So many Lebanese pastries rely on orange blossom syrup for flavor, for fragrance. And though the syrup is truly simple in its method and short ingredient list, there are a few different approaches to it: some with more sugar than water, longer or shorter cooking times, a mix of rosewater and orange blossom water, or one or the other.
I’ve tried it all, and there is no distinct hierarchy in terms of what works best. The important tip to remember about this syrup (called attar, AH-tar, in Arabic) is that its temperature matters–a lot–when it’s poured over pastry. My rule of thumb is cold syrup over hot pastry, because I like to eat my pastry hot from the oven. But you could let the pastry cool and then pour hot syrup over the cooled pastry. The one thing to be avoided is hot over hot, or cool over cool—neither will allow for the syrup to adequately infuse into the pastry, and soak in properly. What we’re after is a marriage, a union, of syrup and pastry.
Once you make simple syrup a time or two, you’ll get to know your own taste for how much flower water and lemon juice to add. This depends on the potency of the flower water; I always err on the side of conservative amounts of flower water. Then taste, and add more if the syrup needs it.
For our knafeh, and also for our baklawa, tradition in my neck of the woods calls for mazaher, or orange blossom water, and not for rosewater in flavoring our syrup.
- 1½ cups sugar
- ¾ cup water
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1½ teaspoons mazaher, orange blossom water
- In a small heavy saucepan, combine sugar, water and lemon juice and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the mazaher, pour into a heatproof container and refrigerate to cool completely.