Persian Saffron Ice Cream (Bastani)

 
 
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Persian cuisine is one of the world’s great gastronomies, flourishing for centuries across an area that, at the height of the ancient Persian Empire (circa 550 to 330 B.C.), included modern-day Iran, along with parts of Iraq, Macedonia, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia.

The repertoire of dishes is fragrant, diverse and highly refined, based on complex culinary techniques. They are imbued with fresh flowers and herbs like rose petals, fenugreek and mint; spices like saffron, sumac and cardamom; fruits like pomegranate and barberry; all kinds of citrus; and nuts, including pistachios and almonds.

If this roster of ingredients sounds familiar, it’s because Persian cooking influenced Middle Eastern, Moroccan, Northern Indian and Turkish cuisines yet itself remains somewhat below the radar.

 

It should be noted that Persia (Iran) has made many lasting contributions to the world of frozen desserts.

The Arabs, who had already conquered the Persian Empire, took the age-old Persian summertime refreshment known as sharbat (sherbet) where a mix of fruit syrup, saffron,  and honey was incorporated with snow and chilled in a  yakhchal, an ancient type of ice house. Alexander the Great, who battled the Persians for ten years, was known to  enjoyed “fruit ices” sweetened with honey and chilled with snow.

 

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.

You can find Persian ice cream in the U.S, especially in Los Angeles, home to the world’s largest Iranian expat community. The two best known places are Mashti Malone’s, and at the Saffron and Rose

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

Ingredients:

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

 

 

Directions:

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.

 

 

Cook’s Notes:

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.

*Saffron
Bastani is traditionally a custard like ice cream, rich in flavor mixed with saffron, rose saffron_jar_680water 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.

 

**Rose waterdownload (13)
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.

 

Storing the Ice Cream
The ice cream can be frozen for up to 1 week in an airtight plastic container.

 

 

 

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Caramel Clementines

IMG_0219 Caramel Clementines.jpg

 

Fresh orange slices bathed in a butterscotch caramel sauce — is simply divine, bright, and bold. Known as “aranci caramellizzati” in Italy, it was first introduced by food writer Elizabeth David in her 1954 work, Italian Food. who wrote appreciatively of caramelized Sicilian oranges. This stylish confection was popularized in the 1970s in a cooking course published as a monthly magazine by London’s Le Cordon Bleu. Exotic and sweetly astringent, they were a standby of posh dinner parties throughout the Commonwealth, the sort of dish that was not particularly difficult to make but still signaled a home cook’s understanding of elegance. Similar desserts were all the rage on London dessert carts during the ’80s. Today, there are a number of modern recipes for this dessert by British cooks such as Nigel Slater and Sophie Grigson. Even Nigella Lawson offers a similar recipe in Forever Summer and suggests serving the oranges with yogurt. If yogurt is not your style, this dessert is versatile enough that you can accompany caramelized fruit with a slice of pound cake or vanilla ice cream, if you desire. Also, think about serving it over meringues to make it an caramelized orange pavlovas.

Adapted from Matthew Card 
Milk Street Magazine, 2017

Serves 6

Ingredients:

4½ pounds of clementines or 8 navel or cara medium oranges
1 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons salted butter
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
A splash of triple sec or Grand Marnier
Pistachio nuts, for garnish (optional)

For serving:
Plain Greek Yogurt

Directions:

Carefully peel the clementines and slice crosswise, into thirds. If using oranges, cut the top and bottom ½ inch off of the oranges. Stand each orange on one of its flat ends and use a sharp knife to cut down and around the fruit, peeling away all the skin and pith. Thinly slice the oranges crosswise. Evenly shingle the sliced fruit in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

Combine the sugar, ¼ cup of the orange juice, and the cinnamon sticks in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, 2 to 3 minutes,  and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar begins to color around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Note that the bubbles should go from thin and frothy to thick and shiny. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, swirling the pan often, until the sugar is coppery-brown, 1 to 3 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, add the butter, and whisk until melted. Add a splash of the remaining orange juice  and whisk until smooth. Note that the mixture will steam and bubble vigorously, then add the remaining orange juice and triple sec and whisk until fully incorporated. If the caramel separates and sticks to the bottom of the pan, return it to the heat and simmer until the hardened caramel dissolves. Pour the caramel evenly over the oranges, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to stand for 25 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the oranges to a serving platter or individual plates. Remove and discard the cinnamon sticks and whisk the caramel to recombine. Pour the caramel over the oranges. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the fruit to stand at room temperature.

