Nowruz Inspired Pistachio, Rosewater and Cardamom Shortbread Cookies

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The Persian New Year (Nowruz) is one week away and the lead up to the holiday is a very exciting time for Iranians living in Iran and abroad. This year I’m thrilled to be participating in a Nowruz Recipe Round-up with my fellow Persian food bloggers around the world. Community is a very important foundation for Iranians and I am so proud to be a part of this wonderful community of Persian food enthusiasts. Each blogger has contributed a recipe for the upcoming New Year season. You will find the list at the end of this post and I encourage you to click on the links and discover delicious recipes from these amazing ladies.

This year my mother wanted to start a new tradition for Nowruz. In the past, my parents generally served store-bought traditional New Year cookies. Inspired by my Canadian side’s Christmas baking tradition, my mother suggested we all contribute one home-baked cookie or treat to be served to visiting Nowruz guests . My mother is going to make traditional Shirni-Kishmishi.  My sister-in-law will be making her delicious chocolate truffles. My five-year old daughter (with my help) will make her favourite soft sugar cookies with red, green and white sprinkles to symbolize the Iranian flag and I will be making these Persian Inspired Pistachio, Rosewater and Cardamom Shortbread Cookies.

These fragrant, buttery yet light shortbread cookies are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea. These cookies are very simple to prepare and the best part is that the dough can be made ahead of time and frozen. All you have to do is defrost overnight, slice and bake.  I highly suggest using Iranian pistachios for this recipe. I personally prefer them to their California counterpart and find that they have a very distinctive flavour.

These shortbread cookies are so delicious that I think they might join our Christmas cookie lineup as well!

Pistachio, Rosewater & Cardamom Shortbread Cookies
(approximately 48 cookies)

1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp rosewater
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup shelled salted pistachios (preferably Iranian), coarsely chopped

Using a stand or electric mixer, beat the butter for about one minute on medium speed.

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Turn the mixer off and add the powdered sugar, rosewater and cardamom. Turn the mixer to low so the sugar doesn’t spray everywhere. When the sugar begins to incorporate, turn the mixer to medium and beat for 3 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy.

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Turn off the mixer and add the flour. Mix on low-speed until just incorporated. The mixture will be slightly crumbly. Do not overmix or it will result in a tough cookie.

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Add the pistachios and turn the mixer on to low and mix until the pistachios are distributed.  Again, do not overmix.

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Divide the dough in half and roll into a log approximately 12 inches long on top of a large rectangular piece of wax paper. Roll the cookie dough log in the wax paper and twist the ends.

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Refrigerate for 1-2 hours until completely firm. You may also freeze the dough by putting the log into an airtight container or ziplock bag for up to 3 weeks. Defrost overnight in the fridge before using.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Using a sharp knife, slice the log into 1/4 inch pieces.

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Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silpat and arrange cookies spaced out one inch apart. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the edges are starting to very slightly brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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Enjoy with a nice cup of tea!

Nowruz Recipe Roundup

 
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Persian Inspired Dark Chocolate Bark with Pistachios and Dried Barberries

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A couple of weeks ago I had a friend visiting from out of town and decided to treat him to one of my favourite Persian restaurants in Toronto. Banu Restaurant is a unique experience as it differs from many Iranian restaurants in the city. Situated in downtown Toronto, Banu is modern and chic. The food is delicious and the restaurant is a celebration of Persian art and culture. There’s definitely a certain cool factor in the air and they make hands down the best kabab torsh in the city! It is my favourite place to take non-Persians for Persian food.

After an incredible meal, we tried their Soma chocolate platter for dessert – dark chocolate with nougat, barbarry and sumach. I fell in love and decided that I had to recreate a similar dish. In my version, I used barbarry and sumach but I paired it with pistachios and fleur de sel. The result is a delicious confection that is sweet, salty, sour and slightly bitter.  The sumach is optional but I believe that it adds a subtle citrus flavour that pairs wonderfully with dark chocolate.

