Rosewater Shortbread

Rosewater Shortbread Recipe

Looks like there is a big storm headed our way, so I'm going to sneak these in here, and then do a few fun things like check all the batteries in the flashlights. Also, I know this is holiday cookie season, and perhaps these beauties aren't altogether appropriate - but I can't help but share them with you. They're buttery whole wheat shortbreads fragrant with rosewater, flecked with toasted nuts, and dried rose petals. They have a crunchy dusting of sugar on top that provides a satisfying, sweet tongue scratch, and are punctuated with black sesame. I'm not even going to lie - it took a few attempts to nail them down. As many of you know - dealing with floral flavors can be a bit tricky. But the idea for them developed as I was attempting tiny cookies to bring to a friend's house who was cooking an impressive Ottolenghi-inspired feast. I was tasked with dessert, and thought these would be a pretty finish.

Rosewater Shortbread Recipe Rosewater Shortbread Recipe Rosewater Shortbread Recipe Rosewater Shortbread Recipe

This trick with florals is figuring out how much is too much, and how little is too little. The first couple of attempts I used dried rose petals only, and a good amount. But the flavor got pushed around a bit, bullied and overpowered by the browning butter. So I gave the rose notes a boost by layering the petals in the dough with a splash of rose water. They dough immediately became more fragrant, balanced, and what I intended (and hoped for) from the start. I'd still suggest using a bit of caution when baking with rose water, because each bottle seems to vary in strength, quality, and scent. Strictly for reference, I'll mention that I used Nielsen-Massey Rose Water. If you're unsure about the quality or strength of your rose water, start with half, and taste the dough. You can always adjust with more from there. Trust your senses :)!

I hope to see some of you locals at the Remodelista Markethere in San Francisco this weekend. Hopefully the worst of the weather will have moved through by then.

Rosewater Shortbread

As far as dried rose petals go, I typically dry my own from unsprayed roses I buy at the farmers market. I've seen them available in Mexican grocers, and also if you search around online you can find them. Also, they're a very pretty component to these cookies, but if you had to leave them out, and rely on the rose water only, they'd still be delicious.

1 cup / 4.5 oz / 130 g unbleached all-purpose flour
Scant 1 cup / 4.5 oz / 130g whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup / 1 oz / 30 g lightly toasted, sliced, pecans
1 tablespoon dried rose petals, plus more for sprinkling
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds, plus more for sprinkling

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup / 3.5 oz / 100 g sugar
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons rose water
large grain sugar, for sprinkling

In a medium bowl whisk together the all-purpose and whole wheat flours, pecans, rose petals, and sesame seeds. Set aside.

In a separate medium bowl, or in the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar, salt and rosewater, until smooth and creamy, about a minute. Add the flour mixture and mix until barely combined. Scrape the dough into a ball, and if you feel like it needs to come together a bit more, knead it once or twice on the counter top, or until it is smooth. Shape into a round, flat patty shape wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate for a couple hours, or overnight.

About fifteen minutes before you're ready to stamp out your cookie shapes, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat to 350F / 180C. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll the dough out 1/4-inch thick on a lightly floured counter top, and stamp into desired shapes. You can collect and roll out dough scraps as well, after your first round of stamping. If the dough gets too warm, put it back in the refrigerator for a bit. Place the cookies at least an inch apart on a prepared baking sheets, sprinkle each cookie with a combination of large-grain sugar, rose petals and sesame seeds, then chill them one last time in the freezer for another ten minutes.

Bake until the cookies are golden at the edges, 13 to 15 minutes, but watch them closely. It's more about coloring than time here. Rotate the sheets back to front about 9 minutes in. Remove from the oven and after a minute or two transfer to a baking rack to cool completely.

Store leftovers in a big jar, they keep beautifully for days. The recipe makes dozens of tiny cookies, the yield really depends on the size of your cookie cutter.

