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Category: Sweet Things

Puff Pastry Hearts with Rosewater & Vanilla Chantilly Cream (shirini tar khamei)

Wondering what dessert to make on Valentines Day? How about giving a try to this fail-safe puff pastry dessert recipe if your sweetheart likes light pastries like I do. It’s incredibly easy to make if you use shop-bought puff pastry.

I don’t have a very sweet tooth. Once in a while I may crave something sweet but usually it’s a light cake with no icing, or pastry with light cream and fruit. This one is just the perfect one for me. It smells faintly of rosewater and vanilla and is light as air.

These puff pastry hearts taste like pastries from confectionary shops in Tehran where I lived for many years. But here I am now, living in a small English town and loving it very much. I do miss my friends and family and a few other things including the fabulous pastries, though.

napoleon-pastry
Mille-feuille is French in origin, of course. It has evolved into this cream-filled pastry in Iran. We call it Napoleon.

A lot of the pastries and cakes sold in Iranian pastry shops are of western origin. Our traditional sweets are quite different. Think baklava for instance or shortbreads flavoured with cardamom and rosewater or saffron marzipan diamonds. Both types are popular.

When I lived in Iran we had fresh pastries at the office almost every day. If nobody had got engaged or done something that merited buying pastries we’d just create an excuse for celebration and send the office man to the near-by confectionary shop for cream puffs or napoleons. Then there would be tea, coffee, laughter and quite a lot of fun. Oh, good old days…

shirini-tar-recipe
Same recipe, different shape. For some of these I used sweet short crust pastry but the ones with puff pastry were better.

Anyways, if I’ve tempted you to try my easy puff pastry dessert recipe all you really need to do is take a trip to your local supermarket, buy a sheet of puff pastry, a bottle of rosewater and a pot of heavy cream. I’d buy a punnet of raspberries or strawberries to serve along these too. If you don’t have vanilla paste (or extract) and icing sugar throw those on the list too.

I have made these many times before except that this time I made them heart-shaped because I happened to have a heart-shaped cutter. Don’t fret if you don’t have one. The pastry will taste the same in whatever shape you cut it!

Before I forget, use the regular setting of the oven. Baking puff-pastry in fan-assisted mode is disastrous. I did that once and the air blew all the layers of the pastry over! Instead of well-risen puff pastry I ended up with layers of pastry spread all over the baking sheet.

puff-pastry-recipeYou can use any cutter but heart-shaped pastries are perfect for Valentines Day.

I use rosewater in the chantilly cream for these pastries because it tastes and smells lovely. If you don’t like rosewater or can’t find it use only vanilla. That works really well too.

puff-pastry-recipesPrick the top with a fork.

Depending on the size of your cutter you can get about 15 small or 10 larger pastries from one sheet of shop-bought puff pastry. Size doesn’t really matter. Make them as big or as small as you like.

Ingredients:

  • 1 sheet of puff pastry (all butter or lighter version, up to you to decide), at room temperature
  • 200ml whipping cream or double cream, chilled in the fridge
  • 1-2 tbsp rosewater (not extract or essence. Both are overpowering)
  • 6 tbsp icing sugar, sifted (or according to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste or extract or beans from 1/2 vanilla pod
  • Rose petals or dried rose buds to decorate

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F (normal mode- do not use fan-assisted).
  2. Fold the pastry sheet in half and very lightly press with the palms of your hand to stick the layers together. Use a sharp cutter to cut shapes or use a knife to cut the pastry in equal-sized squares.
  3. Transfer the pastry shapes to a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Bake for 12-18 minutes or until they are well-risen and golden. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
  4. Put the cream in a bowl and add the rosewater and vanilla. If using double cream add a couple of spoonfuls of milk too. Stir to combine. Beat with a hand mixer or whisk until almost stiff peaks form.  Add sifted icing sugar by spoonfuls and beat on low speed very briefly to incorporate the sugar. Don’t overbeat or you may get sweet butter.
  5. Separate each pastry heart into two layers. Since you started with two layers of pastry this should be quite easy. Use a piping bag to fill the pastries with the whipped cream. Lightly dust with more icing sugar and decorate with a fresh rose petal or a dried rose bud. These pastries keep for a day in a tightly covered dish in the fridge.
  6. Have a wonderful Valentines day!

