Rosewater Shortbread Cookies

One of my favorites. Classic, buttery, whole wheat shortbread cookies fragrant with rosewater, flecked with toasted nuts, and dried rose petals.

Rosewater Shortbread Cookies

These are buttery, whole-wheat shortbread cookies - fragrant with rosewater, and 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 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 now, as written, they're oh so tasty.
Rosewater Shortbread Cookies Recipe Rosewater Shortbread Cookies Recipe

Shortbread Cookies: Inspiration

These little guys came about when I was tasked with bringing dessert to a friend's house. She was cooking an impressive Ottolenghi-inspired feast, and I thought these would be a pretty finish. With the rose petals and all. In the years since that dinner they've become part of my regular shortbread repertoire, and I make them often for special occasions and holidays. I mean, they're so pretty and tasty!
Rosewater Shortbread Cookies Recipe

Baking with Flowers

The trick with cooking or baking with florals is figuring out how much is too much, and how little is too little. For example, with this shortbread recipe, 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.

Second attempt? I gave the rose notes a boost by layering the petals in the dough with a splash of rose water. The dough immediately became more fragrant, balanced, and helped nail what I intended (and hoped for) from the start. I 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 have been using 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 :)!
Rosewater Shortbread Cookies Recipe

These little shortbread cookies are perfect alongside other bite-sized treats on a post-dinner sweets board. I like to break up a good bar of chocolate, include some salted caramels, maybe a few dates, etc. Or you could do a cookie-only sampler, with a range of tiny cookies. There are a lot of favorite cookie recipes to explore, or bake larger cookies, and cut them into quarters so people can sample. And if you're after a recipe for classic shortbread cookies, this is a hard to beat. 

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Rosewater Shortbread Cookies

4.6 from 5 votes

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.

Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. Combine the flours, pecans, dried rose petals and sesame seeds in a medium bowl.

  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
Serves
48
Prep Time
1 hr 30 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
1 hr 55 mins
 
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Comments

I will be making these for my daughter’s wedding. I would like to leave out the sesame seeds, as several people I know in particular are unable to eat seeds. Is there a good alternative or can they just be left out?

Maria Lowry

    Hi Maria, you can just leave them out. Congrats!

    Heidi Swanson

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

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

Kate

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!

Ali

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}

These are too elegant to eat 😀 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

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

Jaime

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.

Jesse

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?…

Kat

I wish I could try them right now …YUMMY 🙂

dara

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.

Jesse

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.

Nazima

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!!

Kim

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!

Linn

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

cavoletto

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

cavoletto

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.

Annakarin

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.

Stephen

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

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

Emily

    No – but now I’m intrigued and will look into nokhodchi! xo

    Heidi Swanson

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.

Robin

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!

thefolia

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

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

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

Christina @ The Beautiful Balance

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

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

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

Abby @ The Frosted Vegan

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

Alice Dishes

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 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!

Leah

These would be so pretty at a wedding as well!

Barb Bamber

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!

Magda

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

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

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

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.

Yalda

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

Jacque

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.

jennylee

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

Mike @TheIronYou

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

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!!

Sheila

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.

Louise

These look so elegant and beautiful!!

Becky @ DisplacedHousewife

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 STUNNING. I grew up with rosewater cookies, so this is like a modern twist. I love the crushed rose petals on top. :] // ▲ itsCarmen.com ▲

~ Carmen ~

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