Monday, April 13, 2015

All About Orange Blossom Water

Orange trees at the Saadian tombs, Marrakech, Morocco
One of the things I love most about Morocco is its intensity. I was often overwhelmed by the sounds, sights and flavors found there. In particular the colors seem to vibrate and the smells combined with the heat radiate from everywhere--the tanneries, the medinas, the communal ovens, the trees and gardens. One scent in particular reminds me of my time spent there more than anything else. Orange blossoms. 

The scent of orange blossoms in Morocco is intoxicating. When a tree is in full bloom the scent is heady and exquisite. I can understand why someone would want to to capture it. Orange blossom water is made from a distillation of the blossoms from bitter orange trees. It is used in bath and body preparations but also in food. You will find it used not just in Moroccan cuisine but also in Persian, Middle Eastern, Indian and Turkish recipes.

I recently purchased some orange blossom water for use in a fruit salad and got to wondering how else I could use it. It turns out that it’s rather versatile. It is a natural complement to fruit, chocolate, vanilla, nuts, dairy and not surprisingly to all citrus flavors. A little goes a long way, start with just a few drops since you can always add more. Middle Eastern brands such as Carlo or Cortas are both good, and cost about $4 a bottle, which will last you a very, very long time. Cortas also makes an excellent pomegranate molasses. If you have access to bitter orange blossoms, you can also make orange blossom water. 

Here are some ways to use orange blossom water:

* Add some to fruit salad, it's especially good with strawberries

* Use a few drops and some honey to flavor yogurt or ricotta for a simple dessert 

* Add it to whipped cream, creme fraiche or mascarpone as a dessert topping

* Mix a bit into vanilla ice cream or panna cotta 

* Stir it into rice pudding before serving

* Sprinkle it on a platter of sliced oranges

* Put a few drops into crepe or pancake batter

* Add just a touch to iced tea, lemonade, fizzy water or cocktails

Use it to flavor smoothies and milkshakes, especially nut milk based ones

* Add some in place of vanilla in polenta cake, pound cake or citrus cakes

Here is a collection of Moroccan recipes using orange blossom water from Christine Benlafquih's About Moroccan Food site.

If you have another favorite way of using it, please do share it in the comments.