Everything's Coming Up Roses

Remember when I made rosewater? That kind was distilled, so it is crystal clear, with just the essential oils mixed in. Since then I have made another three or four batches, and at the bottom of these larger batches is left a really beautiful rose tea:

Well, it's not all that lovely until you drain off the faded, mushy rose petals. Then it's this really beautiful liquid. It has a stronger flavor than the distilled rosewater — ever-so-slightly bitter, with just a plant-like flavor. Like a tea. (Duh.)

That flavor should be fine for cooking sweets though, since any bitterness will be masked with sugar. The color is also a bonus. First up, rose syrup.

This is just a simple syrup — equal parts sugar and the rose tea, brought to a boil and cooled. I suppose with more sugar and more boiling, this could be made in a much thicker consistency for pancakes or ice cream, but I am planning to use it in its basic form to sweeten drinks. I'm thinking rose lemonade and rose mojitos for starters.

Once I made the syrup, I used it to make some ice cream. In Mexico I had some rose-flavored ice cream called pétalo de rosa, and it was really refreshing on a hot day. Here's my version:

Pétalo Ice Cream

1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
3/8 cup rose syrup
1/2 Tbs. rose water
1 cup half and half
2 cups heavy cream

Scald the milk (just until it bubbles on the edges), then remove from heat and stir in sugar until dissolved. Stir in remaining ingredients and chill for 30 minutes before using the ice cream maker.

The color is very subtle, so I will cop to adding just 1 drop of red food coloring. Normally I wouldn't have, but I wanted this to be just pink enough to differentiate from the vanilla I made the previous day.

The flavor of this is not easy to describe if you've never had rosewater in your food before. It's not as overtly floral as you might expect, although it definitely has a distinct flavor. Tiegan says it tastes like butter, and I think there's something to that ... although I couldn't say what or why. It's much more subtle than lavender, so even Jonas likes it (which was absolutely not the case for last summer's lavender "poison flower" honey ice cream). It's really delicious, if indescribable.

I'm definitely looking forward to trying rosewater in more sweets. Apparently rose was the colonial version of vanilla in baking, since it was far more readily available and affordable. It's kind of too bad that it's fallen by the wayside. Maybe we can bring it back?


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