Sheki (or Shaki) is one of the most interesting ancient cities of Azerbaijan, famous of its own sweet Pakhlava (or Pahlava), which made of rice flour (rice powder), nuts and sugar-honey syrup. Anyone visiting in the Sheki city will not be able to resist the temptation to taste Pakhlava. The recipe below will help you to create a homemade Sheki Pakhlava.
Have fun and good luck! 🙂
1 lb (450 g) the finest Basmati rice powder
1 lb (450 g) nuts
3 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons saffron infusion
The secrets of Sheki Pakhlava:
Preparing the rice powder.
To prepare the mesh layers (irishta), you will need a very fine quality white Basmati rice powder. Do not try to make pakhlava layers with rice flour. Rice flour is normally made from regular rice. With the regular rice flour, you won’t be able to get the same result, and your pakhlava won’t be edible.
But if you are willing to spend some time to make your own Basmati rice powder, here is the way to do it. Wash the rice and soak it overnight. Drain the rice and spread it on a kitchen towel in one layer for drying. Then grind the rice to a smooth powder in a grinder. Take a ½ cup at a time and run it through a grinder until you get the powder. When running through a grinder, you have to stop in intervals, to prevent overheating. Then pass the powder through a fine sieve to get the fine powder, and grind again until you get the finest rice powder.
Preparing the mesh layers.
Place the rice powder into a large bowl and pour a half glass of water. Start kneading the dough, by slowly pouring water in a bowl until you get tight, lump-free dough. Then start to add water in small portions to the dough, diluting it until you get the consistency of the batter as for the pancakes. The batter must be absolutely with no lumps!
In Sheki, Pakhlava made in a giant round pan (approximately 3 ft in diameter). The mesh layers created by placing batter into a special dough pourer cup with little holes in a row, and pouring the batter in a spiral motion first, then in crisscrossing lines. The layer is so thin that it cooks almost instantly.
To make a homemade Sheki Pakhlava, preheat a large frying pan over medium heat and grease it with melted butter. The special Sheki style dough pourer cup can be replaced by ordinary pastry bag with a tiny hole at the tip (do not try to make holes in a plastic container, you will not get the same result, only rare drops will drip into the pan.)
Fill the pastry bag with a batter, and cut off the tip of making a hole in diameter not greater than 1 mm! Grease the pan with melted butter, and with rapid hand movements squeeze the pouch above the hot pan, drawing in different directions thin stripes. The dough will be instantly hardened. Move your hand quickly, without stopping, because every time you stop, you will leave a tick drops in the pan. Ready mesh layer, which is called “irishta”, carefully remove from the pan and set aside. Thus, bake all mesh layers, putting them on each other. Of this amount of rice powder you should get not less than 20 layers, but for sure, not all of them will be useful, because for doing it for the very first time, you won’t get all perfect layers suitable for pakhlava, so select only a very thin, gentle, lump-free and soft irishta layers! This is important, otherwise, your pakhlava will be not edible.
Preparing the stuffing the syrup.
To prepare the stuffing, blend the nuts finely using a blender (or food processor). Remove the nuts from the blender and mix them with the ground cardamom and the ground coriander.
Preparing the saffron infusion.
To prepare the infusion, take a ½ teaspoon of dried saffron threads and toss them into a glass. Then, pour 2-3 tablespoons of boiling water and let it sit. Immediately, the water will turn an opulent yellow color, deepening over the next few minutes until it becomes a clear, bright orange.
Preparing the syrup.
To prepare the syrup, place sugar into a saucepan, add 1 ½ cups of water and boil on medium heat, then add honey and lemon juice, stir and remove from heat.
Divide the irishta layers into two parts. Place bottom layers on each other, then place the stuffing, and cover with the remaining layers of irishta. At the bottom of the pakhlava should be no more than 8 layers, and on the top not more than 5-6 layers.
With a thin brush, apply a pattern (stripes in the form of rhombus) on the pakhlava with a saffron infusion.
Grease the pan with melted butter, place pakhlava in the pan and fry over low heat, until the bottom of pakhlava gets lightly-golden color. Remove the pan from heat and pour the half of hot syrup all over the pakhlava. Leave the pakhlava in the pan for an hour. Then heat the remaining syrup and pour it on the surface of pakhlava, so the pakhlava generously soaked with syrup. Cooled down pakhlava cover with a lid and leave to soak for about 12 hours. Then remove pakhlava from the pan and cut with a sharp knife into portions in the form of rhombus or squares.
Serve Sheki Pakhlava with a hot tea.
Bon Appétit! Enjoy!
This post is also available in: Russian