Dark Chocolate Bark with Pistachios & Dried Barberries

200 g 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolate (I used Lindt dark chocolate)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pistachios*
1/8 cup dried barberries
2 pinches of fleur de sel
pinch of sumach (optional)

Coarsely chop the chocolate.

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Put the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for one minute. Stir and microwave in 20 increments, stirring in between until it’s melted (it took 1 minute 20 seconds total for me but it depends on your microwave). Be careful not to over cook  it as chocolate easily burns.

Pour the chocolate on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Pour and spread the chocolate so it roughly resembles an oval or a rectangle that is about 1/8 inch thick.

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Evenly sprinkle the pistachios and the dried barberries on the chocolate, followed by the fleur de sel and sumac.

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Put in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to set. When it is completely hard,  break the bark into pieces.

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Store pieces covered in the refrigerator. Serve them cold. Enjoy!

*use salted and roasted pistachios. It is preferable to use Iranian pistachios that you shell yourself.

Shirini Kishmishi (Persian Raisin Cookies)

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Persian New Year is less than a week away and for many Iranian households preparations are well underway. Houses are being spring cleaned, new clothes are being bought, Sabzeh is being sprouted, Haft Seens are being set and many make the trip to Persian bakeries to buy sweets and cookies for the New Year celebration.

I must admit that growing up I was never a fan of the traditional cookies served during New Year. I think the main reason I haven’t cared for them is that often by the time people served them they are stale and dusty.  But when these cookies are fresh, they are absolutely delicious! This year I decided why not try to make my own Persian cookies for Nowroz……straight out of the oven, fresh and tasty cookies to serve guests.

After some research and experimenting, I came up with with my version of Shirini Kishmishi (Persian Raisin Cookies). These crispy and slightly chewy cookies are a perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea. In my version I used currants but they would be delicious with regular raisins as well. The saffron is completely optional but I think it adds a fabulous aromatic element and as my husband states “makes them taste very Persian”.

Shirini Kishmishi

(approx 4 dozen)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 1 tsp hot water (optional)
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup currants (or you may use regular or sultana raisins)

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees celsius.

Cream together softened butter and sugar on medium speed of a stand mixer or hand mixer for 2 minutes.

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Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and saffron water and beat until incorporated.

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Slowly add the flour on low speed of the mixer. Mix until it forms a dough.

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Gently fold in currants (or raisins).

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Line a baking pan with parchment paper or a silpat. Drop small teaspoon full of batter on the sheet, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. Bake for 13-15 minutes until golden around the edges.

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Cool slightly on the sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

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Shole Zard (Persian Saffron Rice Pudding)

A couple of weeks ago I received a recipe request for Shole Zard. This delicious Persian dessert is pure nostalgia for me. It reminds me of my dear maternal grandmother who made the best Shole Zard in the world. Every time I taste this sweet saffron rice pudding I think of her.

Growing up we didn’t eat dessert often.  According to my mother there was no better dessert in the world than fruit. Oh mother, I would beg to differ…..I would take a slice of chocolate cake, apple pie, a bowl of ice cream, a chocolate chip cookie over a pear any day!!! But unlike my Canadian friends who had dessert every night after dinner, dessert for us was only saved for special occasions and holidays. That’s why it was such a special treat when my grandmother would make Shole Zard. My brother and I would devour bowls of it whenever we got the chance!

Like traditional rice pudding, Shole Zard is creamy and sweet, but the saffron and touch of rosewater add an elegant sophistication and the almonds add texture and crunch. The perfect ending to a Persian meal.

Shole Zard
(Serves 6-8)

1 cup arborio rice (or other short/medium grain rice)
7 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup slivered almonds
3 tbsp butter (or non-hydrogenated margarine)
1/2 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water
2 tbsp rosewater

Wash the rice four times.  To do this put the rice in large bowl, cover with cold water and agitate with your hands. Drain the water and repeat.

