Festive Persian-Inspired Cookies

Kerman is a beautiful city in Iran known for it’s grand Persian mansions and gardens, and its very fine rosewater. When we visited Kerman, vendors lined the

One of Kerman's beautiful mansions

square in front the the Jameh mosque with boxes of rosewater-pistachio cookies, bottles of rosewater for cooking, jars of rose jam, and vials of rose perfume. I bought a box of cookies to share with our travelling companions for some obscenely low price, and for three days we were covered in crumbly pistachio bits and sugar as we bumped our way across the desert towards Kurdistan, dodging crazy drivers and potholes alike.

I searched high and low for the same cookies in North York – where all the Persians (and the Persian bakeries) are, and found nothing to match. The famous rice flour rosewater cookies (Naan Berenji) were everywhere, but I couldn’t find that crunchy, dense pistachio cookie from Kerman.

This week, we had a cookie exchange at work, and I was labouring over what to make. At first I thought about making Naan Berenji but because I had to make 5 dozen, and one recipe requires 4 egg yolks, I decided a dozen egg yolks was too fussy. So, as I rolled out some basic sugar cookie dough for Christmas cookies, I had the idea of combining the flavours of these beautiful persian cookies with a sugar cookie recipe. It worked – and although these cookies have neither the melt-in-your-mouth delicacy or the hearty crunch of the Persian cookies I’ve talked about, the flavour of cardamom, rosewater and pistachio was exactly what I wanted. (If you are interested in Naan Berenji, many people have shamelessly copied the same recipe I use, from Najmieh Batmanglij’s fantastically gorgeous cookbook “New Food of Life”, and you can find it on this blog: http://tastydesu.wordpress.com/2010/04/26/rice-cookies/). I made the cookies with 1 cup of butter, and they came out flaky and tender. But I think next time I would like slightly softer cookies – so I would reduce the butter to 3/4 cups.

Recipe:

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup unsalted pistachios

3/4 cup butter

1 egg

2 tsp rosewater

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp cardamom (ground)

2 cups all purpose flour + extra for rolling

Cream together the sugar and butter. Coarsely grind the pistachios, and add them to the sugar mixture. Add an egg and beat until fluffy. Stir in the rosewater then sift in the remaining dry ingredients. Mix well, roll into a ball and chill for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the remaining dough and cut with cookie cutters. Garnish each cookie with a pistachio or with slivered green pistachios (available at Persian groceries). Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown.

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