Zoolbia and Bamieh

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These traditional Iranian sweets go hand in hand. Wherever there is zoolbia, there will be bamieh too. Both are soaked in a delicious saffron and rosewater syrup for a few seconds to absorb the delightful flavors. These sweets are very common in Iran during the month of Ramadan and are usually served for iftar (the evening meal) with some freshly brewed tea.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 3 hr 45 min (includes resting and cooling times)
  • Active: 1 hr 15 min
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
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Ingredients

Zoolbia:

Saffron Syrup:

Bamieh:

Directions

Special equipment:
a piping bag fitted with a star tip; a squeeze bottle
  1. For the zoolbia: Mix the cornstarch and yogurt in a medium bowl using a spoon. Add the flour and rosewater and mix to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for at least 2 hours at room temperature and up to 4 hours in the refrigerator.
  2. For the saffron syrup: Meanwhile, sprinkle the saffron on the ice cubes and leave it at room temperature until the ice melts. This will be your bloomed saffron.  
  3. Put the sugar, lemon juice and 1 cup water in a saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a simmer. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer until the syrup starts to thicken a bit, about 10 minutes. If you see sugar crystals on the sides of the saucepan, dip a pastry brush in some water and brush down the sides.  
  4. Add the rosewater and 1 tablespoon of the bloomed saffron to the syrup (reserve any remaining bloomed saffron in the refrigerator for another use). Simmer until the syrup is the consistency of warm honey (thicker than maple syrup), about 5 more minutes. To check the consistency of the syrup, pour some of it on a small plate and wait for 2 minutes. Rotate the plate and if the syrup does not run easily, it’s ready. Cover to keep warm and set aside.
  5. For the bamieh: Put the butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the saffron syrup and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Bring to a simmer. Once the mixture starts simmering with small bubbles, add all the flour at once and start mixing using a rubber spatula. Turn the heat to low. Keep mixing, folding and spreading the dough in the saucepan over low heat until the dough is smooth, 6 to 7 minutes. Transfer the dough to a medium mixing bowl and let sit until it’s almost at room temperature, about 10 minutes.  
  6. Break the egg in a small bowl and whisk it with a fork. Add the egg to the dough and start mixing using an electric hand mixer until the egg is fully incorporated into the dough. The dough will be very sticky. Transfer the dough to a piping bag with a star tip (see Cook's Note). 
  7. Pour 1/4 to 1/2 inch of oil into a large frying pan. Brush both blades of a pair of kitchen scissors with oil. Hold the piping bag over the room-temperature oil in the frying pan, squeeze out the dough into the oil and cut every 1 inch with the scissors. Don’t overcrowd the pan since the pastry will puff when fried. If necessary, work in batches. Place the pan over medium-low heat and wait for it to bubble around the dough. 
  8. Meanwhile, set a cooling rack over a baking sheet. Check the consistency of the saffron syrup and gently rewarm if necessary. 
  9. After about 8 minutes, the bamieh pieces will start to puff up and float on the oil. Turn them with a slotted spoon and cook until golden on all sides, 5 to 8 minutes more. Immediately transfer the bamieh to the saffron syrup with the slotted spoon, turning them to coat. Transfer the bamieh to the cooling rack to allow excess syrup to drip off.  
  10. For the zoolbia: Uncover the bowl with the zoolbia batter and add the baking soda and 1 tablespoon room-temperature water. Stir very well for 2 to 3 minutes. The batter will be a bit bubbly. Let the batter sit at room temperature for another 20 minutes to become smooth. Transfer the batter to a squeeze bottle.  
  11. Pour 1/2 inch of oil into a small frying pan and heat over medium heat until shimmering. To test if it's ready, drop a little bit of the batter into the oil--it should puff up and float right away. Turn the heat down a notch so it doesn’t become too hot.  
  12. Squeeze the batter into the oil in a circular pattern, crisscrossing occasionally to create a floret-like pattern 3 to 4 inches wide (it doesn't have to be perfect). Fry until golden on the bottom, 5 to 10 seconds, then flip using a chopstick or slotted spoon and fry until golden on the other side, another 10 seconds. Transfer the zoolbia to the warm saffron syrup and submerge for a few seconds, then transfer to the cooling rack to allow excess syrup to drip off. Repeat with the remaining batter. 
  13. Serve the bamieh and zoolbia together at room temperature.  

Cook’s Note

The consistency of the syrup is very important. If you think your syrup is thicker than what it needs to be, add a tablespoon water and heat it again until it has the consistency of warm honey. Using an extra-large tip for the piping bag will make piping easier and give you larger bamieh.

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