In wishing you all a happy Afghan New Year (Nowruz) I wanted to share one of my favorite quotes, in hopes that we all grow “flowers” this year.
Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.
In the past I have posted about Haft-Mewa which is the traditional dried fruit salad made specifically for Nowruz. Usually one woman per family is designated with the special task of making Haft-Mewa. Other traditional sweets and cookies are also made for this holiday. This year I decided to make Afghan Crème Roll. This dessert is perplexing because it really seems obvious that the origins can’t be Afghan, yet every Afghan bakery you visit (especially around Eid and Nowruz) sells fresh Crème Roll. Afghans don’t have much of a sweet tooth which is why I think this buttery, savory, and only lightly sweetened dessert satisfies their palates. And I can’t help but think half of the delight in Crème Roll is the sophisticated name and fancy shape that makes it a special dessert for holiday occasions.
Crème Roll is typically made with a thin flakey pastry, equivalent to what is used for Sambosa. Here puff pastry does the trick, and I would honestly recommend Trader Joe’s puff pastry or any brand that uses real butter for best flavor. For shaping the Crème Roll my mom would always use wooden rods wrapped in aluminum foil, but I find this to be an exhausting project. I had bought a set of stainless steel cannoli molds and used them for Eid, however I felt these came out too narrow in shape. My friend Fatima Jan actually recommended I use Crème Roll horns, which has worked best for me. You can purchase the horns on Amazon or Ebay, and choose the size you prefer.
The crème is where things get more interesting. Traditionally fresh whipped cream is used, lightly sweetened with powdered sugar. But at some Afghan bakeries to prevent the cream from melting while sitting out, a filling made of butter, sugar, and cardamom is used.
I decided to do a little twist with the crème as that is really where all the flavor and sweetness is in this dessert. My favorite ice-cream is Persian Bastani, which is flavored with saffron and rose-water. For the crème filling I decided to make a rich aromatic cream filling incorporating saffron, rosewater, and cardamom. I topped the Crème Roll with powdered sugar and pistachio sprinkled on the pastries to achieve a similar flavor as Bastani ice-cream. My guests rave that these are best Crème Roll they have ever had, better than the ones from the bakeries in Kabul….while that may be overdoing it I have to admit these Crème Roll are delicious, with a delicate balance of savory, sweet, and have a special hint of spring with the fragrant touch of saffron and rosewater.
*Saffron whipped cream inspired by a Persian Love Cake Recipe posted in the Bon Appetit June 2005 issue
-Puff Pastry (Trader Joes or anything made with real butter is preferable)
-Cream Roll Horns (2 Sets of 8 should work fine)
-3 cups Heavy Whipping Cream Chilled
-1/2 cup Whole Milk or Egg Yolk
-1 Cup Powdered Sugar (to taste)
-1 Cup Powdered Pistachio (Pulsed in food grinder)
-A pinch of Saffron Threads
-2 Tablespoons Rosewater
-1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
-1/2 cup ground Pistachio
1. Preheat your oven for 425 degrees.
2. Place half cup of heavy whipping cream and saffron in a small sauce-pan on medium/low heat. As you do with saffron in normal cooking, you need to seep the saffron in the cream. Let this come to a gentle boil, remove from heat and let the cream cool in the fridge.
3. For the pastries, simply take out the sheet of pastry dough. Lay out the pastry dough so it is lying out in a rectangular shape, using a pizza cutter, cut long strips and wrap around the molds. (You don’t need grease the molds as the dough is buttery to begin with). Brush a milk or an egg yolk on the pastries.
4. Bake in preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes until a light golden color.
5. Let the pastries cool for about 10 minutes, and then pop out of the molds.
6. While the pastries are cooling, making the filling. Beat the 2 cups of heavy whipping cream and slowly sift in the ½ cup powdered sugar. Add as much sugar as you like, this really depends on personal preferences. Beat in the chilled saffron cream, 2 tablespoons of rosewater, and ½ teaspoon of ground cardamom.
7. Fill a small zip lock bag with the cream filling.
8. Carefully fill each pastry and place on a platter.
9. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and pistachio.
10. And of course….take pictures and show off to your family and friends over this dessert that will surely impress.
***Wishing you all a very happy and joyous New Year