Put the rice and 6 cups of water in a large oven proof pot and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water is boiling, turn the heat down to medium and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. You will notice that foam will form on top of the water while simmering. Skim the foam off.

Taste the rice and make sure it’s cooked. Add one more cup of water, the sugar and slivered almonds. Simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally (if it’s too thick add another 1/2 cup water).

Add the butter, the saffron water and the rosewater. Simmer for another 5 minutes.

Take the rice pudding off the heat. Put the lid on and transfer to a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes (or until desired thickness). The below picture shows the thickness I like……I like it thick but still to have a bit of creamy liquid.

Stir well and pour into serving dishes. You may put it in one big dish or individual servings. Let cool and then refrigerate for at least 1 hour. If you wish, decorate with cinnamon, slivered almonds and chopped pistachios. Enjoy!

Vanilla Cupcakes with Saffron Rosewater Buttercream and Pistachios

Legend has it that King Jamshid of Persia discovered sugar on Nowruz (Persian New Year), so it only seems fitting that I should post something sweet for the holidays. Now, I’m sure that cupcakes aren’t your traditional Nowruz dessert, but I think after you try these they will be.

I adore cupcakes. A couple years ago I took a baking course purely devoted to cupcakes. In fact, for a short time I considered starting a cupcake business……because that’s what Toronto needs more of, cupcake shops. Anyway, during that period there were a lot of cupcakes baked in my house and this particular cupcake was one of my creations. I remember thinking that these would be a perfect, modern Persian New Year dessert.

The base of these cupcakes are adapted from  a recipe by New York’s famous Magnolia Bakery. My cupcakes have the same delicious vanilla base but it’s the icing which sets these confections apart. Creamy and delicious, the flavours of saffron, rosewater and pistachios distinctly remind me of Persian ice cream. As a child I was not a huge fan of Persian Ice Cream (what child likes the taste of rosewater!) but now I enjoy its sophisticated flavours and love them even more in cupcake format.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Saffron Rosewater Buttercream & Pistachios
Makes 1 dozen

3/4 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
1 cup sugar
2 egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
Rosewater Saffron Icing (recipe to follow)
3 tbsp chopped salted pistachios

Using an electric mixer cream the butter. When the butter looks smooth, add the sugar and beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes. The mixture should look fluffy.

Add one egg and beat the mixture. Add the second egg and beat until incorporated.

In a separate bowl mix the two flours. In another bowl mix the milk and vanilla. Add one-third of the flour to the egg sugar mixture. Beat until incorporated. Make sure to start at a slow speed or the flour will go flying everywhere. Also, make sure to not overbeat….just until incorporated. Add half of the milk mixture into the batter and beat until incorporated. Make sure to use a spatula to scrape down any batter at the sides of the bowl. Add another third of the flour and beat. Add the rest of the mix and beat till incorporated. Finish with the last of the flour and beat until well blended.

Line your muffin tin with cupcake wrappers and fill each one about 3/4 full (I like to use an ice cream scooper to drop the batter). Pop them into a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes (a tooth pick put into the centre should come out clean). Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Saffron Rosewater Buttercream

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 cups icing sugar
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp rosewater
1/8 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 2 tbsp boiling water (cooled)

Cream the butter until smooth. Add two cups of icing sugar and the milk. Beat on medium speed for about 4 minutes. The icing should be smooth.

Add the cooled saffron water, the rosewater and the rest of the icing sugar. Beat for 2 minutes until creamy. If the icing seems too thin you can add in more icing sugar. If it’s too thick, you can add a touch more milk.

To ice the cupcakes, you can either use of spatula and simply spread the icing on the cupcakes or you can use a piping bag for a more decorative effect by swirling the icing on top.

Sprinkle a little bit of the chopped pistachios on each cupcake.

ENJOY!!!