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.

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