Chocolate Orange Espresso Chiffon Cake

There are many wonderful chocolate cake recipes out there but if you want a really light, fluffy and moist chocolate cake this recipe must be for you. Chiffon cakes sound a bit daunting to make but trust me, they are not hard to make. I saw a chiffon cake recipe in a magazine years ago when I was a teenager and I had to try it. The recipe worked so beautifully that I was hooked. Over the years I’ve given that basic recipe many twists to create my own flavour combinations including this chocolate orange espresso chiffon cake. It has worked beautifully every single time.

A chiffon cake is basically one made by folding a cake batter made with egg yolks and vegetable oil into stiffly beaten egg whites. It has an interesting story too. The cake was invented in 1920 by an American salesman turned caterer. He kept his recipe secret for twenty years before finally selling it to a food company for a hefty sum I suppose.

chocolate-clementine-orange-espresso-chiffon-cake-recipe
Another version with a very light orange drizzle. A few edible flower petals gave it a million dollar look.

Now a few technical tricks to make your chiffon cakes perfect: First of all, like in making meringue you must make sure the bowl and beaters and your hands are completely grease-free and dry before you start beating your egg whites. Egg whites don’t beat well if these conditions are not met.

Secondly, you must remember never to oil your chiffon cake tin. I’ll explain that when we come to our next point which is using the right kind of tin. There are special aluminium chiffon cake tins with detachable bottoms for easy removal of the cake. My bundt tin does the job but the proper one I used to own gave better results as it made the unmolding of the cake much easier.

In case of chiffon cakes it’s best not to use non-stick coated tins. You want your batter to cling to the tin and pull itself up. If it’s a bundt tin you are using (like the one I use) you will need to use a wooden skewer and some careful gentle pulling and tugging with your fingers to release the cake from the sides of the tin. A bit fiddly but works for me every time. It just needs a bit of patience and I’d rather be patient than buy a special tin that I have no room to store in my almost exploding kitchen!

mini-bundt-orange-chiffon-cakes
I replaced the cocoa powder in the recipe with flour and baked the batter in mini bundt tins. A sprinkling of vanilla icing sugar and some raspberry jam to serve made them very popular in our house.

The last thing you need to know and do is cooling the cake in the tin upside down! You need to invert the cake in its tin (because it’s clinging to the sides it won’t fall out) and place it on a short-necked bottle or inverted funnel on the counter so that the neck of the bottle or funnel holds the tin (and the cake obviously) in mid-air.

If you are using a non-stick coated tin it’s a good idea to check the cake to make sure it’s clinging to the pan properly. This step will ensure that your cake is very fluffy and of proper hight. The world won’t come to an end if you don’t though so you can skip this stage if you are not feeling very confident.

In the pictures below you can see how the whites and the batter are mixed together, lightly, gently, lovingly… And for those of you who may want to ask if candied peel works for decoration my answer is yes, absolutely! But making the orange slices won’t take more than a few minutes and is totally worth going the extra length if you ask me. I prefer to use clementine juice for the cake because it’s sweeter and more intense in flavour than orange juice and oranges for decoration because orange slices look prettier but use whichever you like better.

Beat egg whites until very stiff peaks form and try to incorporate as much air into the whites as you can.
Beat egg whites until very stiff peaks form and try to incorporate as much air into the whites as you can.
Make a batter with the rest of the ingredients.
Make a batter with the rest of the ingredients.
Gently fold the chocolate batter into white in several stages.
Gently fold the chocolate batter into beaten whites in several stages.
Don't overmix. Some white specks will show in the batter but that's OK.
Don’t overmix. Some white specks will show in the batter but that’s OK.

