’Tis the season for… cookies! Yes, December is here and there are cookie parties and cookie swaps happening all over the country. I love cookies. You can enjoy a variety of different cookie textures and flavors in small portions. So bring on the cookie recipes because I’m ready!
When Sun-Maid Raisins asked me to share about my family traditions during the holidays, I immediately knew what to share. Not just my obvious love of cookies, but also Persian flavors and traditions. I’m a bit of everything—Persian, Lithuanian and Polish. My husband is Persian, but is very Americanized. Religion wise, we are a bit of everything, too: Jewish, Baha’i, Muslim… and we celebrate Christmas. I suppose that is why I love fusing flavors from different countries!
Baklava is a middle-eastern favorite, layers of phyllo filled with ground nuts and drenched in sweet syrup. Although it may not seem like a cookie to you, it definitely has sweetness and crunch like most cookies. Different countries have different variations of this sweet treat. Persian Baklava uses almonds, pistachios and a sweet syrup scented with rosewater. Greek baklava uses walnuts and honey. Either way, I love them all.
Today I am sharing a variation of Persian baklava. You will still find almonds and pistachios between the butter-laden layers of phyllo, but also raisins—naturally sweetened Sun-Maid Raisins. And because raisins are used, you don’t need as much sugar in your baked treats. And everyone is a winner when that happens!
Happy Holidays, no matter what your family traditions are this month!
Persian Baklava with Raisins
- 1 cup blanched almond slivers
- 1 cup shelled pistachios
- 1 cup Sun-Maid raisins
- 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 1 lb phyllo dough, thawed
- 1/4 lb unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup rosewater
- 1/4 cup ground pistachios
- 1 TBS dried rose petals, crushed (optional)
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spray 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
In a food processor grind almonds and pistachios until fine powder. Add raisins with the ground nuts and pulse until raisins are chopped. Transfer raisin-nut mixture into a bowl and mix in cardamom. Set aside.
Unroll phyllo dough. Using kitchen shears, cut to fit baking pan. Keep phyllo covered with wet paper towels to prevent drying and cracking.
Place 1 sheet of phyllo on the bottom of the greased pan. Using a pastry brush, brush phyllo sheet completely with melted butter. Repeat steps for 2 more layers. Over third layer, evenly sprinkle approximately 1/2 cup of raisin-nut butter coated phyllo.
Add three more layers of phyllo, buttering between each layer. Again, add 1/3 cup of raisin nut mixture over third layer. Continue doing this until raisin nut mixture is done, ending with three layers of butter covered phyllo.
Using a sharp knife, carefully cut halfway deep into small squares or diamonds. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the baklava is golden brown.
Meanwhile, make the sweet rose water syrup. Add sugar, water and rosewater in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to boil, then cook on low for 15 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat and set aside.
When baklava is golden, remove baklava from oven. Pour rose water syrup evenly over the entire baklava. Garnish with 1/4 cup ground pistachios and dried rose petals. Let baklava sit and soak in the rosewater syrup for approximately 3 hours before removing from pan and serving. Baklava can stored at room temperature covered for up to a week.
Note: Some grocery stores have a middle eastern section where you can find rosewater. Alternatively, it can definitely be purchased at middle eastern markets and online (Amazon has it).
Laura Bashar blogs at Family Spice, and is the photographer and co-author of the cookbook: Cooking Techniques and Recipes with Olive Oil. She’s also chaos manager of a family of five while soaking up the sun in San Diego, California.