Persian Orange Blossom Cookies : Scented Baking

Persian_orange_blossom_cookie_1

The writer Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin once said, “Smell and taste are in fact but a single composite sense, whose laboratory is the mouth and chimney is the nose.” I first heard this quote from Michelle Krell Kydd, who puts this philosophy into her deeds. Michelle organized the James Beard Foundation event with chef Bill Yosses and perfumer Christophe Laudamiel, during which the relationship between flavor and fragrance were explored in depth. As Michelle reflects, “Smell and taste hit us where we live—in memory and emotion, in the past and in the present, all simultaneously. This is what makes these particular senses so powerful.” Given the close link between the two senses, the discoveries one makes into the realm of cuisine translate into olfactory appreciation and vice versa. As an example from my own experiences, the beautiful note of bitter chocolate woven into Serge Lutens’s Borneo 1834 prompted me to create a cake that allowed the bitterness of chocolate to stand out. Similarly, a Thai basil stir-fry with bean sprouts had me craving a scent that pairs the lemony clove verdancy of this fascinating herb with vegetal musk. One passion never fails to feed another. …

Michelle’s recipe for Persian Orange Blossom cookies offers a perfect gustatory-olfactive experience—the luscious fragrance of these cookies is bound to fully satisfy both senses. An easy to make butter cookie dough serves as a canvass for the notes of spicy orange zest, honeyed orange blossom water and velvety vanilla. The subtle crunch of pistachios and their delicate flavor of sweet, green tree sap beautifully complement the orange sparkle. Each bit of the cookie is wonderful—the melting sweetness of butter and sugar followed by the explosion of orange flavor. The only way to describe it is addictive.

Persian Orange Blossom Cookies

Ingredients:
About 25-30 cookies

2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
2 sticks (8 ounces, 130 grams, 1 cup) butter, softened till it can be mixed with fork*
1/3 cup (75 grams) granulated sugar
2 eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons orange blossom water**
zest from one medium sized organic orange
1/3 cup (50 grams) apricot preserves (I’ve used orange, fig, plum and strawberry with great results)
3/4 cup (100 grams) chopped pistachios, lightly toasted

Sift flour and salt together in a mixing bowl. In another bowl, mix sugar with egg yolks until well combined and set aside. In order for the flavor ingredients to blend well, always add them to the fat first. In this case, in another bowl, mix vanilla, orange zest, orange blossom water and butter. Inhale to enjoy the heady sweet orange fragrance emanating from the mixture. Add the sugar-yolk paste to the scented butter and mix well. Add the wet mixture to the flour and salt and mix until everything is incorporated. Divide dough into two halves, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375F/190C. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper (or just butter them—a method that works well if like me you always seem to run out of parchment paper). Prepare three bowls–with preserves, with toasted pistachios, and with lightly mixed egg whites. Michelle recommends adding some almond extract to the egg whites, and this is certainly a wonderful addition. I am rather lukewarm towards the flavor of almond extract, therefore I skipped it. The nutty facet is less pronounced in the finished result, yet the lovely floral scent of orange water stands out beautifully.

Remove the dough from the fridge, one part at a time and roll small, 1 inch balls (walnut sized). Lightly flatten them. Dip the top of the ball into the egg whites and place on the cookie sheet leaving about 1 inch of space between each cookie. Lightly indent the top with a finger and place ¼ teaspoon of preserves, or slightly less in order to prevent jelly from melting and leaking. Arrange pistachio slices over the cookies (in a decorative style, like my variation in the photo). Alternatively, you can also dip the cookie into the chopped pistachios right after they have been glazed with egg white.

Bake for 12 minutes, reversing sheets from top to bottom and back to front after first 6 minutes. The cookies should be barely colored on the sides, slightly darker on the edges. Wait for 10 minutes and transfer onto a rack to cool.

Ingredient notes:
*The butter can be microwaved on a low setting, for about 60 seconds or less. Please be sure not to melt it completely.

**Orange flower water can be found at health food and gourmet stores. I prefer A. Monteux Orange Flower Water from France, which can be purchased at Kalustyan’s. I find it to be richer and sweeter than the greener orange blossom waters from Lebanon.

