Inspired by the flavors of persian love cake, this cinnamon roll dough is made with brown sugar and fresh lemon zest. It wraps around a brown butter, cardamom and pistachio filling and is topped with a rose water and lemon glaze.
‘Persian Love Cake’ comes from Yasmin Khan’s recipe from her book The Saffron Tales. Of the flavors of her very special cake she says, “of a Persian garden in the late spring, adorned with the floral scent of rose water and citrus, and decorated with bright green pistachios”.
I’ve been a little obsessed with her cake for years and earlier this year created persian love cookies that incorporate the same flavors. There’s a voice in the back of my head saying this would make a great babka too but, let’s roll with these first!
Ok, truly these are amazing. The filling gets all sticky and caramel-like on the bottom, there’s lemon in the dough and in the glaze and along with the salty pistachios it comes together in this perfect cacophony of flavors. It reminds me a lot of baklava but then there’s nothing crispy here, just a super tender roll!
Flour: I use bread flour but you can also use all purpose.
Milk powder: Also known as non-fat dry milk powder. You can also use buttermilk powder.
Oil: Any kind of flavorless oil will work here.
Lemon: Rub your lemons while washing to remove any wax. Zest straight into the dough. Reserve the lemon because you’ll use the juice for the glaze.
Pistachio: Pistachios should be toasted (so if you bought them raw, bake them on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes at 350 F).
Rose water: Found in the ‘middle eastern’ section of the grocery store, or sometimes near the extracts and baking aisle. You can also use orange blossom water.
Either the first or second rise can be done in the fridge; but you’ll need to give them room temperature rising time afterwards. The dough should be doubled in size after the first rise and should be puffy after the second.
Before the rolls go into the oven you can be sure the second rise is complete by pressing the side of a roll with your finger; if it springs back quickly the dough needs more time. If it springs back very slowly and leaves an indentation, it’s ready.
Making the Roux: You’ll do this in a pot over the stove. It’s called a tangzhong and is a chinese technique used in japanese milk bread.
Kneading the dough: This won’t knead for too long but you’ll want a stand mixer & a dough hook, it’ll come together in about 5-7 minutes but in a shaggy, sticky mess. Don’t add any more flour!
Making the Filling: I like browning the butter for the filling but you can also just melt it. It’ll be looser (easier to spread). If you pour the sugar into the butter while it’s hot and mix it gets it melts it partially, giving it that caramel like taste.
Glazing & Topping: The glaze can be made thicker with more powdered sugar, looser with more lemon juice. Adjust to your liking.
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