A couple of months ago, my dear friend Lyns sent me a bottle of Rose Water in a package of liners, etc. Ever since I got it, I’ve been trying to decide what to make with it (it came with a recipe for Vanilla Rose Rice Pudding, which I will make someday, I just wanted something different). So I asked that very question on Facebook. And whaddaya know? The lovely Gina, another of my fellow bloggers from Cooking the Books, linked me to a recipe on the Food Network website. And it sounded perfect.
Rose water is frequently used in Iranian and Indian cuisine, to flavor milk as well as sweets (cookies, ice cream and even tea). In Lebanon, it’s added to lemonade. In Western Europe it’s used to flavor marzipan and madeleines, little scalloped French sponge cake/cookies. Another interesting fact about rose water thanks to Wikipedia:
Rose water was also used to make Waverly Jumbles, a type of cookie much favoured by the American President James Monroe. American and European bakers enjoyed the floral flavouring of rose water in their baking until the 19th century when vanilla flavouring became popular.
I decided I liked the whole Victorian 18th century appeal of it, so I wanted to go with that. For some reason, too, it reminds me of Victorian Christmas cookies. The Victorian’s loved their “exotic” tastes and oddities (which is why many of them had genuine Egyptian sarcophagi in their parlors, complete with mummies). They loved anything Asian or Indian in flavor, it made them feel more worldly. I’ve been in a Victorian state of mind since reading a Victoria magazine (for the first time in forever) lately, and I’m a huge history geek so to me this all fit together perfectly. Look at the recipe for Queen cake on this page, and check out these Victorian cookies. Rose water!
Let me just say this: this is NOT a cookie for the faint of heart or the finicky. If you don’t like different, unique or exotic tastes, don’t bother trying it. Kids probably won’t like them, and if you aren’t familiar with the taste/smell of rose water in food, you might be convinced it tastes like your grandmother’s perfumed powder room. That said- they’re a completely different taste, and something that, in a crowd of foodies or culinary connoisseurs, will most likely be at least appreciated, if not loved.
I thought they were very good, in a very unique way. Stress on the word unique. They are not like a chocolate chip cookie in the way that you can sit and eat four or five with a glass of milk. They’re more like something to be savored. In other words, perfect for Christmastime. They’d be really good with Champagne, I bet, so maybe they’d make a good New Year’s Eve party cookie.
EXOTIC SPICE COOKIES WITH CARDAMOM, GINGER & ROSE WATER
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 ¼ teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup chopped crystallized ginger
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- ½ cup vegetable shortening, room temperature
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 teaspoon rosewater
- ¾ cup turbinado (raw) sugar, for rolling
- Whisk the flour, ground ginger, baking soda, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, pepper and salt in a medium bowl until blended. Mix in the crystallized ginger. Set aside momentarily.
- In a large bowl beat the brown sugar, butter and shortening with an electric mixer until fluffy (do not overbeat-it will add too much air). Add the egg, honey and rosewater and beat until blended. Stir in the flour mixture with a wooden spoon, mixing until just until blended. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray 2 cookie sheets with nonstick cooking spray. Spoon the turbinado sugar in thick layer onto small plate. Using wet hands, form dough into 1 ¼-inch balls; roll in sugar to coat completely. Place balls on prepared sheets, spacing 2 to 3 inches apart.
- Bake cookies until cracked on top but still soft to touch, about 11 to 13 minutes. Cool on sheets 1 minute. Carefully transfer cookies to wire racks; cool completely.
I did not use turbinado sugar, I used red sugar because it was Christmas-y. Rebellious.
Speaking of rebellious.. I am a rebellious baker at times. I laugh in the face of ingredient lists, make my own self-rising flour while listening to Flogging Molly, use mayonnaise instead of eggs (only sometimes) and substitute regular flour for cake flour while crossing my fingers and listening to Bing Crosby (hey- you’ve gotta have variety!). So I was planning on omitting the crystallized ginger altogether, but only because I didn’t have any on hand. But I ended up running out and getting some, and I’d say that it’s pretty worthwhile to do so. The texture adds something to the cookies. I’m not a big fan of crystallized ginger, myself, so I gave my mother the remaining ginger in the container. If you aren’t a fan either, then maybe you could look into buying just what you’ll need for these, or you could just omit it altogether. The ground ginger would be enough I’m sure.
So basically… if you’re not sure that you’ll like these, halve the recipe and make just half. You’ll still have plenty of cookies if you like them, and if not, it’s not that bad of a waste to get rid of them (or pawn them off on someone else).