To serve, spoon  a large dollop of yogurt into a bowl and top with the fruit and lightly drizzle with the caramel sauce. Garnish with a sprinkle of pistachio nuts.

Cook’s Notes: 

Don’t think about the caramel’s color for the first few minutes. The sugar mixture will melt, froth furiously as the heat increases (and moisture evaporates), and finally subside into larger, shinier bubbles before coloring. If the sugar browns too quickly, slide the pan off heat and whisk steadily to incorporate cooling air.

You can also use an assortment of citrus fruits instead of just oranges. The differences in size, acidity and sweetness make the dish all the more fascinating.

Also, to switch up the flavor, replace the cinnamon sticks with two star anise (our favorite) or six cardamom pods (lightly crushed). Use granulated white sugar, not a “natural” sugar, since the latter will make the color of the caramel hard to judge. Unsalted butter and a pinch of salt replaces salted butter. You also can serve the oranges with ice cream, pound cake or topped with a handful of toasted and chopped nuts.

The original recipe calls for the dessert to  be served cold, but we liked it more at room temperature, where the fruit seemed more flavorful.

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All photographs and content, excepted where noted, are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

Thank you so much!


Sweet Potato Pecan Streusel Pie

 

The only pie you'll need on your Thanksgiving dessert table, delicious Pumpkin pie with dark brown sugar topped with a Rich Pecan Streusel topping. Who says you need to choose pumpkin OR pecan pie?

 

This is recipe is a twist on the traditional sweet potato pie, using staple ingredients found in a Southern pantry with a German flair in having a  a rich streusel topping.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:

One 9-inch commercially prepared pie crust (See Cook’s Note)

For the Sweet Potato Puree:
3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the Pie Filling:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
A pinch of cayenne pepper
15 ounces sweet potato puree
12 evaporated milk
2 large eggs

For the Streusel:
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Whipped Cream, for serving

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Place the crust in a baking dish and prick with a fork. Line the  pie crust with parchment paper. Fill with pie weights or dried beans. Make sure the weights are evenly distributed around the pie dish. Partially  blind bake the pie crust, until the bottom crust is just beginning to brown, about 7-8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

For the sweet potatoes, place a steamer insert or a mesh colander in a large pot and add enough water to reach the bottom of the steamer. Place the sweet potatoes in the steamer and bring the water to a boil. Cover the pot, lower the heat, and cook over simmering water for about 25 minutes, until very tender. Check occasionally to be sure the water does not completely evaporate.Transfer the sweet potatoes to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, gradually add the milk then butter. Process until silken. Note: the puree can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

To a large bowl, add   thee sugar, light brown sugar,  flour, cinnamon,  vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and cayenne pepper. Add the sweet potato puree, evaporated milk, and eggs. Stir to combine and set aside.

To make the streusel, combine dark brown sugar, old fashioned oats, chopped pecans, flour, butter, cinnamon, teaspoon nutmeg in a large bowl.

Add the pie filling to the prepared crust. Add the pecan streusel evenly over the pie filling.

Place the pie in the oven and bake for 60  minutes until the middle of the pie is set or a knife inserted in the center comes out clean . Allow the pie to cool before serving with whip cream.

 

Cook’s Notes:

There is nothing like a homemade pie crust. If you have the time, here is a simple recipe for a for single-crust pie  pastry (9 inches): Combine 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cut in 1/2 cup cold butter until crumbly. Gradually add 3-5 tablespoons ice water, tossing with a fork until dough holds together when pressed. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.