Calling all cardamom lovers. Calling all carrot halwa lovers.
Let’s take a serious walk down memory lane. I have these very vivid memories- almost touchably real- of grating fresh carrots with my mom, adding it to a world’s biggest pot, along with other magical ingredients like clarified butter and sugar, and then watching my mom stir for hours, while the carrots cooked down into the thick, syrupy, rich dessert known as gajjar ka halwa or Indian carrot pudding. Always present in these memories is my dad, waiting to steal a spoonful or two when my mom is pretending not to look. You know, to for quality control purposes he would say, as he winked at me and inhaled that spoonful.
Carrot halwa usually has an emotional connection for most people who grew up with it. It’s my apple pie- always present at the table, from weddings to religious ceremonies and everything in between. For me, carrot halwa is synonymous with my mom’s elaborately cooked meals on special occasions. The meals shared with cousins, family, and friends with a round of chai, perfectly cooked milk steeped in tea and spices, and the carrot halwa making an appearance, decked out in the finest of slivered almonds, goldenest of raisins. It’s buttery perfection in your mouth.
Personally, I wasn’t a fan of the hours of work it took to make carrot halwa. And haven’t been able to replicate the dedication of my mom- and all makers of carrot halwa- to actually produce a traditional dish. Because, I don’t have the time. And I’m not a patient person. So I started thinking about preserving the flavors of my childhood- and I suspect the same for many other people- because I crave the comfort and the magic I remember in those meals. And because I want my children to experience those moments, even if in a different form.
These cardamom spiced carrot halwa bars have been my everything from their inception.
CARDAMOM. SPICED. CARROT. HALWA. BARS.
Here we are, in 2018, and as dear friend put it when I texted her a preview of these bars, “It’s like gajjar ka halwa got a facelift!”
You’re right, my friend. Carrot halwa got a much needed facelift, in addition to losing a lot of the timing baggage that just wasn’t working for me. I’ve made these bars while making other meals and I didn’t need to continuously stir. These are my kinda bars. Little work with biigggggg payoff. I’ll be honest- my mom may kill me or disown me when she sees what I’ve done to her classic dessert, sorry mom! But after she takes a bite, she’ll tell me she loves it, because who wouldn’t? Sometimes, sacrifices have to be made for the greater good.
A toasty, coconut almond crust stacked with the smoothest of fillings. And did I mention the cardamom flavor laced throughout the filling? You can see the flecks- on point! I’m a cardamom lover so I’m always up for more intensity and used a heaping two teaspoons but I’ve also been able to bring it down a notch by reducing the cardamom to 1 1/2 teaspoons if it’s not 100% your jam. And those pureed carrots? They take on this deep, caramelized sweet intensity when combined with brown sugar. In fact, it’s my cheat way of giving the bars the same deep, syrupy flavor of halwa that’s been slow-cooked and reduced for hours. If you want an even more of a cheat way around the peeling the carrots, just use a 16 oz bag of baby carrot. You’re welcome!
I can see these bars in a lot of situations:
√ springtime parties
√ bbqs/dinner parties/baby showers (how cute would these be????)
√ Thanksgiving (for sure happening at my house)
√ every. single. day. YAAAAAASSSSS, PLEASE!
I like to keep these bars in the fridge because the crust stays firm, and leave them out on the counter half an hour before serving. If the bars are totally at room temperature, the crust, although still delicious, tends to become a little bit softer, and not hold together as well. They have a shelf life of about a week in the fridge but good luck trying to keep them away from everyone that long. They were a eat-a-bar-then-go-back for seconds and thirds sort of situation. So much so that I had to make another batch to send to The Mister’s office because all of a sudden twenty four bars went down down to twelve. Ooops!
Friends, make them, try them, love them, and then tell me all about them by tagging me on Instagram, as you’re showing off these bars to the world.
For the crust:
- 1 cup coconut flour
- 1 cup almond flour
- 6 tbsp melted butter
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ cup white sugar
- For the filling:
- 2 cups carrots, peeled and cut into fourths (a 16 oz bag of baby carrots is also fine for easier prep)
- ½ cup white sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar (dark or light)
- 2 tsp ground cardamom (reduce to 1½ tsp for milder flavor)
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1¼ cup heavy whipping cream
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tbsp corn starch
- 3-4 tbsp crushed almonds to sprinkle on top (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper or grease lightly.
- Steam or boil the carrots until fully cooked and tender. Puree until completely smooth. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the crust and mix well together. press evenly into 9x13 pan and bake for 10 minutes.
- While the crust is baking, combine pureed carrots with white sugar, brown sugar, salt, nutmeg, cardamom. Whisk in vanilla extract and whipping cream. Add in, one egg at a time. Stir in the cornstarch until the filling is smooth no lumps remain.
- Pour filling into pan, on top of crust, garnish with crushed almonds (if using) and return pan to oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Cool completely and refrigerate for 1-2 hours, until crust is firm before cutting into squares.
- Keep bars refrigerated to maintain firm crust. Remove from fridge 30 minutes before serving to bring the bars slightly up to temperature.
- Store in an airtight container, in the fridge, for up to 1 week (if they last that long!).