Photo © Bois de Jasmin.

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36 Comments

  • Cait: What a fantastic recipe and it was beautifully presented, too! December 1, 2006 at 2:52am Reply

  • Madelyn E: Dearest Victoria,
    What a mouth-watering recipe ! You may certainly invite me over anytimr for these delicious cookies and a cuppa…coffee or tea ! I enjoy orange scent /aroma in desserts even in salads. You never fail to surprise and delight me with your daily prose !
    I may attempt to make these as I , along with you , Chaya and other dear readers adore cooking, baking ..all the culinary arts !
    Madelyn E December 1, 2006 at 3:15am Reply

  • chayaruchama: Don’t I just love you, Vika!
    A girl after my own heart…

    Someone OUGHT to create that Thai basil scent…

    And, like it or no, there are few folk who can resist someone who smells edible-
    All’s fair in love and war [not really, but it sounds marvellous, anyway…] !
    Have a lovely w/e… December 1, 2006 at 7:33am Reply

  • Laura: This sounds absolutely amazing, this recipe! I am really enjoying your combining your food interests and talents with your fragrance connoisseurship. I’m going to make this cookie this month, I promise myself! December 1, 2006 at 8:48am Reply

  • Elle: What a wonderful quote from Brillat-Savarin! I’ve been meaning to read Fisher’s translation of his Physiology of Taste for about 37 centuries now. Must put it at the top of my “to read” stack.
    These cookies sound divine! Orange blossom water, pistachios…such childhood memories! I love these posts where you unite scent and taste. Thanks! December 1, 2006 at 8:52am Reply

  • Marina: These posts are sweet torture. Oh, the cookies sound delicious! December 1, 2006 at 9:27am Reply

  • Heather: A wonderful post – I’m looking forward to making the recipe. I have to mention that orange blossom water has long been my “secret weapon” in cake-making. I add it to my milk chocolate cake and to my chocolate buttercream (about a teaspoon to the buttercream recipe) and also replace part of the water or oil in the cake with orange juice. It’s spectacular, and works equally well in cake mixes. I use the Caswell-Massey orange flower water. Stored in the refrigerator, it will last for years. December 1, 2006 at 10:30am Reply

  • violetnoir: And, V, when you are finished baking them, please send me a care package, lol!

    Hugs! December 1, 2006 at 12:40pm Reply

  • Tigs: The recipe sounds incredible, V (and Michelle). I love orange blossom water – it’s wonderful in tajines as well as desserts. I also love that marvelous sticky Sharbat you find in Southeast Asian stores. I believe it has rose damascena in it? Thanks, by the way, for your amendation to my JCE post… December 1, 2006 at 2:10pm Reply

  • patchamour: Lovely recipe. These sound like a wonderful, sophisticated addition to the Christmas cookie baking. Many thanks. December 2, 2006 at 4:06pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Cait, thank you! I enjoy taking these photos. December 3, 2006 at 10:39pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Madelyn, thank you very much! I am so glad that this appealed to you. Michelle was very kind to share this recipe with all of us. I made these cookies a few times already. December 3, 2006 at 10:49pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Chaya, an edible scent can be very sophisticated, of course! I am still dreaming of that Thai basil creation. December 3, 2006 at 10:50pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Laura, thank you for your kind words! I am excited to hear about the outcome of your cookie making. Or to see your drawing of them1 December 3, 2006 at 10:51pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Elle, I am reading a collection of Fisher’s writing right now. Her writing is just incredible!

    Orange and pistachio is a combination I cannot resist. The colour is another great aspect, of course! December 3, 2006 at 10:54pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Marina, they are delicious! I think that I might reach for some right now. 🙂 December 3, 2006 at 10:58pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Heather, thank you for some of these tips! Chocolate and orange blossom water definitely seems like a spectacular combination. I am planning to implement more ideas. December 3, 2006 at 11:04pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tigs, it was a great post, and I enjoyed reading it. I was thinking about it today as I passed up Rose Ikebana for Une Rose. 🙂

    Sharbat contains rose, as far as I remember, and it is also a favourite of mine. Such a big and bold flavour. December 3, 2006 at 11:06pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Patchamour, thank you! I hope that you will let me know how they will turn out. December 3, 2006 at 11:07pm Reply

