Persian Raisin and Saffron Cookies for Norooz

by Louisa on March 13, 2014

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The Persian New Year, Norooz, is coming up on March 20, and it’s time to get baking sweet treats in order to conjure sweetness in the new year. You can hear me talking in depth about Norooz and food traditions on KCRW’s Good Food with Evan Kleiman on last weekend’s show. This year I made nan-e keshmeshi, raisin cookies, a traditional recipe that, like all others, has a different twist depending on who’s doing the baking.

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The main attraction for me in making keshmeshi was that they contain saffron, a spice I feel I’m still just getting to know. Having lots of bits of saffron gifted to me by friends and relatives over the years, I figured I should sacrifice some for Norooz. It’s a good thing I did, because the plastic bottle from Iran that I opened actually had some tiny bugs in it. Ironically, seeing the bugs made me glad that the spice hadn’t been irradiated to death. Look closely at the photo below and you can see tiny red specks of saffron.

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Although the recipes I’ve seen call for raisins, I prefer currants because they’re a bit more delicate. I tried both, mixing half the batter with currants and half with raisins, and I found that the raisins often clumped together and/or stuck out of the baked cookies in a clumsy looking way. They both tasted good, and you could easily use either.

DSC_0066Another change I made to the recipe is that these cookies are gluten free. James is my main taster, and he’s gone gf, but I also find that gf sweets don’t leave me with a heavy feeling like flour-based desserts usually do, so I often prefer them. I used a mix of chickpea flour (a traditional Iranian ingredient), tapioca flour for lightness, and quinoa flour because I had some around. All three were Bob’s Red Mill brand, easy to find at any Whole Foods. Feel free to use 2 cups all-purpose flour instead of the mix of gf flours, the recipe will work exactly the same. But if you want to keep it gf, this combo of flours resulted in a perfectly balanced chewy/crispy texture.

Below is the recipe. But first, I want to share some other Norooz recipe ideas with you via my lady Persian food bloggers, who are also featuring a wonderful array of Norooz dishes this week. Check them out and get lots of inspiration for celebrating Norooz!

Afsaneh’s Persian Kitchen: Koloucheh Ahwazi Cookies for Nowrouz
Ahu Eats: Norouz 2014 Recipe: Toot – Persian Mulberry Marzipan Candy
Café Leilee: Northern-Iranian Style Herb Stuffed Fish
Fae’s Twist & Tango: Naw-Rúz, A New Year Recipe Round-up!
Family Spice: Norouz Twist on Kookoo Sabzi (Persian Herb Quiche with Chard and Kale)
Fig & Quince: A Norooz ‘a Palooza
My Persian Kitchen: Naan Gerdooee ~ Persian Walnut Cookie
Simi’s Kitchen: New Blog for Nowruz
Spice Spoon: Noon Berenj – Thumbprint Rice Flour Cookies with Saffron & Rosewater for Persian Nowruz
The Pomegranate Diaries: Nowruz Inspired Pistachio, Rosewater and Cardamom Shortbread Cookies
Turmeric & Saffron:  Loze Nargil – Persian Coconut Sweets with Rosewater and Pistachios for Nowruz
West of Persia: Happy Nowruz, Recipe Roundup, and a Classic: Kuku Sabzi on TV
Zozo Baking: Nane Nokhodchi Nowruz Iran

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Persian Raisin Cookies Nan-e keshmeshi

Makes 120 cookies, or 8 sheets of 15 cookies

  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 cups organic sugar
  • 1 tablespoon warm water
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/2 cup quinoa flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cups currants or raisins

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Place the saffron threads in a small glass jar with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Stick the end of a wooden spoon into the jar and grind the saffron into powder. You can also use a clean spice grinder. Add the warm water to the saffron and set it aside.

Cream together the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar and the butter. Add the eggs, lemon juice, and saffron water, and mix briefly. Whisk together the flours and salt in a separate bowl, then mix them into the wet ingredients 1/2 cup at a time. Fold in the currants.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop up the dough in teaspoons and drop it onto the baking sheets 2 inches apart. Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes, until the bottoms are golden. Cool on a rack. Serve with hot tea.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Fae's Twist & Tango March 13, 2014 at 04:35

Raisin cookies are a must on any Norroz festivity table. Your recipe ingredients are pleasantly surprising. Ingredients in vogue! As I am making my rounds of the recipe round-up, I am delighted with the varieties of sweets I am adding to my list of bakings for Norooz. Thank you for sharing. ~ Fae.

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ahu March 13, 2014 at 08:27

Louisa – these look amazing, a combination of my favorite cookies. I will be making a batch this weekend!

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ZoZobaking March 13, 2014 at 10:21

Louisa! Love the pictures and the recipe. Even though I bake a lot, I’ve never baked Nane-Keshmeshi…looking forward to baking these :)

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Laura @ Family Spice March 13, 2014 at 11:57

I love the addition of currants in these cookies. My hubby adores these cookies, so I make them all the time. Now to find some currants! Happy Norouz, Louisa!

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Sara March 13, 2014 at 12:10

Louisa, I was just fretting about not having time to make traditional Iranian almond baklava (without phyllo dough) and was worried about what to serve for dessert on Nowrouz. This is now my plan! Just to be sure, if I use all-purpose flour, it is 2 cups, right?

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Louisa March 13, 2014 at 12:32

Hi Sara, yes, it’s 2 cups AP flour in place of the combo of gf flours!

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Sara March 15, 2014 at 18:33

I just made them and they are fantastic! Thanks for the recipe.

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Sanam * My Persian Kitchen March 13, 2014 at 15:04

Louisa, looks fantastic!!! xoxo

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Hilda March 13, 2014 at 15:42

I will certainly give these a go, especially as they are gluten free. Thanks for a super recipe.

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Louisa March 14, 2014 at 13:15

Yes, this is a cookie that works really well gluten-free. Thanks for stopping by, Hilda!

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Hilda March 14, 2014 at 20:19

I just made these and they turned out looking just like yours, and they taste great. I used buckwheat instead of quinoa, since that’s what I had, and it worked as a substitute. Thanks again, and be sure I will make these again.

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Louisa March 14, 2014 at 21:00

Great, glad to hear the buckwheat worked!

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Naz March 14, 2014 at 00:36

Louisa – my mom and I recently made your chickpea icebox cookies. They are terrific and will be making an appearance on our Haft Seen table. Can’t wait to try your Nan -e Keshmeshi. And thank you for introducing me to so many new Persian food blogs. Can’t wait to dive in and explore all the deliciousness out there. Happy Norooz to you and your family and congrats on the Food 52 Piglet award!!

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Louisa March 14, 2014 at 13:13

Thanks Naz, I’m thrilled to hear it. Next time we do a Persian blogger event you should should join us!

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Simi March 16, 2014 at 06:16

Hi Louisa,
Keshmeshi are my all time favourite and these gluten free beauties look delicious. Just want to pick one up from your photo. Merci.

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Coco in the Kitchen March 18, 2014 at 16:21

These are abundant in all the grocery stores throughout town, but
I’d much rather have these homemade sweeties.
Happy Nowruz!!

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