Gheyganakh is an Azeri/Persian dessert, called Khagineh in Farsi. It is made with very simple ingredients: Flour, eggs, sugar and milk or water. The mixture of these ingredients make up the basic batter that is then fried in butter or oil until golden brown. Then a light rose scented saffron syrup transforms this fried batter into a delectable dessert.
Gheyganakh, or Khagineh is one of the most traditional Persian desserts. Over the years Gheyganakh has evolved into more sophisticated looking desserts such as Gheyganakh stuffed with nuts, fried in cake form, fried into light lace designs, and of course the fun, fried bite size balls. However through all of this the basic ingredients have remained basically the same.
When I was growing up in Tabriz I remember seeing Gheyganakh at most dinner parties. It seemed like over the years no matter how many modern European pastries and desserts were baked at the confectionery shops the home cooks remained pretty consistent with their traditional sweets and for good reason.
When you bite into a piece of crispy golden Gheyganakh soaked in a rose scented saffron syrup you know there is nothing else like it, and you appreciate the culinary creativity of the person who originally thought of making something so decadent out of so few ingredients. The Gheyganakh recipe that I’m sharing today is my mom’s recipe and I still love it as much, if not more than the other versions with more complicated techniques, perhaps because it just brings back so many vivid memories of home from so many years ago.
The rose scented saffron syrup is made and set aside to cool, then a batter of flour, corn starch, milk, and egg is flavored with a touch of ground cardamom. Butter and oil is heated in the pan until very hot, then the batter is poured into the hot oil.
Guide the batter with a heat proof omelet spatula or spoon to cover the entire pan while leaving the bottom undisturbed. Scoop the extra batter pooling on top and pour it along the sides and let it run under the cooked batter.
When there is no extra batter remaining on top and the bottom has browned to a light golden brown use the tip of the spatula to cut the batter into several 3 x 3 inch squares. Then transfer some of the squares out of the skillet and into a plate and set it aside. This makes room for easier turning and browning of the remaining batter in the skillet. The Gheyganakh will be fried in two batches.
The squares are turned and quartered into bite-size pieces, then the pieces are turned over and over again until very crispy and golden brown. Once the first batch is fried golden, they are transferred into a dish and set aside while the second batch is fried.
All the pieces are fried to golden brown and crispy and added to a dish with sides to catch the syrup. I have used a pie dish.
Cool syrup is slowly drizzled over the layers of fried Gheyganakh pieces
With the help of a spoon, drizzle the syrup that is in the bottom of the dish over the pieces. Repeat this several times until all the pieces are coated with the rose scented saffron syrup. All but some of the syrup will get soaked up by the Gheyganakh pieces.
Enjoy Gheyganakh (Khagineh) with a hot cup of Persian tea for a perfect ending to a fabulous Persian meal.
- FOR THE SAFFRON SYRUP
- 1 cup water
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 1/16 tsp saffron powder
- 1 tsp rosewater
- FOR THE BATTER
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 TBSP corn starch
- ¼ cup milk (I used 1%)
- 1 TBSP cold water
- ¼ tsp ground cardamom
- 2 large eggs
- 1/16 tsp saffron powder
- 4 TBSP vegetable oil plus more as needed (only 1 TBSP at a time)
- 2 TBSP butter
- To make the syrup, in a small saucepan add 1 cup water and 1½ cups sugar. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and the syrup comes to one boil. Remove from heat and stir in 1/16 teaspoon saffron powder and 1 tsp rosewater. Set aside to cool.
- To make the Gheyganakh, add ¼ cup flour and 1 tablespoon corn starch to a medium bowl and mix well with a whisk.
- Add ¼ cup milk to the flour mixture and gently whisk to combine. Add 1 tablespoon water and ¼ tsp ground cardamom and stir to combine well.
- Break two eggs into a separate bowl to prevent any accidental egg shell dropping in the batter.
- Add the eggs to the flour and milk mixture. Whisk gently only to combine, do not beat.
- Sprinkle the 1/16 teaspoon saffron powder into the bowl and stir to combine very well until the mixture is uniformly yellow.
- Heat 4 tablespoons vegetable oil and 2 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium high until it starts to sizzle.
- Reduce heat to medium, pour all of the batter into the skillet. Do not stir. Use a large spoon to quickly take the batter pooling in the center of the skillet and pour it to the sides so it runs under and cooks. Do not disturbing the smooth surface on top. Continue this until there is no extra batter left on top (about 2 minutes).
- At this point the batter should be light golden brown in the bottom. Without turning off the heat, use the tip of a heat proof spatula to cut the batter to about 3 x 3 inch squares. Transfer some of the squares out of the skillet and onto a plate and set aside to be fried later. This is to make room in the skillet for turning and browning the remaining squares (the batter will be fried in two batches).
- Reduce the heat to medium low and use the spatula to flip the squares. Use the tip of the spatula to quarter the squares into bite size pieces. Keep turning the Gheyganakh pieces until all of them are crispy and golden brown on both sides. Transfer the fried pieces to a shallow dish with sides, I used a pie pan.
- Repeat the above steps with the second batch. Add 1 tablespoon of oil if needed. Do not add too much oil, only enough so the pieces brown easily without sticking to the skillet. Once the second batch is fried add it on top of the first batch.
- Gently drizzle the Saffron Syrup over the Gheyganakh pieces. Most of the syrup will get absorbed by the pieces and some will remain in the bottom of the pan; use a spoon to pour it over the pieces several times to make sure they are completely coated with the syrup.
- Enjoy Gheyganakh (Khagineh) with a hot cup of Persian tea.
To grind cardamom just add the pods to a small food grinder and pulse until it is a fine powder ; there is no need to break up the pods before grinding.
To make saffron powder, grind the saffron strands in a small grinder (I use a small coffee grinder that I use exclusively for grinding saffron and nothing else).