  • March: V, that is so odd! My comment seems to have disappeared. I wanted to compliment you on a recipe that combines my favorite flavors. And I don’t understand why there aren’t more orange cookie recipes, given how many we have for lemon cookies. I just noticed those are pistachios, however, and not almonds — but I bet almonds would work nicely, too. December 4, 2006 at 7:32am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: March, that is odd. I have not seen, nor I have received an email notification of its being posted. Well, thank for reposting. Yes, I bet that almonds would work well. I think that the next time I shall toast and grind them before mixing into the dough. December 4, 2006 at 2:40pm Reply

  • koneko: I cannot wait to try this recipe! I have a recipe that reminds me of this, but w/ an orange blossom jelly and toasted almonds. It was very good, and I want to try this one too! December 18, 2006 at 8:32pm Reply

  • eso: i just made these and they are incredible! best cookies ever. thank you for the recipe! December 25, 2006 at 6:26pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, orange blossom jelly alone sounds amazing! Please let me know how you like these cookies. December 27, 2006 at 1:55pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Eso, I am so glad to hear this. The recipe is indeed very easy to make, and it is delicious. December 27, 2006 at 1:56pm Reply

  • Jules: I know it’s been over a year since people posted about this, but I came up with this article searching under orange blossom water. I am going to make it this weekend, but was hoping you could tell me please, Are the pistachios salted or un-salted? Thanks so much! December 7, 2007 at 4:40am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Jules,
    Pistachios are raw and unsalted. I would recommend soaking them to remove the skin and then slicing. Once they are soft, they are easy to slice.
    As for orange blossom water, I have to add that some of the Lebanese brands are fantastic–Mymoune, for instance, is excellent. Puts many others to shame. Cortas is not so great, on the other hand. December 7, 2007 at 12:09pm Reply

  • Jules: Ah! thanks for answering so quickly! I’m going to be making them tonight. I did happen to get raw and unsalted, lucky me! The recipie calls for lightly toasted pistachios. Is this in additional to the baking they’ll get on the cookie? Or do I have to toast them a little beforehand. I did get the french orange blossom water A Monteux. I like putting it in Rice pudding along with golden raisins. It’s simply divine. December 8, 2007 at 10:51am Reply

  • Jules: Ah! thanks for answering so quickly! I’m going to be making them tonight. I did happen to get raw and unsalted, lucky me! The recipie calls for lightly toasted pistachios. Is this in additional to the baking they’ll get on the cookie? Or do I have to toast them a little beforehand. I did get the french orange blossom water A Monteux. I like putting it in Rice pudding along with golden raisins. It’s simply divine. December 8, 2007 at 11:15am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Jules, Michelle called for toasted pistachios, but you can use either toasted or raw. Since the cookies will bake with pistachios already incorporated, they will lightly toast in the oven. December 10, 2007 at 9:28pm Reply

  • Chrissy: I know this article was posted over 4 years ago, but in case you still receive comments, I wanted to ask if you have ever heard of a company called “Woodland Fairy Acres” (www.WoodlandFairyAcres.com)? They sell marshmallow mixes and scone mixes in a variety of floral flavors (including orange blossom). Their stuff is really wonderful and your article made me think of them! I didn’t know if you’d get a kick out of their products, since they are floral-based too! March 8, 2011 at 2:24pm Reply

  • Victoria: Chrissy, thank you very much! I will definitely check it out, sounds so interesting. March 8, 2011 at 6:33pm Reply

  • Ann: What a discovery! I will be looking for the orange blossom water tomorrow and make the cookies! July 15, 2013 at 8:45pm Reply

  • Kathleen Giles: My family absolutely loved these cookies, I also made orange blossom water Madeleine…which were very popular as well. These are a fabulous cookie. I’ll be making these again and again. June 10, 2015 at 7:30pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for letting me know, Kathleen! I’m very glad to hear it. June 11, 2015 at 1:33pm Reply

  • Kathleen Giles: These were a big hit with my family…wonderful recipe. June 23, 2015 at 6:25pm Reply

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