Orange Blossom Water
I was making a fruit salad this week and threw in a few dashes of orange blossom water when (gasp!) I realized I’ve never really highlighted it in depth here. It’s such a beautiful ingredient, and now is truly my favorite time of year to work with it. Orange blossom water goes incredibly well with fruits, summer fruits in particular, and gives summer pies or a simple fruit salad a hint of something truly special.
Orange blossom water comes from the blossoms of the Seville orange, a bitter and crazy fragrant orange native to Asia. The petals of the flower are heated in water and the resulting steam is condensed and separated, now scented with the orange blossom. The result is a clear liquid that is at once floral with orange citrus notes and a hint of bitterness.
Orange blossom water is found throughout the cooking of the Middle East, North Africa, French and Mediterranean where its delicate fragrance laces some of the most beloved desserts, savory dishes, and, in some instance, even drinking water. It’s often added to a sugar syrup to drizzle over desserts or fruit, but it tastes beautiful used sparingly in tagines or other stews that have fruits. I’ve used it a few times here, once as a gorgeous floral balance to melon in a gelato and another time in one of my favorite desserts, Om Ali, a puff pastry-based bread pudding. I definitely plan to experiment more with it in savoury dishes and have designs to add it to fall vegetable mashes like butternut squash or sweet potato.
Having a light hand helps when it comes to this ingredient – it gets overwhelmingly perfume-y in excess and be sure to taste your particular brand before following a recipe. Your bottle may be stronger or weaker than what’s called for, and it’s better to use your cooking instincts and preferences here. Orange blossom water is becoming more widely available by the day – in Whole Foods, gourmet stores, Italian specialty shops, and, of course, Middle Eastern grocers.