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Using Rose Water in Cooking

Becky Johnson

In the 18th century, bakers used rose water as a flavoring, sometimes as a substitute for vanilla.  Rose water has a sweet and lightly spicy flavoring and it is a popular additive in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine.

In my book Memories: Vintage Cake Recipes, rose water is used as an ingredient in Fruit Cake, and it is ground up with almonds to make a fragrant almond paste.  It took me a while to find rose water for cooking (okay, it was actually my husband who found it).  There are several types of rose water or rose “products” available, so when you buy yours, be sure it’s been approved for use in food.  Be careful not to buy powdered roses, rose oil or rosewater tonic, which are all be used in beauty products, not cooking. You can make your own rose water through a process of distillation, but it is time consuming and tedious.

John Willoughby from the New York Times offers several ideas for uses in cooking.  He pairs rose water with cardamom for rice pudding, and he also mentions its use in rice pilaf, carrot salad and French toast.  Worth a try!

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