Nielsen-Massey is legendary for their vanilla extracts, they're heady and pure. Less frequently touted—but equally wonderful—are their rosewater and orange blossom water. Sold in two-ounce bottles, the orange blossom is made from Seville bitter oranges from the Middle East and Spain. The orange flavor notes are bold and clear—use it to brighten a dish of rice pudding with toasted almonds, or add a few drops to a classic shortbread recipe.
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This Orange and Almond Cake is full of intriguing textures and flavors—a batter made from ground almonds and bread crumbs scented with delicate orange flower water and orange zest. Eggs are added in two stages: yolks into the batter and fluffy whipped whites just before baking to ensure a wonderfully spongy cake. Instead of topping the cake with an overly sugary glaze, David opts instead to spread a thin layer of whipped cream over the top. Even without adding sugar the whipped cream has a lovely, delicate dairy sweetness that plays off the cake perfectly.
Think of these little pastries as drier, neater versions of baklava that you can hold in your hands without the services of a wet-nap. And since they call for puff pastry instead of phyllo dough, they come together in a fraction of the time without all the hassle of painting melted butter on tissue-thin sheets of pastry.
It's fascinating to see which spices and seasonings one cuisine adopts from another—but I'm more interested in those they leave behind. The answer to why some ingredients don't make the cut are often riddles of history, economics, and the whims of traders, merchants, and tastemakers. Which is an elaborate way of saying that I don't know why Americans haven't glommed on to orange blossom water while rose water and rose petals line more shelves and pastry counters. I'm just glad it's here now.