I was recently sent a few flavour extracts from the Nielsen-Massey Vanillas company to use in my baking. I am no stranger to the Nielsen Massey line. I have a drawer containing quite a few different ones, and of course their line of Vanilla products have been a favourite of mine for a number of years now.
Their most famous product is their Vanilla extract. Started in 1907 in the United States, this family-owned business has gone from strength to strength. Want to know the secret of their super high quality? They use a cold-extraction process, slowly and gently extracting every bit of flavour from the beans, without harming them using heat. They also have quite a variety of other pure extracts, including coffee, almond, chocolate, lemon, orange, peppermint, orange blossom and rose water. I was sent a bottle each of the orange blossom, vanilla and rose water.
Like I said, I use the Vanilla all the time so there is nothing really new about that, but this was my first time using Rose Water or Orange Blossom Water. If you are a fan of turkish delight you would already be familiar with the flavour of Rose Water as that is the predominant flavour in that lovely sweet treat.
Sweet and fragrant Rose Water is an elegant steam distillate of rose petals. Its delicate floral notes are perfect in Middle Eastern, Indian and Greek cuisine and offer a wonderful accent to delicate French pastry glazes and creams. In addition to pairing well with vanilla, cream, white and dark chocolate and mild cheeses such as Brie or cream cheese, this water blends nicely with fruits like strawberry, raspberry, lychee and mango. Rose Water can also elevate sweetened hot water or milk and is a delightful way to flavour sugars and cookies.
I did a search on line and came up with a recipe by Sophie Grigson for a delicate sounding Almond Cake with a Rosewater and Lemon Syrup. It almost sounded Greek with its flavours and of course the texture of the cake very much reminded me of a special Greek Cake that one of my friends back home always made. I fell in love with it the first time she made it, and I fell in love with this cake as well.
It's incredibly moist . . . and rich. You start it in a cold oven, which means that the outside surfaces bake first, leaving the centre with an almost damp and incredibly squidgy texture, all of which is greatly enhanced by the Rosewater and Lemon Syrup which you spoon over it as it is cooling . . . a bit at a time so that it soaks into the cake, adding to it's wonderful depth of flavour and richness.
The syrup had an almost perfumed quality, not at all unpleasant in the least. The lemon and rosewater went together beautifully. I simply dusted the top of the cake with a bit of icing sugar to serve. I thought a nice dollop of crème fraiche or Greek yogurt would go perfectly with this, and . . . quite simply, it did.
*Almond Cake with a Rosewater & Lemon Syrup*
A deliciously moist and different cake. Very easy to make. The cake is started in a cold oven, so no need to preheat.
For the cake:
45g slightly stale bread crumbs (3/4 cup)
200g caster sugar (1 cup)
100g ground almonds (1 cup plus 3 TBS)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
200ml sunflower oil (13 1/2 TBS)
4 large free range eggs
the finely grated zest of one unwaxed lemon
For the syrup:
100ml water (3 1/2 fluid ounces)
the juice of one lemon
85g caster sugar (7 TBS)
1 1/2 TBS rose water
Butter an 8 inch round cake tin and line the base with paper. Set aside.
Mix together the bread crumbs, sugar, almonds and baking powder. Beat together the oil and eggs and add them to the dry mixture, beating them in well.
Stir in the lemon zest and pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Put the cake tin in a cold oven. Set the oven temperature to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5.
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the cake is a nice brown colour and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before
removing to a plate.
Make the syrup while the cake is cooling. Put all of the ingredients into a saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Allow to simmer for 3 minutes.
Pierce the surface of the warm cake all over with a skewer. Spoon the syrup over top. Allow the cake to cool completely, spooning the excess syrup over top again from time to time until it is completely absorbed.
Serve the cake cut into wedges along with some plain Greek yogurt, creme fraiche, mascarpone cheese or clotted cream.
We really, really enjoyed this cake and we were very fond of the flavour from the rose water in the syrup. I think it would be very nice in cupcake frostings for tea parties, or in delicate Madeleine cakes or friands.
Watch this space!
Many thanks to the folks at Nielsen-Massey and Joanne for sending these to me. In a few days I'll show you what I have done with the Orange Blossom Water!