Thursday, May 24, 2012
I don't know . . . maybe it was the sumptuous and exotic name that first hooked me. After all, I do love roses. And the very word, Persia, sounds kind of sumptuous, don't you think?
Luscious and rich, it's a soft mink coat of a word. (And do you know what trying on a mink coat feels like? It feels like every nice, handsome man you've ever met is gently putting his arm around you.) Say it slowly . . . Perrrsssiaa. See what I mean?
Well, anyway, it took me a while to get around to finally making this unusual cake. Moist and deeply flavorful, the warm cake is finished off with a sweet, tangy glaze that's still hot when you drizzle it on. When I first stumbled upon this recipe a couple of months ago, in a bean cookbook of all things, I mentally filed it away as an item that I knew I'd absolutely have to try. So, over a period of a few weeks, I haphazardly foraged local markets, prowling for the less common ingredients.
Speaking of which, what's the least common ingredient in the cake? That would have to be the chick pea flour. Initially I didn't know where I'd find it, but a couple of Middle Eastern grocery stores later, a chunky little package of chick-pea/garbanzo-bean flour was nestled in my shopping cart. It is, after all, the key ingredient in falafel, a fact that I'd completely forgotten. And, given that metro Detroit is home to a significant population of Middle Eastern families (thus metro Detroiters are the happy patrons of many small Middle Eastern restaurants), one can be sure that a lot of falafel is being fried up around here on a daily--if not hourly--basis.
So, anyway, having assembled all of the critical components--dried cherries, unsweetened cherry juice, rose water, pistachios, and chick pea flour--the planets aligned, as I knew they would, and today became the perfect day for Rose of Persia Cake.
About this recipe . . .
From Crescent Dragonwagon's award winning book, Bean by Bean, I stuck pretty closely to her original formula. That said, I did use less lemon zest in the cake than it called for, slightly more salt, and I modified the glaze recipe to tone down the citrus aspect a bit (it called for half a cup of lemon juice . . . that's a lot) and emphasize the cherry juice and rose water. And, I rewrote the instructions to reflect exactly what I did (I rearranged some of the less critical steps), but the recipe concept is still entirely Ms. Dragonwagon's, and I must give her props for coming up with such a truly unique and tasty cake.
And fair warning: You will be entranced by the scent of this cake baking, just as Crescent predicts in her book. The aroma is a curious and delicate mixture of fruity sweetness and something akin to freshly mown grass. Sounds weird, I know, but it was actually a really good smell. I kept sniffing the air, trying to put my finger on what the scent reminded me of. I am still pondering . . .
Rose of Persia Cake
with Cherry and Rose Water Glaze
(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)
You'll need either a 10-inch tube pan, or a 12-cup bundt pan, or several small loaf pans. (I made mine in a 10-inch non-stick tube pan.)
Ingredients for the cake:
1/2 cup dried cherries (Crescent Dragonwagon recomments using dried Bing cherries, but I used dried tart Michigan cherries and they were delicious.)
1/2 cup sour cherry juice, not sweetened
vegetable oil cooking spray (Pam)
1 and 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (measure it out after sifting),
unbleached, plus two extra tablespoons of flour for the pan
1 and 2/3 cups granulated sugar, plus two extra tablespoons of
sugar for the pan
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 and 1/2 cups sifted chick pea flour (measure it out after sifting)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
3/4 cup buttermilk or 1/2 cup plain yogurt thinned with water or milk (I actually used 1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1/4 plain yogurt because I didn't have enough buttermilk.)
2 tablespoons of rose water (Along with the chick pea flour, you can expect to find rose water in Middle Eastern markets, and in the imported foods section of major grocery stores.)
1 tablespoon of lemon zest, finely grated
Ingredients for the glaze:
2 teaspoons of rose water
2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup unsweetened cherry juice (leftover from soaked cherries in cake recipe)
2 tablespoons of water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
To sprinkle over the glazed cake:
1/4 cup chopped pistachio nuts
To make the cake:
Several hours prior to assembling the cake, soak the dried cherries in the 1/2 cup of sour cherry juice to plump them up.
When ready to make the cake, preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
Spray your pan liberally with the vegetable oil spray. In a little bowl, whisk together the 2 tablespoons flour and the 2 tablespoons of sugar. (You may find you need even more of this mixture to fully prep your pan. I figure, better to over prep than under prep! The original recipe only called for 1 tablespoon of each. For me, that wasn't nearly enough.) Coat the inside of your pan evenly and thoroughly by shaking the flour/sugar all around. Tap out the excess. (If you're using a two-part tube pan, be sure to hold that inner part in there when doing this. It's kind of a messy procedure, so do it over your sink.)
In a large bowl, whisk together the two sifted flours, along with the baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Drain all the juice off of the soaked cherries and reserve it; don't toss it out! Place the cherries themselves in another bowl.
In the large bowl of your mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter on high speed until it looks light in color and very fluffy. Continuing on high speed, pour the sugar in slowly. Keep mixing for a few minutes, until the whole thing is really nice and fluffy. One at a time, on medium speed, add in the eggs, mixing each one in until well combined, about a minute or so.
In yet another medium size bowl (I know, lots of dirty dishes), stir together the buttermilk (or buttermilk & yogurt, or yogurt & water, etc.--whatever you end up using), the rose water, and 1/4 cup of the reserved cherry juice.
On the lowest speed of your mixer, add the flour mixture into the butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk mixture (three equal portions of flour and two equal portions of buttermilk). Beat only long enough to combine after each addition. Stop and scrape the bowl and beaters as needed. Use care not to overbeat the batter. Take the bowl off of the mixer, and gently stir in the lemon zest and drained cherries.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, trying to avoid leaving big air gaps. Smooth the top so it's even. Firmly but gently tap the filled pan on your work surface once or twice to help remove big air bubbles.
On the middle rack of your oven, bake the cake for about an hour and ten minutes (less time if you're using smaller pans, or a bundt pan). The cake is done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean, the top is deeply golden brown, and the cake feels kind of firm to the touch if you lightly press on it with your finger. Let the cake cool on a rack for about ten minutes, then remove it from the pan and put it right on the serving plate you'll be using.
As it is cooling, make the glaze. Place all the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan and heat it on the stove until it just boils, then turn the heat down and let it simmer for about four or five minutes, just until it becomes slightly thicker. Stir it frequently and don't walk away; it's very easy to burn hot sugar. When the glaze looks ready, pour about one third of it over the warm cake. Then, poke several holes in the top of the cake with a toothpick, and drizzle the remainder of the glaze over the cake (I aimed for the holes).
If you like, chop 1/4 cup of pistachios and sprinkle them over the cake right after it has been glazed. Keep the cooled cake covered. The cake is so moist, it should be fine for several days.
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