There are endless flavour combinations you can use with this recipe as a guide. You can replace the cocoa powder with an equal amount of flour and make an orange chiffon cake or use lemon juice and zest for a lemon one. I’ve even done marbled chiffon cake with very good results. Give your imagination free reign, I’m sure you’ll come up with your very own favourite flavour combos!

So here’s the recipe for one large cake:

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 220g cake flour, sifted
  • 60g cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 180ml freshly squeezed juice (or orange juice)
  • 125ml oil (sunflower, rapeseed or olive oil)
  • zest of two medium oranges
  • 7 medium eggs, separated and allowed to reach room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar (or a pinch of salt)

 

For the drizzle:

  • 60g cocoa powder
  • 60g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp oil
  • Boiling water

For candied orange slices:

  • 125ml water
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 4-5 slices of orange (about 2 mm thick)

 

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170.
  2. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, espresso powder and cocoa powder in a bowl and mix well with a whisk. Set aside.
  3. Put the egg yolks, juice and oil in a small jug and set aside.
  4. Put the egg whites in a clean, dry, grease-free bowl and add the cream of tartar (or salt) and beat on low for two minutes or until frothy. Increase speed to high and beat until very stiff peaks form. Don’t overbeat.
  5. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the yolks mixture and add the zest. Beat on low for 1 minute, then on medium for three minutes or until the batter is smooth.
  6. Add one third of the egg whites to the batter and fold in with gentle circular movement (from bottom to top, in one direction only) with a rubber spatula. Repeat with the remaining whites in two more batches. Pour the batter into ungreased tin. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR for the first 40 minutes or your cake may deflate.
  7. While you are waiting for the cake to bake make the candied orange slices and the drizzle: Put the sugar and water in a medium sized saucepan and bring to the boil. Cook until syrup is thick and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Arrange the orange slices in one layer in the syrup and cook on medium heat for three minute. Oranges will release juice and dilute the syrup so stir very gently to mix the syrup with the juice. Now cook on low for a few minutes or until the syrup is thick again, turning the orange slices once or twice halfway through to cook them evenly. Let the orange slices cool in the syrup. For the drizzle sift the icing sugar and cocoa and put in a small bowl. Add the vanilla and a tablespoon of boiling water (or more if the icing is too thick). Mix well until smooth and set aside.
  8. Once the cake is done take it out of the oven and check to make sure it’s properly sticking to the sides of the tin. If it doesn’t it’s best not to bother with the upside-down cooling process. If it does properly cling to the tin stick the neck of a bottle or funnel in the hole in the middle of the tin and invert on a board and let cool completely.
  9. If you are using a proper chiffon tin run a palette knife around the cake and the middle hole. Put a plate on top of the tin and invert, then give a gentle push to the bottom of the tin (now facing upward) to release the base. Remove the tin and lift the bottom piece using the palette knife.
  10. Put the cake on a serving dish and drizzle with the chocolate icing. Arrange the orange slices on top and drizzle with a little syrup from cooking the orange slices. Let stand for a couple of hours at least for flavours to develop. Enjoy!

Carrot Marmalade with Clementine Peel & Orange Blossom Water

This carrot marmalade with clementine peel and orange blossom water recipe is one for sunshine and a garden of blossoms in a jar. It’s my two favourite marmalades, carrot and clementine, combined into one and my marmalade of choice to make in autumn when new clementines, some still a bit green and sour, appear in the market. Bright orange colour, citrusy flavour and flowery scent, sweet with just the right amount of tartness, how delicious does that sound?

