I invite you to celebrate Shabe Yalda with my Baghlava Cake (Baklava). Shabe yalda or Shabe Chelleh, (Chilla Gejasi in Turkish) is a celebration of the victory of light over darkness after months of scares hours of warming sun. This festive night of celebration has been around since the time of ancient Persia and is celebrated to this day in Iran and other places on this longest night of the year. Winter arrives the following day, and with that daylight triumphs over darkness once again and the days start getting longer. This is the night that families and friends get together for a long evening of festivities with eating, drinking, poetry, pleasant conversation and listening to the nostalgic stories of the elders of the times past.
This is a night of merriment with main entrees such as Fesenjan Polo (chicken or lamb in walnut pomegranate sauce on Saffron Rice), Khoresh Bademjan (Eggplant Stew with Saffron Rice ), Aash Reshteh (Persian Herb & Noodle Soup), just to name a few.
Pastries with traditional Persian ingredients and spices, such as Baghlava Cake, assorted nuts (aajil), dried fruit, cotton candy (pashmak) and crimson colored fruits, pomegranates and watermelon in particular, are passed around all night until the early hours of morning. The link below covers a very interesting and detailed history of this ancient tradition:
The recipe that I’m sharing today is the Baghlava Cake. All the wonderful fragrant spices of baghlava come together in this delightfully light cake that is super moist with a walnut filling and a delicate blend of cardamom, cinnamon and rose essence.
Mix the spices and sugar with coarsely chopped walnuts in a small bowl. Whisk together the butter, eggs, sugar, vanilla, baking soda, and yogurt in a large bowl until smooth. Gradually add enough flour to the wet ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough is very smooth and does not stick to your fingers.
On a lightly floured surface divide the dough in half
Using a rolling pin roll out one dough piece into a 9 x 13 inch rectangle
This is a very smooth and workable dough, and you will be able to carefully lift and transfer it to the prepared baking sheet. Stretch the dough to cover the bottom of the pan.
Beat the egg whites with a whisk until foamy
Brush some of it on the dough. Sprinkle the walnut filling mixture on the dough. Drizzle the rest of the egg whites over the filling. Roll out the other dough piece to another 9 x 13 inch rectangle and stretch to cover all of the walnut filling. Press the dough lightly to the filling with the palm of your hand.
Mark the dough into 20 equal square, then cut with a knife through all the layers
Brush the top with egg wash and bake in the preheated oven. Start making the syrup after 15 minutes.
Bake until rich golden brown. Place the pan in a large baking sheet to catch any syrup dripping. Run your knife through the thickness of the pastry between the squares one more time.
Pour all of the lukewarm syrup over the entire hot pastry including the borders. Sprinkle chopped pistachio on the squares.
Baghlava Cake is truly a festive dessert, enjoy it on your Yalda Night, or any night. Happy Shape Yalda!
yield: Twenty 2 x 2 inch pastries
- FOR THE DOUGH
- 8 ounces unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp vanilla powder or 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 4 ½ - 5 cups all-purpose flour
- FOR THE FILLING
- 2 tsp cardamom powder
- 2 tsp cinnamon powder
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- 1 ½ cups coarsely chopped walnuts, split-pea sized
- 2 egg whites, beaten until foamy (save the yolks)
- 2 egg yolks mixed with 1 tsp cold water for the egg wash
- FOR THE SYRUP
- 1 ½ cups water
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 1 ½ TBSP honey
- 1 TBSP plus 1 tsp rose water
- Chopped Pistachios
- Preheat oven to 350 F, center rack
- Grease a 9 x13 x1 inch nonstick baking pan with butter flavored Crisco and lightly dust with flour. Tap the pan over the sink to shake off the excess flour.
- In a small bowl mix 2 tsp cardamom, 2 tsp cinnamon, ¾ cup powdered sugar and 1 ½ cups coarsely chopped walnuts. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk all the dough ingredients except the flour, until smooth.
- Add the flour gradually and mix well with a wooden spoon after each addition. Add enough flour until the dough stops sticking to the fingers; you may have some leftover flour. On a lightly floured surface pat the dough into a fat rectangle, then divide it into two equal pieces.
- Use a rolling pin to roll out one of the dough pieces into a 9 x 13 inch rectangle.
- Gently lift the rolled dough and lay it on the prepared baking pan, use your finger tips to gently stretch the dough to fit the bottom of the pan perfectly.
- Brush some of the foamy egg white on the dough.
- Sprinkle all of the walnut filling mixture over the dough in the pan.
- Drizzle the rest of the beaten egg white on the mixture.
- On the floured surface roll out the other piece of dough into another 9 x 13 inch rectangle for the top. Carefully cover the nut and spice mixture with the rolled out dough and stretch it with your fingertips to completely cover the top of the pastry. Press the dough onto the filling.
- Use a sharp plastic knife to mark the dough into 20 equal rectangles. Cut through the thickness of the pastry on the marks you have made. Brush the egg wash over the entire surface of the pastry.
- Bake in preheated 350 F oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the top of the pastry is a rich golden brown.
- After 15 minutes into baking start making the syrup: In a 2-Qt saucepan add 1 ½ cups water, 1 ½ cups sugar, and 1 ½ TBSP honey. Bring it to a boil over medium heat. Let it boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add 1 TBSP plus 1 tsp rose water. Set aside until ready to use.
- By the time the pastry is ready, the syrup should reach a lukewarm temperature.
- Remove the pastry from the oven. Place the pan in a larger baking pan to catch any possible syrup dripping.
- Use your plastic knife once again to cut through the baked pastry between the squares. Drizzle all of the lukewarm syrup evenly all over the hot pastry, don’t forget the borders. It might look like all the syrup will not fit in the pan, but it does and all of it will get soaked up to make this cake amazingly moist and delicious. Sprinkle the pastry with chopped pistachio. Allow to cool completely in the pan over a cooling rack before transferring the pastries to a serving platter in a single layer.
- This pastry is best when served at room temperature
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