate butter mixture into the mixer. Allow to whisk for a minute or two until the batter is uniformly medium – dark brown in colour.
  • Add the almond meal to the brownie batter and whisk on low until just combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix once more, then pour the mixture into the pre-prepared pan. Add the pieces of halva and use a chopstick or the handle of a spoon to push them into the batter a little. If you want lots of halva visible at the end, skip this step. Repeat with the pistachios, submerging some completely to distribute them evenly in the brownie. Place the brownies into the oven for 25 minutes or until the top of the brownie is fully cooked and the brownie doesn’t wobble too much if shaken.
  • Allow to cool before slicing, and for best, most delicious results, allow to cool completely before eating. Brownies are best made the night before – see the introduction for links and tips. I also highly recommend keeping these in the fridge – when they’re fresh from the oven they can be hard to eat for their fudginess.
  • I like to sprinkle my brownies with a little extra sea salt, but you do you.

Notes

  • You can use anywhere from 50-100g halva, depending on your preferences. Make sure it is gluten free if it needs to be – I have seen some ‘halva style’ halva that contains wheat glucose. 
  • Use anywhere from 25g-50g pistachios, depending on your tastes. Please note that pistachios are not FODMAP friendly and this is not designed to be a FODMAP friendly recipe. Use different nuts or omit for a friendlier option. 
  • You can easily freeze leftover brownies in an airtight container. 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
An aerial macro photo of a slab of gluten free brownies topped with pistachios and halva. The pistachios contrast against the shiny, crackled top of the brownie with their bright green colour

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