Carrot marmalade with clementine peel is really great to serve on buttered toast for breakfast with strong breakfast tea (with a note of Earl Grey if you like). But not just that. Think scones and clotted cream, or a naked sponge cake layered with a gooey, shiny and flavourful marmalade and decorated with fresh or sugar paste orange blossoms for a special occasion…

Carrot marmalade is a staple of Persian breakfast spreads. It’s usually flavoured with rosewater or cardamoms as carrots have no scent of their own. Quite often very thinly slivered orange peel is mixed into carrot marmalade too.

orange-peel-jam
Persian orange peel jam is syrupy, perfect for putting on rice pudding. It’s also used to garnish the famous jewelled rice served in weddings and on special occasions. This jam can be made with dried slivered peel.

Persian preserves are often quite chunky and look rather like crystalised fruit in a thick syrup. Fruits like apples and oranges are often kept whole so one needs to cut the buttery and sweet flesh with a knife to serve. To keep the shape of some fruit, veg or blossoms they may be soaked in a solution of alum for a day or two. This results in a very crunchy texture. This type of preserve is usually served as dessert.

sour-cherry-jam
Sour cherry jam is undoubtedly the most popular jam in Iran.

Persian cooks are really obsessed with making jams, preserves and marmalades from every sort of fruit and vegetable imaginable. My childhood memories are filled with images of my mum and my female relatives in the kitchen busily preparing jar after jar of beautiful jams and preserves.

They usually offered little bowls of several different kinds of jam to guests after a meal with small glasses of tea and the breakfast table was never without sour cherry jam, children’s favourite, and whole fig jam, hollowed out Seville oranges or big chunks of citron peel preserve for the grown ups.

We make jams from all sorts of things: blossom jams (rose petals, orange blossoms, quince blossoms), fruit (stone fruits, citrus, berries, figs), vegetables (aubergine, cucumbers, squashes, black winter radishes) and even kitchen scraps (peel of oranges, aubergines, pink soft skin on pistachio shells, watermelon rind), you just name it.

pistachio-peel-jam
The soft pink, cream and green peel that covers fresh pistachio shells is very aromatic. The jam made with the peel is exquisite.

Back to the recipe now. My carrot marmalade with clementine peel recipe is not complicated at all.  The hardest part is probably waiting for the marmalade to cool and set to have a taste of its fresh, zingy flavours. If you are inclined so, for a festive occasion like Christmas you can add a splash of Cointreau, rum or whisky to the marmalade after the it reaches the setting point but skip the orange blossom water. Adding liqueurs to marmalades is not a Persian thing to do but it works beautifully so why not?

You will need about 8 -10 medium clementines to make enough peel and juice for this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 100 grams thinly sliced clementine peel (white pith sliced off with a sharp knife before slicing)
  • 1 1/2 litre water
  • 200 grams carrots, cut in thin strips like the peel (or coarsely grated)
  • 600 grams jam sugar
  • 600 ml clementine juice
  • 1 tbsp orange blossom water (optional)

Method:

  1. Put a couple of small saucers in the freezer for testing the jam set later.
  2. Put the sliced peel in a saucepan and cover with the water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for three minutes. Drain well to remove the bitterness from the peel. Taste the peel and repeat this step if it’s still too bitter for your taste.
  3. Put the cooked peel and carrot slivers (or grated carrots) in the saucepan and add all the sugar, clementine juice and orange blossom water. Stir to dissolve the sugar and bring to a rolling boil. Cook for three minutes, stirring from time to time to make sure all the sugar is dissolved. Skim the foam to the top occasionally. Lower the heat and continue cooking (about 20 minutes) or until the syrup is thick.
  4. Remove from heat and test the set by dropping a little syrup on one of the chilled saucers. After a minute touch the syrup with your finger tip and pull gently. If the syrup creases the marmalade is set. If not, return to the heat, cook for a couple of minutes and test again. Repeat until the marmalade sets. (if adding Cointreau, rum or whisky let the marmalade cool for a minute or two at this stage. Then carefully add two tablespoons of the liqueur).
  5. Let the marmalade cool and thicken a little. Stir through to evenly distribute the peel and carrot in the syrup. Pour into two small sterilised jars and seal.