And had the brilliant addition of milk and sugar gave rise to the invention of ice cream around 500 B.C. in the Achaemenid Empire of Persia and more than likely gave rise to Bastani.
Bastani sonnati, or simply bastani is made from milk, eggs, sugar, rose water, saffron, vanilla, and pistachios. Modern day bastani often contains flakes of frozen clotted cream. Sometimes, salep or salaab is included as an ingredient. Salaab is an extract from a wild orchid that thickens like cornstarch. Salaab gives bastani it’s texture and gives the ice cream bend and pull, almost like gluten, and it has a faint floral taste. Persian ice cream gets an extra dose of richness and texture from frozen chunks of heavy cream that are swirled into the base.
In 400 B.C., the Persians also invented an ice cream-like dessert made with rose water and vermicelli called faloodeh. Persians introduced ice cream and faloodeh to Arabs after the Arab invasion of Iran and the fall of Persian Sasanian.
By the time of the Arab Conquest took place in across Sicily and Southern Italy in the 8th Century, there was the development of granita and gelato, two frozen treats that are now synonymous with modern day Italian desserts.
Comparatively, the Persian ice cream sandwich made with faloodeh or faludeh, which is a far more modern treat that was invented around the 13th Century. And shortly there after, Bastani-e nooni was created where the yellow hue of the saffron ice cream and the aroma of rose water are married to make a cool, smooth textured creamy treat countering the crispy wafers and crunchy sprinkling of pistachios.
And did you know that a Syrian immigrant named Ernest Hamwi is credited with crafting the cone on the fly at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, when he rolled his Middle Eastern zalabia pastries into cones to hold that year’s wildly popular confection, ice cream. And even in these modern times, on a warm evening, everyone from grandparents to young couples can be seen strolling and sitting in parks enjoying their cones and cups. Ice cream parlors abound, from the hole-in-the-wall take-out joint to the elegant café.
Over millennia, Iranians have made frozen treats into an art form, the upside of necessity in a country where summer brings extreme heat. In Bandar Abbas, the tropical Persian Gulf, where the temperature was in the nineties before it reached noon, the still enjoy the ever refreshing faloodeh , the rice noodle and rosewater sorbet that Iranians like to brighten with a spritz of lemon juice. In the shomal, the wet, green, and fertile north that cradles the Caspian Sea, you will find the juicy, red popsicles made of whole fruits with their pits still inside.
And so, America’s favorite frozen treats had it origins in the Middle East. But, it turns out, that ice cream came to Europe, and then America, by way of the Arab invasion of Sicily , and thus, modern-day granita and gelato icy sharbat (sherbet) and velvety ice cream are still universally loved in Iran, in the U.S. and the rest of the world for that matter.
Mashti Malone’s is an iconic ice cream parlor that makes the best Persian ice cream where you can get either faloodeh or bastani served as an ice cream sandwich, pressed against two thin wafer cookies, and it is positively incredible. At the Saffron and Rose, you will find delectable, handmade flavors range from orange blossom to white rose to pomegranate.
Another Los Angeles Iranian establishment is the Café Glacé, where you can slurp down a majoon, an ice cream shake blended with dates and bananas and topped with nuts. You’ll also find bastani-e nooni, the Persian ice cream sandwich: two thin, crisp wafers sandwiched around bastani. These can also be found in the freezer section of Iranian markets in different flavors, and if you’re lucky enough to go to an Iranian home for a meal, at dessert you may see a quart of ice cream and a box of wafers so you can make your own.
But if you’re feeling ambitious, you can make your own Persian ice cream from scratch. But rest assured, there’s an easy way to whip up Persian-style ice cream without using any gadgets or dirtying up the kitchen and ending up with a sink full of dishes. In taking a short cut to making bastani, it is recommended that you buy a good quality vanilla ice cream, letting it get a little soft at room temperature, and then folding in pistachios and a teaspoon of ground saffron steeped in a tablespoon of hot water or cream. You can add a dash of rosewater and frozen chunks of cream if you want. Refreeze and voila, “authentic” Persian ice cream.
Makes About 1 quart
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads (* See Cook’s Notes)
7 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon saffron, finely ground
1/4 cup Sadaf pure rosewater (** See Cook’s Notes)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Organic dried roses, for garnish
To a small finger bowl, combine saffron threads and hot water and allow to seep until a vibrant orange red colour blooms.
Set a medium bowl in a large bowl of ice water. In another medium bowl, beat the egg yolks until pale, 1 to 2 minutes.
In a medium saucepan, whisk the cream with the milk, sugar, salt and saffron. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat, whisking, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Very gradually whisk half of the hot cream mixture into the beaten egg yolks in a thin stream, then whisk this mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the custard is thick enough to lightly coat the back of the spoon, about 12 minutes; don’t let it boil.
Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into the bowl set in the ice water. Let the custard cool completely, stirring occasionally. Stir in the rosewater and vanilla extract. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the custard and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours.
Pour the custard base into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the ice cream to a chilled 9-by-4-inch metaloaf pan, cover with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least hours.
Serve the ice cream in bowls, garnished with dried roses and pistaschio nuts, if desired.
Some people think that turmeric is a fine substitute for saffron, IT IS NOT. Definitely DO NOT use turmeric in ice cream because you will end up producing a very bitter tasting product.
Bastani is traditionally a custard like ice cream, rich in flavor mixed with saffron, rose water and pistachios. It is quite recognizable with it’s glorious golden yellow color and aromatic from both the saffron and rose water.
The other key ingredient is saffron. You want a high quality saffron, which gives your bastani its golden color and intoxicating aroma. Crush your saffron using a mortar and pestle and dissolve in a bit of warm water. This should steep for about 30 minutes, so do this while your ice cream is softening.
Once your saffron water is redish orange, add it to your softened ice cream with the rose water and pistachio bits. You can also add a teaspoon or two of crushed dried rose petals. It adds a bit of color as well as fragrance.
How to choose the best saffron
The amount of saffron you use is dependent on the quality of the saffron used. This affects the final color of your ice cream as well as the fragrance and flavor.
Always buy saffron threads and not powder. High grade saffron threads are dark red, not orange and no trace of yellow. When you open your container of saffron you should be able to recognize it’s beautiful scent.
Yes, saffron can be expensive, but don’t be duped and purchase cheap saffron. The color and aroma produced will not be the same. The best high quality saffron comes from Iran and can be purchased at FamilySpice.com.
Using a high-quality, pure rose water is essential for this recipe. Look for Sadaf brand, which is available at kalustyans.com.
If you cannot find rose water in your specialty markets, you can find it locally at Asian Markets, like HMart or online at Amazon.com.
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