Add Rose Water For The Best Creamy Desserts Of Your Life

In the realm of flowers used for flavoring, roses are undoubtedly the king. While some might prefer lavender or orange blossom, roses serve as an incredibly versatile flavoring agent. Rose hips can be used to produce a tangy flavor for tea, while rose petals can be steamed, allowing their oils to be absorbed by water and transformed into rose water.

Rose water is intensely floral, with a potent smell and flavor that can be overwhelming in large doses, but miraculous in small ones. It's a beloved ingredient around the world for its ability to add complex sweetness to dishes, and it was even the most popular flavor in the U.S. before vanilla overtook its spot in the 1800s.

With this in mind, consider using rose water in many situations where you might use vanilla, especially in creamy desserts or baked goods. Your next party guests won't know what hit them.

What to use rose water in

The creaminess of a custard, buttercream, or ice cream tempers the vivaciousness of rose water, mellowing it out into something irresistible. That's why it's a common flavoring agent in kulfi, a dense type of ice cream popular in India and Pakistan. Rose water is also a staple in Turkish and Iranian desserts, most famously in the jelly-like dessert called Turkish Delight. It can be used to make icing for Persian Love Cakes, which are flavored with pistachios and cardamom. These ingredients pair well with rose water, as does saffron, which balances the sweetness of rose water with its subtle, earthy flavor.

In the Middle East, the rose water milk pudding known as Mahalabia is a favorite, especially during Ramadan. Baklava made with rose water is another popular treat.

Heading farther north, rose water finds its place in French pâtisserie, notably in macarons (not to be confused with macaroons). It's not the meringue cookie itself that's flavored with rose water (though these are often misleadingly dyed pink), but the buttercream sandwiched between the two cookies. But if any of these recipes seem intimidating, consider going back to the basics with a rose water-infused panna cotta, cheesecake, or tiramisu.

Buying, making, and using rose water

You might be able to find rose water at your local grocery store, specifically in the baking goods section or the international foods aisle. If you can't find it there, try looking in a Middle Eastern market near you.

Ideally, you'll want to find pure rose water, made with no additives or preservatives. The Spice House sells a rose water that's popular among bakers, retailing for around $10 per bottle. Another great option is the Lebanese brand Cortas, which you might find at your local Middle Eastern market. Be sure to check the ingredients list to ensure the only ingredient is rose water.

If you really want to go all-natural, you can make your own rose water with minimal effort. Simply simmer about three cups of pre-washed rose petals in distilled water for about 45 minutes in a covered saucepan. Once the solution cools, strain out the petals and bottle the rose water. It should keep for about a month in the fridge.