An Éclairation of Dependence

Persian Profiteroles 1 arrRevelling 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.  Persian Profiteroles 5 arrThe 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.

Praline Paris Crest arrStarting 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.  Dulce de Leche Eclairs arrUnique 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.

Persian Profiteroles 3 arrAs 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.

Persian Profiteroles 6 arrSaving 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.  Persian Profiteroles 7 arrWorking 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!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2016.  All Rights Reserved.

Land of Milk & Honey

PNY haftseen arr“3-2-1, Happy New Year!”  Yes, it’s that time of year again – countdown to a third-time charm.  While January champagne toasts and proceeding lunar festivities have long passed, did you know of another official start?  Let’s discuss March!  Giving birds something to ‘tweet’ about, the first day of spring denotes more than a pleasant defrosted re-awakening.  Reviving age-old customs, this seasonal arrival equally marks the launch of another highly anticipated event – Happy Persian New Year!

RedRoseP2 arrSpring is in the air, and so are many “must-haves.”  Cooking and cleaning complete, every Persian household moves on to set a visual attraction – ‘haft-seen.’  For your eyes only, this symbolic table spread translates to the collection of seven meaningful items, each beginning with the letter ‘s.’  Bringing the outdoors in, representation of the elements – earth, fire, water, sky, flora and fauna – is apparent with the placement of the following:  apples, candles, ‘golab’ (rose water), mirror, wheat-grass, goldfish; and coloured eggs to signify both humanity and fertility.  Anything but recent, this ancient celebration follows Zoroastrian customs – food included!  Resolutions out, a breaking of a new dawn equates to a ‘Nowruz’ (new day), and an opportune reason to celebrate life with a two-week Persian banquet.

RedRoseP4 arrFortunately for Persians, an authentic meal is steps away – kitchen-close.   Hungry or not, know this:  “mi casa – persa – es su casa.”  Even better, ‘finger-food’ – here – is completely lost in translation.  Serving mountainous portions of hospitality, steaming-hot dishes are ‘party-size’ in addition to being individualized, with your name on it.  So please eat, without hesitation, and to the last grain – ‘tarof’ optional.  In case you’re unaware, ‘tarof’ is a form of Persian etiquette that involves a guest’s polite repetitious refusal of their host’s offerings.  Food or refreshments, the guest humbly refuses by saying, “no, thank you,” until they finally succumb to receiving ‘star’ treatment.  Seemingly never-ending, this mannerly display always ends the same; the host offers plenty of all-things-comfort – undivided attention, conversation, edible treats, and napping pillow if desired – until the guest graciously accepts.  Familiar to most if not every Persian, ‘tarof’ is a natural and expected occurrence at social gatherings – really, I insist!RedRoseP3 arr

“What’s for dinner?” – thought you’d never ask.  Steadfast to ancestral roots, the dynamic menu is consistent with traditional cuisine allotted for the sum of 14 days.  While systemic, sticking to the plan is a must – no jinxing of fate!  Daring not to disrupt positive omens, the first meal is a plateful of ‘prosperity’ – ‘sabzi polo’ (herbed rice) and ‘mahi’ (fish).  Superiorly fragrant and fresh, aren’t we the lucky ones?  Other ‘specials’ include noodle-embedded rice to promote longevity, followed by a list of other aromatic recipes.  Superstitious or not, you can’t go wrong eating bites of ‘delicious’ – it’s destiny!

Leaving savoury ‘mains’ to my expert mother, a continuum of glorious food extends to my assumed duties – sweets.  GPS set to “Tehranto,” I take care of business the best way I know how – shopping spree of gorgeous hand-crafted delicacies.  Stepping into my preferred Persian pastry shop – Red Rose Pâtisserie – ‘beauties’ are to be found, and worth a second look:  fist-size cream-filled profiteroles; chewy walnut meringue and buttery jam-sandwiched cookies; chickpea-flour sable confections; and a trailblazer of sweet-fried dough, ‘bamieh’ and ‘zoolbia.’  RedRoseP5 arrBetween bite-size pillows or ribbon-patterned swirls, relish selecting either or both of these rosewater-infused simple syrup soaked mouthfuls – rejuvenated deep-fried cakey-batter bliss.

Superseding in rich taste, texture and technique, traces of ancient influence is rampant.  Generously sprinkled, coated or enrobed, Red Rose adds signature touches to an assortment of crisp, flaky, dense and sponge pastries using the finest imports:  pistachios, almonds, and walnuts; fragrant orange blossom and rose waters; canary yellow saffron; and flavourful enrichments via cardamom and cinnamon spices.  Visibly in the “land of milk and honey,” I patiently wait in queue to fulfill a vital request – some of everything – boxed and ready-to-go!   Time-elapsed and prized possessions in hand, I walk away satisfied – like most – with many happily ever-‘afters.’  Three times a ‘new’ year – perfected – this festivity is clearly tailored for good times, entertaining company, and appetizing eats.  Marking your Persian calendar, then, forget about eastern/western standard times, and get ready to party – like it’s 1393!

© DISHFUL, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.