The phrase ‘old lady perfume’ tends to come up a lot in conversations about rosewater. I never knew until recently quite how divisive it is: there are people like me who can happily consume box after box of rose-scented Turkish delight, and then there are those who cannot stand even a whiff of it. It’s a bit like lavender or aniseed: people either love it or they hate it. Due to this, under normal circumstances, I would be apprehensive about using it when cooking for others; but last week I was baking for the watching of The Great British Bake Off’s ‘Botanical Week’, so abandoned that apprehension in favour of cooking the first thing that sprung to mind. I figure if the others didn’t like it, they could have gin instead. I also have plenty of that.
Since GBBO started again a couple of months ago, I have been watching it avidly with friends. The tense moments preceding baking catastrophes and gentle innuendos are far better enjoyed with others, particularly when those others also bring episode-themed baked goods. Among my friends, we even have our own hashtag: #GBBOParty. Botanical Week seemed like a bit of an anomaly in the usual line-up of Bread Week, Cake Week, Pastry Week and Dessert Week, and I wasn’t quite sure how to incorporate fruits, flowers and plants when the immediate ones that spring to mind are out of season in October. I had plans to go scouting around greengrocers and florists, and then was given a deadline, so needed something quick. Cue a trusty shortbread recipe and an old bottle of rosewater lurking in the back of the cupboard.
Being naturally optimistic, I always think that if I chuck an extra ingredient in an old recipe, it will work exactly as planned. This approach has, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, caught me out a number of times, but this time it worked well. I added just enough rose to give the shortbread a floral hint without overpowering it completely, and even those who were sceptical to begin with enjoyed it. I didn’t even have to crack open the Tanqueray.
Makes one round that can be cut into eight or 12 triangles
150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
75g caster sugar
150g plain flour
75g rice flour
2 tbsp rosewater
Preheat the oven to 175°c. Lightly dust a loose-bottomed fluted tart tin with flour.
In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a freestanding mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the rosewater and sift in the two flours and, using a fork, bring the mixture together into a crumbly dough.
Turn the dough out on to the work surface and knead a couple of times until smooth. Using your hands, press it into the tin. Score the segments into the surface using a sharp knife, then prick all over with a fork. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until browned. Leave to cool in the tin before turning out on to a wire rack.
One year ago: Spinach burek