Prep time: 20 min - Cook time: 15 min

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!
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These look STUNNING. I grew up with rosewater cookies, so this is like a modern twist. I love the crushed rose petals on top. :] // ▲ ▲

~ Carmen ~

These look absolutely divine! I can't help but notice how perfect all of your photos are either - how do you do it? xx

Jodi Duncan

These look so elegant and beautiful!!

Becky @ DisplacedHousewife

Where do you buy rose water?

HS: Hi Louise - you can typically find it in the baking section of grocery stores (near the vanilla), or in middle eastern, or "ethnic" aisles....Basically, you might have to hunt around a bit, or ask - alternately, you can order it online.


This is art! Art biscuits!! (I'm an Aussie and we don't say 'cookies') but even so! You are such a brilliant artist!! Thank you!!


These biscuits looks like those you see and hear about in the fairy tales, they are so pretty!
Thanks for the recipe :) x

Julie @ WolfItDown

These look exquisite Heidi, I need to get me some rosewater to give these bad boys a try!

Mike @TheIronYou

How are these not appropriate for the holiday season?! They are a refreshing change on a classic. I love rosewater in sweets but I've never used it in shortbread and can't wait to do so!

Katie @ Whole Nourishment

I love the flavors you used for your cookies Heidi! They must be delicious. And, frankly, I'd much rather have some of these than the same old Christmas cookies. A bit or originality never hurt anyone :)
Thanks for sharing them!


I don't know how I happened upon these mouthwatering cookies. Here I am and now I will be craving them until I can find the time to make them!!! Just the loveliest delectable edibles I think I have ever seen.


Yum, they look amazing!! Would love to try these. Where can I purchase dried rose petals?


These would be so pretty at a wedding as well!

Barb Bamber

these are gorgeous! i can already taste them in my mind. been looking for something elegant and a little different for gift giving, and this is perfect.

thank you heidi!


These cookies sound delightful and look beautiful! I am Persian and a lot of the food I grew up eating - especially the deliciously aromatic rice dishes, were always made with rosewater (and of course, saffron). I am a huge fan of your work for many reasons, but one of my favorites is seeing the way you incorporate the traditional flavors that I'm so accustomed to in such contemporary ways.


These are beautiful Heidi. I agree, it's difficult to get the right amount of flavor when working with florals. If you put too much rose water the product can end up tasting like potpourri. These would be perfect for a wedding or baby shower.

Linda @ Veganosity

These are so beautiful, Heidi! Can you give a source for the dried rose petals?

HS: Hi Marisa, I'll go add a reference in the headnotes, but in short I typically dry my own from unsprayed roses I buy at the farmers market. I've seen them available in Mexican grocers, and also if you search around online you can find them.

Marisa Bulzone

This looks so lovely! Ever since having our second child, we have precious little time for cooking -- looking forward to more "quick and easy" weeknight recipes :) !

Liz J

Hello ! Do you think i can replace the butter by almond butter for a vegan alternative ?
Thank you !


These look perfect for my holiday party - a nice sweet bite but delicate and sophisticated. Can't wait to try.

Alice Dishes

Oh these are just gorgeous! I hardly use flowers in baking, but these have me re-thinking that decision : )

Abby @ The Frosted Vegan

I love rosewater cookies as well!! I always have a bottle in the fridge and used dried rose petals once but wasn't crazy for the texture. Also look up "jalaab" its a drink that has a bit of rosewater in it..really nice!

Samantha @FerraroKitchen

I completely agree with you about cooking with florals. I tried baking lavender cookies one time, and I had to make many batches to make sure I brought out enough of the lavender flavor. This shortbread looks delicious! I love that dog cookie cutter you have!

Lisa @ Healthy Nibbles & Bits

You continue to be the master at pairing flavors and textures together that one would not initially expect! Pinned :)

Christina @ The Beautiful Balance

This is one gorgeous cookie! And such a unique flavour!

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

Rosewater has such a distinctive powerful flavor, I prefer a splash of it in homemade ginger-lemonade. These look so delicately beautiful--good luck tomorrow!


