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rose water and orange blossom syrups

Photo Credit: Alexandra Grablewski

Ater, or “syrup,” is a very important ingredient in preparing Lebanese sweets. Water, lemon juice, sugar, and either orange blossom water or rose water combine to form a sticky-sweet component that can be used for dipping, pouring, and dousing over our fantastically flavorful desserts. These two ingredients are found in Middle Eastern stores and online.

Temperature is very important when pouring syrups over desserts: room-temperature syrup is always poured over hot pastries and hot syrup is always poured over room-temperature pastries, for maximum infusion into the desserts. These two varieties, Ater b Mazaher (Orange Blossom Syrup) and Ater b Maward (Rose Water Syrup) are used throughout my recipes. I tend to favor the aromatic orange blossom syrup for my Baklawa with walnut filling semolina-based sweets, and Knefeh (Lebanese cheesecake). Fragrant rose water syrup is an essential part of my pistachio desserts, like Eish al Bolbol, Bellawriyeh, and Rez b Halib. Trade in either of the flavors, or even combine them together! My Ater keeps for up to 4 weeks in the refrigerator; simply warm in a small saucepan as needed



6 cups sugar

2 ½ to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoon orange blossom water (mazaher) or rose water (maward) or 1 tablespoon of each if you want to combine them

Combine the sugar, lemon juice, and 3 cups of cold water in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, uncovered, then immediately reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the syrup begins to thicken. Keep a close eye on the syrup, and make sure it remains clear in color and does not begin to brown or turn yellow.

To test the thickness of the syrup, dip a wooden spoon into the pot; the syrup should visibly coat the spoon. Let the syrup cool slightly on the spoon, then, using your index finger, swipe the syrup and squeeze it between your thumb and finger. It should feel sticky and thick, and once you release your finger and thumb there should be a thin, stringy line of syrup between the two fingers.

Turn off the heat and allow the syrup to cool slightly but remain warm, 5 to 7 minutes.


Once the syrup has cooled, gently stir in the orange blossom water or rose water or 1 tablespoon of each, then taste it; there should be a faint essence of the flavored water. Cover the pot and set aside at room temperature until ready to use. Don’t let it cool completely!


NOTE This recipe can be halved easily or doubled for multiple desserts.

Copyright 2017 by Julie Ann Sageer in Julie Taboulie’s Lebanese Kitchen, St. Martin’s Press/St. Martin’s Griffin. All Rights Reserved.



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