These tasty candies, called Sohan Asal in Farsi, are a traditional sweet in Iran. The honey, saffron and rose water all conspire to make this seemingly simple candy an alluring, exotic temptation to bring you back to the cradle of civilization.
24 small pieces
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons corn oil
1 ½ cups unsalted slivered blanched almonds
¼ teaspoon ground saffron
2 tablespoons rose water
4 tablespoons unsalted chopped pistachios, for garnish
[Chef’s Note: Rose water, pistachios and saffron are all traditional staple ingredients in the Persian Kitchen. If your grocery store doesn’t carry them, look for a Persian or Middle Eastern market. You may also find rose water in many Latin American markets. Ground saffron is used frequently in Persian cooking, as it lends its color to dishes more easily than the strands; you can grind it yourself in a mortar and pestle or small spice grinder. Be sure that it is impeccably clean so as not to alter the flavor or fragrance of this precious spice.]
Spread a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan or cutting board, or use a silicon mat.
Melt the sugar, honey and oil together in a heavy saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the slivered almonds to the mixture, and continue stirring for about 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture turns a golden color and starts to come together.
Dissolve the ground saffron in the rose water. Add this fragrant mixture to the syrup and cook for another 2 to 4 minutes. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon until the mixture reaches a golden brown color.
[Chef’s Note: Be sure to use a wooden spoon for this part, and do not let the mixture turn a dark brown. It should be a rosy-golden color.]
Prepare a small bowl of ice water and keep it nearby. Drop a small spoonful of the hot almond mixture into the water to test doneness. If it hardens immediately, the mixture is ready. Reduce heat to very low.
[Chef’s Note: If using a candy thermometer, this would be between “soft crack” stage, at 285° F, and “hard crack” stage, at 302° F.]
Place teaspoonfuls of the mixture on the parchment paper at 1-inch intervals. Garnish immediately with the chopped pistachios.
Allow the candies to cool thoroughly, then remove them from the paper and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
You may substitute walnuts or sesame seeds for the almonds.
Recipe and photo by Mark Tafoya.