Saturday, April 11, 2009

Candied Orange Peel

This year I decided to try to make Colomba Pasquale again. I made it once before without the proper mold, and despite looking awful it was pretty tasty. This time I am prepared, equipped with the colomba paper molds I bought a while ago in a local kitchen supply store. Now the time has come, just in time for Easter, to make this wonderful bread millions of people will be eating in Italy on Easter Sunday.

The dough is now rising, waiting for the fourth addition of ingredients, and more yeast to carry along the rise of this super rich dough. As I was mixing the dough, it dawned on me that I didn't have enough candied peel, a crucial ingredient in this bread. No time was lost when I remember the blood oranges I juiced yesterday which I promptly rescued from the compost bucket and proceeded to candy. No, they were not in the compost pile, just in the compost bucket I keep next to the stove, there were totally fine, plus they will be boiled, right?

Candying citrus peel is easier that most people think, water and sugar are the only ingredients required, together with some patience. Two years ago, almost to the exact day (it was Easter night), I went to visit one of my dearest friends, Paola, and her family in Roncan, a tiny village located at the foothill of the Alps, north of Venice. We started eating oranges, and as the peel started piling up I decided to candy it, all I needed was water and sugar, right? It was one of those unforgettable moments, spent with my oldest and dearest friends, in their beautiful although rustic kitchen. Needless to say the peel didn't last until the next day, we ate it on the spot.

Depending on how thin the peel is cut, there are many ways to candy it. I simply covered the juiced halves with cold water and boiled them until tender to the fork (for citrus that has a much thicker pith, a 2 or 3 step blanching is required). After the oranges had cooled down, I removed most of the pith with a spoon, and then cut the skin in crescents with a sharp knife. The candying took a while since the skin was thick, maybe 30 minutes or more. The purpose of boiling the skin in simple syrup is to exchange the water in the peel with sugar, a natural preservative. This way the candied peel lasts for a long time in the refrigerator.

Once the crescents are completely translucent and the syrup has thickened, the peel is drained and dried, sometimes overnight. This step is important because it decreases the amount of sugar that will stick to the peel, for a much better end result. I didn't wait that long though since I will need the peel in the next hour.

Tossed in sugar, the peel is hard to resist, I must admit.

Candied Citrus Peel

You will need peel of citrus fruit, such as lemons, oranges, mandarins, grapefruit, etc. (don't candy different fruit at the same time as they vary in thickness and will take different times).
Simple Syrup (1:1 ratio between water and sugar, in cups), enough to cover the peel.

For thick skins that have a lot of white pith, blanch the peel twice or three times in boiling water (add the peel to boiling water, blanch few seconds, drain and cool in ice water). On the last blanching, continue cooking, barely simmering, until the peel feels soft when cut with the tip of a knife. Once cooled remove most of the white bitter pith, with a knife or a spoon. Cut in desired shape and size.

To make the simple syrup, pour the water in a pan with a heavy bottom, dissolve the sugar, and bring to a boil. Add the drained peel, and cook just simmering, covered with a disk of parchment paper, until translucent.

Drain the peel from the syrup, dry for few hours to overnight, and toss in granular sugar. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The peel keeps for weeks.

If you have a zester, the peel can be removed in thin strips, with barely any pith. They only need to be blanched twice, and don't need to be boiled at all.

Before candying, the strips can be cut in very thin julienne strips. When the peel is very thin only take 10-15 minutes to cook in the syrup.


Y said...

Beautiful! I love candied orange peel, especially when dipped in chocolate :)

Lien said...

I always make them myself too, tastes jsut soooo much better than shop-bought. Great pictures too!


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