Iran is the modern name for ancient Persia. The people of this culture call themselves “Persians”. I can see how proud they are when they say they are “Persians”, for they stay connected with their great empire dating back to 2,400 years ago. Persia was rich with architecture, visual and decorative arts. And, it flabbergasted its visitors with succulent foods, then and now.
The first time I tasted Persian food was at my friends’ home. My hosts, Elena and Robert, presented an ornate and colorful buffet with an array of freshly-made meat, chicken and vegetarian stews. My taste buds went crazy – herbs, spices, pomegranate seeds, apricots, cherries, walnuts brought out sweet and savory flavors in at least 4 to 5 rice dishes and fish. However, I was most impressed with how Persian cuisine combines fresh fruit, nuts and rosewater in desserts. These ingredients are used in cakes, marzipan, saffron ice cream, rice sorbet and cookies.
Here’s a cookie recipe which I developed by combining almonds, cardamom, cinnamon, butter and rosewater. Once baked, enjoy these with a cup of Persian tea.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Bake time: 30 minutes
Makes: 24 cookies
2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
2 large eggs
3/4 cup unbleached, granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon rosewater
1 cup roasted, unsalted, slivered almonds (ground)
powdered sugar (for garnish)
ground cinnamon (for garnish)
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease and flour one 12 X 18-inch baking sheet and set aside.
2. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom in a medium bowl and set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl and with a hand mixer, beat together the eggs, sugar and butter on medium speed until well blended.
4. Stir in the rosewater and the slivered almonds.
5. With mixer set on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture (1 cup at a time) to the wet ingredients, mixing well after each addition.
6. Transfer the dough onto a smooth, floured surface.
7. With lightly-floured hands, lightly knead the dough until smooth and uniform.
Rolling Out the Dough:
1. Divide the dough into two portions; set one portion aside.
2. With lightly-floured hands, roll out one portion into a log measuring 10 inches long by 2 inches wide.
3. Cut off a 1-1/2-inch piece and, with lightly floured hands, roll it into a ball.
4. Flatten the dough ball into a circle measuring 1-3/4 inches and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
5. Repeat cutting and placing the cookie dough on baking sheet; space each dough circle two inches apart.
6. When baking sheet is filled, bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes or until bottoms look light golden brown when lifted with a spatula.
7. After cookies have baked, transfer the baking sheet on a counter; let the cookies cool in baking sheet.
8. At serving time, sift powdered sugar and cinnamon onto cookies.
Photograph & Text 2015 Nancy DeLucia Real