Chocolate Rose Water Cookies

Rose water, the liquid left over from steeping rose petals to make perfume, is a common ingredient in Persian desserts. So are almonds. In a nod to two holidays this month with roots in Iran – Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which is celebrated on the first day of spring, and Purim, the Jewish festival commemorating the tale of Esther, an ancient Persian queen – I created a shortbread cookie glazed with rose water icing and sprinkled with toasted almonds.

A personal invention, these light, airy, yet chocolatey cookies aren’t traditional by any stretch. Cocoa powder, which I included to contrast the delicate flavor of rose water, is rarely used in traditional Persian cooking. But these cookies still evoke the spirit of this month’s holidays, which are celebrated, in part, by preparing delicious treats: triangular, jam-filled hamantaschen on Purim, and nan-e nokhodchi and nan-e berenji, cookies made of chickpea flour and rice flour, respectively, on Nowruz. Enjoy the rose water cookies on any occasion.

Chocolate Rose Water Cookies

1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
1 tablespoon rose water*
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

Rose water glaze:
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon rose water
3 tablespoons milk

Toasted almond slices, for sprinkling

Note: For a rich, fudgy variation, reduce rose water to 1 teaspoon and increase cocoa powder to 1/4 cup. Follow directions below for preparing dough. After mixing in flour, add 1 tablespoon of milk to form a cohesive dough. Roll into balls, and flatten between the palms of your hands until 1/2 inch thick. Bake for 12-13 minutes, and then follow directions for glazing. 

*Rose water is available at Middle Eastern and South Asian specialty stores.

Preheat oven to 350 ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Prepare the dough: In a large bowl, mix together butter and rose water until smooth. Add sugar, beating until light and creamy. Stir in cocoa powder and salt until smooth. Mix in flour until well combined. You may need to knead the dough one or two times for it to come together (but be careful not to over-knead, as this forms too much gluten and makes cookies dense and chewy.)

Shape the cookies: On a clean surface, roll out dough until 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick (if your kitchen is warm, you may need to chill the dough in the fridge before rolling it.)

Shape dough into circles using a round cookie cutter (if you don’t have one,  use the rim of a metal 1/4-sized measuring cup. Turn the measuring cup upside down and press it into the dough to form circles.)

Bake: Transfer cookies to prepared baking sheet, and bake for 13-15 minutes (monitor the cookies closely; if you used a small cookie cutter, they may take less time.)  Remove from oven, and let cool.

Glaze: While the cookies are cooling, prepare the glaze: stir sugar, rose water, and milk in a small bowl until smooth. Set aside for a few minutes to thicken. When cookies have completely cooled, coat with glaze using the back of a spoon.

Sprinkle on toasted almond slices, crumbling them with your fingers to break them into smaller pieces. Store leftover cookies in the fridge in an airtight container.

Yields around 20 cookies.


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