Thank you so much for sharing! I am such a sucker for florals in baked goods, and have been meaning to try a rosewater shortcake for ages.


These are just like nokhodchi, which I was introduced to by an Iranian friend. Did they happen to be your inspiration?


I love the delicious floral flavour of rosewater and petals. Something about eating flowers feels special :) I've adapted the ingredients for my allergies so my version is different (no gluten or dairy), but these are so incredibly perfect and delicious! Thank you for sharing!

Christine // my natural kitchen

My wife and I have been making "Shrewsbury Cakes" for years, using a 17th-century recipe that amounts to a rosewater-flavored shortbread. We've never tried adding rose petals, much less sesame seeds.


These look absolutely amazing---as do all of your photos! At first I thought the sesame seeds in the photo were black chia seeds. I recently started baking with chia seeds and I've had great success with the recipes I have made so far. I was wondering if you have experience baking with chia seeds and if so, do you have any tips/ rules to share or links to recipes? Thanks so much!

Ivy Larson

For the Aussies - you can buy dried rose buds from T2 its the tea blend called "Just Rose" I use that tea for anything like this that requires dried rose petals.


These sound so delicately perfect! Also, I love love love anything that involves rosewater and dried rose petals, on my todo list they go! :-)


These sound so delicately perfect! Also, I love love love anything that involves rosewater and dried rose petals, on my todo list they go! :-)


Love the cookie cutters -- is that something you sell?

Thanks Linn - no, those are from my personal collection. Although, I'll keep my eyes peeled!


I bought dried rose petals recently from an amazing tea shop in Portland called Jasmine Pearl, you can buy their stuff online! I haven't tried them yet but they smell and look divine and now I have a recipe to try...thank you!!


these look ever so pretty - and perfect for a Middle Eastern inspired feast. I had a Persian Nanny once who was a wonderful cook and made me some similar cookies, they have such great variations - using ground nuts as well as the rosewater flavourings. These look fab.


These look lovely, and I can't wait to make them. Only point point of confusion... Maybe I'm just a cookie newbie, but you mentioned put the oven racks at the top and bottom thirds, but its not clear which one you put the cookie sheets on while baking? Did you mean to put them on both and swap them at 9m? -Thanks!


For those interested, I found a set of small cookie cutters (fondant cutters, actually, but they will work for this) at Michael's Craft store. Could probably buy them at any place that sells cake crafting supplies.


I wish I could try them right now ...YUMMY :)


Wow! These just lit my senses up! Very beautiful!


These look lovely. I am planning to take them to a party in a few days! Do you think black chia seeds would work in place of the sesame, or do you think their gelling properties would interfere with the dough?

Hi Kat - I'd skip the chia - you could use regular sesame seeds, or leave them out all together...a wildcard idea might be to use some puffed brown rice crisp cereal?...


Also found out you can fast-track the dried rose petals via microwaving them (between layers of paper towels, on microwave plate with another plate on top). I started with a minute and then did 20s intervals until I got the dryness needed. Wiped the top plate to get the excess moisture out after the first round.

not terribly organic :) but it works if you are like me and want to make these sooner than the 3+ days it may take to dry them naturally.


These are too elegant to eat :D I'd love to try something with rosewater again....I only had it once on a cupcake and I was delightfully surprised!

ellie | fit for the soul

These are the most elegant looking shortbread I have ever seen. So beautiful, and I love the flavor of roses, so I know I will love them.

kristie {birch and wild}

Like all your food, these cookies are as beautiful as they are intriguing. What a perfectly gorgeous Christmas gift. Happy Holidays!


This was such a terrific recipe, thanks for sharing it! I made them for my daughters preschool and replaced the pecans with pine nuts and they were just as good. Such a lovely balance of flavors!


This is such an elegant cookie and would be the perfect companion to a cup of tea. Thanks for the tip on "sourcing" rose petals.

Lynn | The Road to Honey

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