Orange flower water, or orange blossom water, is the clear, perfumed by-product of the distillation of fresh bitter-orange blossoms for their essential oil.
This essential water has traditionally been used as aromatizer in many Mediterranean traditional dessert dishes, such as in France for the gibassier and pompe à l’huile or in Spain for the Roscón de Reyes (King cake), but has more recently found its way into Western cuisine. For example, orange flower water is used in Europe to flavour madeleines, in Mexico to flavour little wedding cakes and Pan de Muerto, and in the United States to make orange blossom scones and marshmallows. Orange flower water is also used as an ingredient in some cocktails, such as the Ramos Gin Fizz. In Malta and many North African as well as Middle Eastern countries, orange blossom water is widely used as medicine for tummy ache and given to babies as well as adults.
It has been a traditional ingredient used often in North African as well as in Middle Eastern cooking. In Arab variants of baklava, orange blossom water is often mixed with the sweet syrup for flavour. Orange blossoms are believed to be used in this manner because they are seen as the traditional bridal flower and, therefore, symbolise purity (white, small and delicate). It is also added to plain water in the Middle East to mask high mineral content and other unpleasant flavours (e.g. those arising from storage in a qulla, a type of clay jug that keeps water cool in a manner similar to the zeer); some add the fragrance irrespective of the taste of the plain water.
In Greece and Cyprus orange blossom water is called anthonero (ανθόνερο) while in Malta it is known as Ilma Żahar.
In Algeria and Morocco orange blossom water is called Ilma Zhar (Morocco) or Ma Zhar (Algeria), in Moroccan / Algerian languages meaning “orange blossom water,” in contrast to Ilma Ward, which is rose blossom water. Orange blossom water serves two purposes in Algeria and Morocco. One usage is a perfume or freshener, usually given to guests to wash their hands upon entering the host house or before drinking tea, in a special silver or metal container; recognisable in the Algerian or Moroccan tea set. but this old custom is fading away in the present day. The main usage of orange blossom water, however, is in Algerian cuisine and Moroccan cuisine, especially as an ingredient for traditional sweets and sometimes to aromatize drinks such as coffee.
Look for orange flower water in the gourmet section of large grocery stores, in Middle Eastern or halal markets.
- rose water
- vanilla extract
- orange extract
- orange-flavoured liqueur (Triple Sec)
- orange zest