Persian Rosewater & Cardamom Rosette Cookies (nan panjereh)
There are hundreds of rosette cookie recipes out there so why another one, you may ask. Well, this is a Persian version “traditionally” made with a rosewater-flavoured batter and dusted with cardamom-scented icing sugar.
Ask any Iranian and they will swear that nan panjereh (as they are called in Persian) are traditional Persian cookies but rosette cookies are originally from Scandinavia. Iranians consider rosette cookies traditional because many of them remember their mums and grandmas making them for the Persian new year holidays (Nowruz) and other festive occasions such as weddings.
Rosette cookies are really delicate, crispy and dainty. They are made by dipping a hot rosette iron (mould) in a light egg batter and submerging the iron in very hot oil to cook it. Rosette irons come in many shapes and sizes. In Sweden, Norway and other European countries such as Italy and Poland rosette cookies are usually made for Christmas. In these countries, the irons used for making the cookies are often intricately shaped like stars, pine trees, hearts or flowers. The same irons are widely available in Iran too plus a few others that I haven’t seen elsewhere including the one that I used to make my cookies. It’s a very simple one (top right in the picture below) but makes gorgeous rosettes.
When I was a child rosette cookies were usually made with square, gridded irons which might explain why the cookies are called nan panjereh (window cookies) or khatoon panjereh (ladies’ windows). Sweet shops made huge square cookies with deep indents to hold a lot of cardamom-scented icing sugar and displayed them in their shops’ windows piled high on platters decorated with ribbons.
Rosette cookies seem to have been out of fashion for a while but rosette irons in different shapes are still widely available from specialty shops and online and are quite cheap. You may even find one in your mum or grandma’s kitchen. Any shape of rosette iron will work but the ones with a bent wooden handle are easier and safer to use.
Since I found out about the Swedish/Norwegian origins of rosette cookies I always wondered how and when they were adopted by Iranians until working on a totally different topic I remembered that in the early twentieth century a number of high-ranking Swedish Gendarmerie officials had been invited to Iran to modernise the rural police and highway patrol force. The Swedish officers and their families stayed in Iran for about a decade which is long enough to presume someone learnt from Swedish ladies to make rosette cookies and spread the recipe.
Persian cooks have always been quite quick with adopting recipes from other cuisines and making them their own. In this case they soon added rosewater to the batter and added cardamom, a spice very frequently used in Persian sweets, to the icing sugar for sprinkling on the cookies.
Rosette cookies are really easy to make if you know a few tricks:
- Always heat the rosette iron in the hot oil before dipping it in the cookie batter. The iron must be hot enough to “hiss” when you dip it in batter.
- Don’t dip the iron in the batter all the way. The batter should only come about two-thirds of the way up the sides of the iron or it will be difficult (or impossible) to get the fried batter off the iron.
- Shake the iron in the oil gently as soon as you dip it in the hot oil to release the batter.
- Drain the cookies well on paper towels so they won’t get greasy and soggy.
- Use a good quality vegetable oil with high smoking point (frying oil) so the oil doesn’t burn and ruin the flavour. Keep the temperature of the oil steady by adjusting it as required.
- It’s best to use a small saucepan and make one cookie at a time.
Rosette cookies can be made without rosewater, obviously, and dusted with vanilla sugar or even sugar mixed with cinnamon. They are great on their own with coffee or tea but also make a good accompaniment to ice cream. The following recipe makes a small batch of about 20 cookies. Simply double the ingredients for more cookies if you wish.
- 8 tbs flour
- 2 tbsp cornflour
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 tbsp icing sugar
- 1 large egg
- 6 tbsp milk
- 2 tbsp rosewater (or substitute milk)
- rapeseed (canola) or rice bran oil for frying
- 50g icing sugar
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom (or more if you wish)
- Sift the flour, corn flour, salt and icing sugar together and set aside.
- Whisk the egg well in a bowl then add the milk and rosewater and mix until blended. Gradually add the sifted flour mixture and whisk until the batter is smooth. Allow the batter to rest in the fridge for about an hour.
- Line a large plate or tray with a double thickness of kitchen paper.
- Pour enough oil into a small saucepan to a depth of about twice the thickness of your rosette iron (4-5 centimetres/2 inches). Place the saucepam on a medium-sized burner and heat until the oil reaches a temperature of 190C/375F. If you don’t have a thermometer put a drop of the batter in the oil. If the oil is hot enough it will rise to the surface and puff up in about 3 seconds.
- Immerse the rosette iron in the hot oil for one minute then gently shake to remove the excess oil. Immediately dip the hot iron in the batter and make sure the batter doesn’t cover the metal all the way up. It should come about 3/4 way up the side of the iron. Re-immerse the iron in the hot oil and gently shake to release the batter. The first couple of attempts to release the batter may be difficult so you can get a little help from a wooden chopstick to ease it off the iron. You will soon get the hang of it and the batter should come off the iron with no trouble. Turn the rosette with tongs as soon as the underside is golden and cook the other side until it’s golden too. This will take about thirty seconds on each side. Immediately remove the cookie from the oil and put on the paper-lined plate to drain (upside down).
- Heat the iron for thirty seconds and repeat with the rest of the batter.
- Mix the icing sugar with the cardamom and dust the cookies. Arrange on a plate and serve. The cookies will keep nice and crisp for a day or two.