Persian Almond Cake with Saffron and Rose Water

Travelers to ancient Persia feared eating saffron-laced cuisine. It was thought to be a powerful aphrodisiac and consuming too much could make you so happy could literally die.

canola oil, for greasing
14 ounces sugar
½ teaspoon finely ground saffron
3 tablespoons rose water
2 ¼ pounds blanched almond flour, sifted
2 tablespoons finely chopped pistachios
1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom seeds

Lightly grease a 9½x13-inch baking pan or rimmed baking sheet with oil, then line with parchment paper and lightly grease the paper.

In a small pot, bring the sugar and 1 cup water to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat, add the saffron and rose water, and stir well until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool completely.

Transfer the syrup to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until it is foamy and thickened, about 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gradually fold in the almond flour and mix until you have a thick, homogeneous paste.

Transfer the paste to the prepared pan, place a sheet of greased parchment paper on top (oiled side down), and use your hands to flatten the paste. (It should be about 2 inches thick.) Using a rolling pin, flatten the paste further and even out the surface, then transfer to the fridge (still covered with parchment paper) for at least 24 hours or up to 3 days.

Oil a long knife, then cut the cake into 25 diamond-shaped pieces. In a small bowl, stir together the pistachios and cardamom, then garnish each diamond with a generous pinch of the pistachio mixture. Serve immediately, or transfer in a single layer to an airtight container or cover tightly with plastic wrap, refrigerate, and serve within 1 week.

Makes 25 pieces
(recipe from Saveur)

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