Sweet Saffron Rice Pudding

I have to say, I'm pretty excited to provie this recipe for a sweet saffron pudding, called sholeh zard in farsi (translating loosely to yellow jello), which is absolutely divine and combines an interesting blend of flavors to produce a rich, satisfying, and wholesome dessert.  What I find most interesting about this dish is that there's not one or two key ingredients which make it a standout, but five.  With an exciting blend of saffron, cardamom, rosewater, almonds, and pistachios, it's hard to say which taste is most distinct. 

However, it's clear that the stunning yellow color comes from the addition of saffron threads, which my mom likes grind to a powder, dissolve in hot water, and store in a jar in the fridge. 

If you've ever seen and opened a jar full of dissolved saffron, you'll likely agree that the fiery orange color is fascinating and that its strong aroma is intoxicating.  The tablespoon of saffron used in this dessert is enough to turn the whole dish bright yellow - clearly this stuff is pretty potent.

Combined with the rich, nutty, and sweet flavors provided by the ingredients mentioned above, this rice pudding provides a taste like no other I've had before.  It stores in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, so feel free to make a bunch for yourself and snack on it whenever you so desire!

One last note: after having made numerous desserts for both Iranians and Americans, it has become clear to me that Iranians take to rose water much more than most people.  While my parents and their Iranian friends go nuts over this dessert and find the 2 tablespoons called for to be perfect, most Americans will likely find this same amount to be overwhelming.  For that reason, I've proposed new proportions, which I believe will be much more amenable to American taste buds; these revised proportions will be placed next to the appropriate ingredient.  Please try this dessert, and feel free to give me any feedback you have!

Sweet Saffron Rice Pudding - makes about 2 cups

3/4-cup uncooked long-grain rice
3 cups water
1 1/2-c sugar
1/8-teaspoon saffron threads, dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon slivered almonds (revised: 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons rosewater (revised: 1 teaspoon rosewater)
for garnish:
chopped pistachios
slivered almonds

1. Wash and drain the rice, changing the water several times.
2.  Bring rice and water to a boil in a large saucepan, skimming the foam from the surface as it foams.  Simmer for 35 minutes on medium heat.
3.  Add sugar and cook for 15 minutes more, stirring often.
4.  Add saffron, butter, almonds, rosewater, and cardamom, stirring to combine.  Cover and cook on low for about 40 minutes longer, or until consistency is thick and pudding-like.
5.  Transfer to a large bowl, sprinkle with cinnamon, chopped pistachios, and almonds if desired, and refrigerate until cold.  Serve chilled.


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