Lately, I've been obsessively trying to perfect my recipe for lokmeh (also known as lokum or Turkish delight). It all started last summer, when I was leafing through an old Assyrian community cookbook that my aunt Masy lent me, when I found a recipe for orange blossom and pistachio lokmeh. The resulting candies were tasty, but the recipe called for gelatin instead of cornstarch, and they weren't quite the texture I was after. So I started researching Turkish delight recipes, and made about fifteen different batches, until I finally came up with something I was happy with.
I will be posting my lokmeh recipe sometime soon (and I will explain what I discovered about the easiest and best way to make it), but I'm getting ahead of myself, because this post is not about the high-maintenance, fast-paced, high-stress world of candy making (definitely an activity made for off-the-clock floor brokers and brain surgeons). This is a post about the lowest maintenance dessert of all time.
After obsessing over my orange blossom and pistachio lokme recipe for months, I was craving something a little less demanding with the same flavors, and that's when I googled "orange blossom banana bread." I was so happy to see Adrianna Adarme's beautiful recipe for banana bread infused with orange blossom water, which inspired me to use my own tried-and-true recipe, infusing the batter with a little bit of orange blossom water, mixing in chopped pistachios, and topping the whole thing with bright green ground pistachios.
This is usually the part in the post where I explain why you absolutely must try this recipe. But if you've ever encountered it, you know that orange blossom water speaks for itself. If you haven't tried orange blossom water, it tastes just like the name implies: it's reminiscent of oranges, but with a definitively floral bouquet. It's like if some really fancy cosmetic line made a subtly orange-scented perfume (one that didn't scream "generic orange-scented dishwasher detergent!!"). In other words, orange blossom water makes plain old orange juice, orange slices, and orange peel extract seem astringent, bland, and brassy. Don't get me wrong, I love citrus and have been known to encourage people to eat whole lemons (here and here), but it's also nice to experience the flavors of citrus fruits in a context totally separate from what makes them citrusy.
Orange blossom water is easy to find in the same places you'd find rosewater. It's almost always available in Middle Eastern markets, and you can sometimes find it in Indian markets as well. You might even find it in a very well-stocked supermarket.
Once you have orange blossom water, it's not hard to find ways to use it up. If you start to get way into Middle Eastern and Mediterranean baking, you'll find it listed as an ingredient—sometimes optional, sometimes required—in dozens of desserts (try it in baklawa, ghreybeh, and galaktoboureko).
But if you don't bake often, you can add a capful to just about anything that needs a little extra fragrance. For instance, it's particularly delicious in yogurt, smoothies, fruit salad, and whipped cream. It's not quite as strong as rosewater, so you can be a little more generous with the orange blossom water, but the same rule still applies: a little goes a long way.
Yield: 1 medium loaf
Active time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
1 cup mashed banana from 3 very overripe bananas
3 tablespoons melted butter
4 tablespoons olive oil (not extra virgin olive oil; feel free to substitute more butter)
2 room temperature eggs
2 teaspoons orange blossom water *
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups sifted flour (about 1 3/4 cups unsifted)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chopped raw pistachios
1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely ground pistachios for the top **
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Butter a 8x4 loaf pan. ***
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the mashed bananas together with the melted butter and olive oil until very well combined. Add the eggs, orange blossom water, sugar, and salt, and whisk together until the whole thing is completely incorporated and the sugar has melted.
- In another large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and pistachios.
- Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Do not over-mix (stop mixing as soon as there are no large lumps).
- Spoon the mixture into the loaf pan.
- Sprinkle the top with the ground pistachios.
- Bake for about 1 hour. Start checking for doneness after about 50 minutes, by inserting a toothpick or wooden skewer into the center of the loaf. If it comes out with batter, it needs more time, but if it comes out with just some crumbs, it's ready to take out.
- Remove from the pan and cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before cutting and serving.
* See the note above the recipe for more ways to use orange blossom water, and tips on where to find it.
** The pistachios that are mixed into the loaf should simply be chopped, but the ones sprinkled on top should be ground (in other words, very finely chopped). You can use a food processor, a nut grinder, or simply a chef's knife. It's okay if there are a few larger pieces sprinkled on top, it just looks prettier with mostly ground pistachios.
*** Feel free to instead use a 9x5 loaf pan if you're very worried about spillage. But if you follow the recipe carefully, the batter should be viscous enough that it won't overflow, but will instead puff up into a beautiful, tall loaf as it bakes. If you use a 9x5 loaf, check it for doneness about 5 to 10 minutes earlier. If your pan isn't nonstick (or is very scratched-up nonstick), make a *parchment sling for easy removal (butter the pan, place the sling, and add more butter to the parchment). Simply trace a butter knife around the bare sides and lift it out with the parchment flaps.