I like weird flavors. I’m intrigued by recipes that have ingredients so rare I have to go to 4 different stores to find everything I need. I love exploring the flavors that hint to a culture’s vibrancy and history, where one bite can help me breathe the air in a city thousands of miles away from where I sit. That’s why I was intrigued by this dessert by Sugar, Salt, Magic. The idea of using rosewater in a dish meant to be the crowning jewel of a meal scared the pants off me because the risk of getting a mouth full of potpourri notes is high. But the mellow richness of the pistachio crust and the milky creaminess of the panna cotta evens everything out, to the point where you find yourself eating it and wondering how all these flavors could work so well.
The original recipe calls for rose extract (the thing I looked all over to find) but I settled for rose water purchased at a local Middle Eastern food store. Rose water is less concentrated than extract or essence, so you have to use more of it to get the flavor balance, but the beauty of this recipe is that yes, you’re adding more liquid, but you’re adding it to a panna cotta and a jelly, so the gelatin can handle the extra liquid.
My recommendation with this tart is that if you’ve never experimented with these kinds of flavors before, dilute the rose water by a third or half to get a sense of it without being overwhelmed by it. I’d also suggest pairing this dessert with some strongly flavored meat and vegetables as a main dish because they’ll bring out the light and airy notes in this tart.
I also adapted the original recipe to make 4 small tarts instead of one large tart. Weigh your pistachio tart dough once completed and divide by 4 to figure out how much dough to press into each tart pan. You might want to use a little less dough if you don’t like as thick of a crust, but there’s a lot of flavor in the crust that you wouldn’t want to miss out on either.
All in all, this is a special confection that might need the right audience to appreciate it, but appreciate it they will.