Naan-e Keshmeshy (Raisin Cookies)
I was filled with joy when stumbled on a picture of Persian raisin cookies. The revival of my very first memories kindled sweet and somber emotions that left me choked up trying to recount it to friends.
I was about 3 or 4 years old, holding Maman’s hand, going through Tabriz’s busy streets swarming with people wearing black hejab (head cover), an intimidating sight to a small child. The tyrannical 1979 Islamic Revolution was fresh and strong.
The streets seemed long, and my uncomfortable shoes hurt my feet, but I was taught not to complain. Maman pulled me gently whenever I slowed down. Most of the time, I didn’t know where we were going, but spotting a large street clock and a bakery meant we were on our way to see my favorite great aunt, and that we weren’t too far away. Time usually slowed down when we walk past the bakery, and I would be felt with delight knowing that we’ll get sweets on the way back.
Later when I was older, Maman explained that at the time my dad was unemployed. Dad was granted a scholarship from the Shah’s government to study agriculture in USA, and although, the stipend fell through during the revolution upheaval, he still decided to go back to Iran. Dad turned down jobs in USA, went to Iran to repay his country, only to be rejected because he was American educated.
Penniless my young parents were forced to live with my grandparents in Tabriz for a little while. Maman says, every time she visited her Ammeh (aunt) Robaab, she would slip her some money and ask that some of it be spent on a treat from the bakery for me. I remember choosing these large, thin and crispy raisin cookies that smelled like perfume.
Widowed at an early age, Ammeh Robaab had no kids. With the money that was left to her, she supported herself, her half-sister and her blind husband and took in another widowed woman (Roghaye khanom) in exchange for light housekeeping. All lived under the same roof, since it is customary for family members to live together. She also took care of my mom when her parents divorced, and later on when I was in the picture, she took a shining on me as her surrogate grandchild. Like most Persians, she expressed love with food and was well aware I liked sweets and summer fruits.
The last time I was with Amme, she insisted we take to the streets and bought us a big bag of red summer grapes at my mere glance at at them. I like to say we ate them together, but Ammeh Robaab took more pleasure in watching my enjoyment of food, as far as I remember. I can hear her husky voice (she was a long time smoker) echoing in my head, as I write this piece.
That was the last time I saw her. I don’t quite know when she passed away, since my parents hid it from me for a long time, trying to avoid my inevitable sorrow. But, such is life. People we love so dearly will eventually part, leaving us with precious memories along with their life’s message to us.
May the merit from enjoyment of these cookies be dedicated to my Ammeh Robaab, wherever she is now. Om Mani Padme Hung.
Instructions (makes 16 cookies):
- 1/2 cup oil or butter (softened)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup + 2 Tbs sugar
- 1/2 cup + 2 Tbs raisins (regular sweet and tangy raisins, small size works best)
- 2 large eggs
- 1- 1.5 Tbs rosewater
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp salt
Time ~ Prep: 15 min Bake: 10-15 min
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F (180°C).
- Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or baking mats (see tips).
- In a large mixing bowl whisk together the oil, vanilla, rosewater, salt, and sugar ’till smooth.
- Whisk in the eggs one at a time and blend ’till creamy.
- Stir in the raisins. Fold in the flour using a fork ’til a thick batter forms.
- Pick up 1 Tbs spoonful of the batter and place on the lined cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each scoop.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes or ’till the edges brown.
- Remove cookie sheets from the oven and place on a cooling rack for ~ 5 minutes. Carefully peel the cookies from the parchment paper with a spatula.
You may choose a regular greased baking dish, but the batter will spread too thin and yield crispier cookies. Baking time will be reduced too.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Amme vasat shirni keshmeshi dorost kardam.