Revelling in the dual arrival of spring and Persian New Year, I must declare: I love ‘choux’ ─ choux pastry, of course. And given my affinity for all French ‘pâtisseries,’ this blossoming time beckons good eats to fuel an upcoming two week marathon of ancient-rich festivities. Making an appearance on my Persian dessert table, then, I forecast a sweet year ahead with plentiful ‘choux’-inspired delights.
Baffled, by the correlation? You’re probably wondering how French pastry and Persian ‘shirini’ ─ sweets, desserts ─ relate, and rightfully so. The answer’s quite simple. In one word: PROFITEROLES! Not news to Persians, we absolutely L-O-V-E heavenly clouds of light and airy cream puffs. Clearly a highly favoured treat, profiteroles are to be seen in the display case of many Persian bakeries. This year, however, shortcuts are not the way to go. Instead, the baker-in-me calls for the making of homemade “Persianified” cream-filled pastries ─ I’ll tell you how ─ that’s easy to make, and even easier to enhance to suit varying tastes.
Starting with the basics, I follow Martha Stewart’s dependable recipe for ‘choux’ pastry. Once the ‘choux’ is made, you can pipe classic domed rounds, rings or rectangular strips for the making of éclairs. You can stick with one shape or the other, or both ─ the beauty with this recipe lies in that it’s your creation, and ultimately your choice. Once my ‘choux’ pastries are baked, I set them aside to cool and begin with the fillings.
‘Choux’ shopping in mind, appetizing possibilities are endless. Envisioning dessert trays abound, my decision is made: I must-indulge in a baking session that allows me to experiment and create everything. Seriously settling on handfuls, I deduce the following selects will ─ for now ─ pleasingly suffice: individual mini praline Paris-Brest, sea salted dulce de leche éclairs, and a flavourful trio of cream-filled profiteroles. Unique in both shapes and palatable accompaniments, an array of different sized ‘choux’ pastry shells and a range of luxurious cream fillings ─ almond praline pastry cream, Chantilly, raspberry and “Persianified” whipped creams ─ are a tall order to fill. But, then again, these hollow pastry shells are designed to be packed with an assortment of divine filling. Word to the wise: advanced preparation of Martha’s vanilla pastry cream is recommended that leaves ample time for it to chill in the fridge, and later use either as is or to blend with almond praline.
As for Chantilly cream, what is it exactly? Essentially, it’s heavy cream that is whipped with confectioner’s sugar and pure vanilla essence. Wanting vanilla-infused Chantilly cream in addition to raspberry whipped cream and a distinct “Persianified” flavour profile, I obviously want it all. And for this dedicated foodie, the response is clear: all is possible, and so it shall be done! Heeding to Martha’s directions, I measure precise amounts of specified icing sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla extract to ensure consistency, and whip the aforementioned contents using an electric mixer. Chantilly complete, I remove half of the mixture into a separate clean bowl and blend it with raspberry purée for a berry wonderful alternative.
Saving the crowd-pleaser for last, the “Persianified” cream filling is as follows: start with a plain canvas of sweetened whipped cream ─ first whip 1 ½ cups of heavy cream with 3 tablespoons of confectioner’s sugar ─ and then proceed to add ½ teaspoon of rosewater and a generous pinch of ground cardamom. Being careful not to over mix the whipped cream, delicately blend the perfumed addition and spice into the already whipped mixture. Purely rich and intoxicating, a little goes a long way with these aromatics that make for a fragrant cream puff. Also unlike other desserts, taking my sweet time to decorate these time-sensitive cream-filled pastries does not apply. Working in a meltdown-free zone, I hasten to pipe as many profiteroles as possible and quickly enrobe some with finely chopped pistachios. Last pastry filled and third tray set into the fridge to chill, the end result is this: I’m triumphantly tired! Rejoicing in a successful mission complete, witnessing family and friends delighting in the fruits of a laborious baking endeavour is reward enough. Starting another Persian New Year with sweet tidings, Happy New Year to all!! P.S., you don’t have to be Persian to celebrate a new start ─ or to enjoy “Persianified” profiteroles, cheers!
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