The small treats of Nowruz are the sweetest – and even better when they’re homemade

In the weeks leading up to Nowruz, Iranians happily line up at confectioneries and bakeries to buy cookies, pastries and a variety of nuts for their 13 days of new year festivities. The holiday begins March 21 this year.

My dad always took my sister and me with him to do the holiday shopping. Like most Iranians, he would always walk out of the shops with arms filled with boxes of sweets and bags of nuts.

Although Persian cuisine is deservedly known for satisfying Iran’s collective sweet tooth, Persians in most big cities – particularly in Tehran – don’t bake these holiday treats at home. Instead, they buy sweets from other regions of the country; the cities of Isfahan, Yazd and Qazvin are particularly known for their sugary creations.

To me, small Persian pastries are unique. Most are rich-tasting, filled with walnuts, pistachios and other ground nuts. They are sweetened with honey and often flavored with syrup that is scented with rosewater, that undeniably powerful and sometimes polarizing ingredient. I love to make my own pastries, because to me, as an immigrant cooking my native recipes, it is not just about the food but more about home. So I am happy to share the recipes for my favorites.

A box of tiny but flavorful Chickpea Cookies was always the first Nowruz item my dad would pick up, because they are what he likes best. So it was important for me to learn how to make these for him. They typically are cut in a flower shape, but if you don’t have the right-size cookie cutter, rolling the dough into small balls will do.

White mulberries are a favorite snack of most Iranians, including me, but the sugar-packed nuggets grow for only a very short period each year. We love them so much that when they are out of season we crave something to remind us of warmer months, and we make nutty Marzipan Berries instead, shaped like the fruit.

I was just 9 years old when I learned to make Honey Cashew Caramel Candies. My mom’s brother used to assemble them just a few hours before guests arrived so he could serve them while the chunks of nuts were fresh. I loved being his sous-chef. It’s one of my fondest childhood memories, and now when I think about making sweets, these candies are what inevitably come to mind.

One of the most popular confections during Nowruz celebrations is baghlava (pronounced BAHG-la-vah in Farsi). It differs from baklava you may have had because ours is traditionally made with an olive-oil dough rather than with thin sheets of phyllo dough, which is more common in Turkey and Eastern Europe.

Iranians enjoy their baghlavas all year long, of course. The most spectacular ones – small, bite-size diamonds, densely packed with pistachios and almonds – are baked in Qazvin and Yazd. These renditions have become so famous that they are widely distributed and available throughout the country, although anyone returning from a visit to these cities is expected to bring some home.

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Source:: Daily times


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