Rosewater had always been one of those ingredients that frightened me a litte. It was exotic and unfamiliar, but there was also a certain allure that kept me wondering what I might do with it. When I came across a display of Turkish rosewater in the Levinsky market of Tel Aviv last summer, I decided to conquer my fear and bring some home.
Rosewater is traditionally used in a variety of Middle Eastern dishes including a popular pudding called malabi, Syrian stuffed pancakes called atayef and Syrian candied gourd for Rosh Hashanah just to name a few. Since procuring my own rosewater I have tried my hand at making several desserts including a rosewater and pistachio cake and even rosewater pistachio hamantaschen (both delicious)!
A quick search on Pinterest reveals an array of beautiful desserts, smoothies and even beauty products made with rosewater including rosewater pistachio cupcakes, rosewater and pistachio pavlova and rosewater cheesecake mousse parfait. So while it might seem a little different or scary, it appears that lots of people, both who grew up with the flavor and not, are using it in diverse ways to create fragrant, delicious and beautiful treats.
One note about rosewater: a little goes a long way. I always add just a 1/4 or 1/2 tsp at first, and then depending on the potency will add a bit more. But adding too much can make your dessert or dishes taste like soap. Not ideal.
I chose to use a little pink food coloring to evoke a little more rose-ness in this dessert, but this is totally unnecessary if you prefer not to use food colorings. You could also opt to top these sweet treats with edible rose petals for an extra special touch. Or just dive right in with a big bite.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom and sides of a square baking pan with foil or parchment paper so that some hangs over all four sides of the pan.
Place the graham crackers, pistachios, sugar and pinch of salt in a food processor fitted with blade attachment. Pulse until you have fine crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse 2-3 more times until mixed.
Using your fingers, push crumb mixture into the bottom of a square baking pan until bottom is completely covered. Put into fridge while you make the filling.
Beat the cream cheese and sugar together using a hand mixer. Add the egg and rosewater and mix again. Add food coloring if desired.
Pour cheesecake filling into prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until middle is still slightly jiggly.
Refrigerate for several hours until set. Cut into squares and serve still chilled.
For the crust:
8 whole graham crackers
1/4 cup ground pistachios plus 1 Tbsp (unsalted)
1 Tbsp sugar
5 Tbsp butter, melted
pinch of salt
For the cheesecake filling:
2 8 oz packages of full fat cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp rosewater
pink food coloring (optional)
additional ground pistachios for topping