Orange flower water, or orange blossom water, is a clear, perfumed distillation of fresh bitter-orange blossoms.
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 flavor madeleines, in Mexico to flavor 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.
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 flavor. Orange blossoms are believed to be used in this manner because they are seen as the traditional bridal flower and, therefore, symbolize purity (white, small and delicate). It is also added to plain water in the Middle East to mask high mineral content and other unpleasant flavors (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.
There are many brands available that are made in North Africa, Europe and the Middle East. There are also several brands made in Canada and in the United States.
In Greece and Cyprus orange blossom water is called anthonero (ανθόνερο) while in Malta it is known as Ilma Zahar.
In Morocco orange blossom water is called Ilma Zhar, phrase in Arabic literally meaning "flower water," in contrast to Llma Ward, which is rose blossom water. Orange blossom water serves two purposes in 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; recognizable in the Moroccan tea set. but this old custom is fading away in the present day. The main usage of orange blossom water however, is in Moroccan cuisine especially as an ingredient for traditional sweets.
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