Fossil records show that rose species have existed for around 40 million years. People have been using roses for medicinal, cosmetic and culinary purposes for about 5000 years. There are many historical accounts dating back as far as Mesopotamia, and 10th Century Persia.
The actual distillation of oil extraction wasn’t until the late 15th early 16th century. It is this process that gives us Rosewater Extracts; that lovely essence that flavors cakes, tarts, and many savory dishes.
The two principle areas of production are central Bulgaria and Isparta in the Anatolia region of Turkey. Both regions use the Damask Rose, as it’s one of the few, out of 7000 varieties, that have oil bearing petals. The rose petals go through a steam distillation process to extract the oil. It takes about 10,000 roses to fill a single 5ml bottle with rose oil.
For the Rosewater Genoise recipe, and for other rosewater pastries I used Nielsen-Massey Rosewater. It’s a bit more expensive than other brands, but it’s concentrated enough that 1 teaspoon is a sufficient amount for most recipes, and it imparts a true rose essence. Have fun with this flavor, and add it to meringues, cookies, a Pavlova, homemade strawberry jam, or sliced fresh peaches.