Friday, February 11, 2011

Sometimes You Just Need Something Fancy - candied orange peels

I am not one of those people who shy's away from extraordinary ingredients. Don't get me wrong - I'm not going to go buying a Berkshire pig leg without knowing I have a seriously great recipe/occasion for one. Yet my heart thrills to see the fancy packaging of the Italian chocolate-hazelnut spread on my shelf and will occasionally concede in spending the extra $1 more than nutella just to have that moment of love for myself. 

My favorite "fancy" ingredients are my citrus sugar and an herb-infused butter (both of which I make habitually whenever I have the proper leftovers). They are both incredibly simple and inexpensive, but when you actually have them to use you can't help but feel a bit lavish. This week I felt in desperate need of a nap everyday. I felt drained and unfocused, so I set about making something elaborate just because, just to pamper myself.

I went to visit my friend Carolyn once and she was casually making candied orange peels like it was the most natural thing in the world to be doing. I, of course, thought she was extravagantly crazy. I've never even used candied orange peels, much less felt the need to make my own. It seemed an overly fussy thing to make. After Carolyn burned her first batch to udder black tar (I guess friends can be distracting) - we went to the store for more oranges. Not only was she crazy enough to make candied orange peels - but she was willing to make them again immediately!

I was intrigued. Apparently she has a bread recipe that makes all this worth it.

Sitting at her table helping her remove any signs of pith (the white stuff) from the peels - I was beginning to see the attraction to this recipe. It's like knitting - something simple that keeps your hands busy enough to slow your mind and clear your head.

Carolyn would remove all the pith to avoid bitterness, but I found using a pre-boil recipe much easier.

This is probably the only reason that, months later, the idea of making candied orange peels stuck with me. It has my required elements of being both cheap (therefore not a tragedy if it goes awry) and something I can keep around to use later in many variations of experiments. It also has a real element of being methodically relaxing to make and indulgent to have around. So fancy. I mean who really needs candied orange peels available at all times!?! (please take note - I am not an avid baker. clearly.)

Despite having no earthly idea what to do with them if I'm actually successful making these slices of citrus gold I randomly bought oranges for the project anyway. Maybe that's part of what I needed out of this project anyway - a little bit of an adventure. Sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is open the door to a small inspiration that leads to the need for another small inspiration. I might just end up this week with scones out of this journey into the world of a new ingredient. I could always use more scones in my life.

I have never really gotten into boiling things in simple syrup until it utterly transformed. That's really all it is to candy something like this. It can have all the complexity of caramel with just 3 ingredients. In the last minute there's about 30 seconds between perfectly done and starting to burn, but as I succeeded in grabbing it off the stove in time I can't imagine it's that hard to time. I only burned my fingers lightly on the caramel goodness they're coated in setting them to cool.

I might just have to start boiling things in sugar more often. This is where these experiments get me into trouble...

They look like glowing strips of sunshine. Almost worth making just for how pretty they are. Still not sure what to do with them. They held onto that bite of citrus oil without becoming overly sweet so I imagine they would be great to infuse into baked goods... definitely need to try some scones. I would have to make them thicker if I wanted to dip them in dark chocolate, but as that's a classic pairing - perhaps they need to also infuse some brownies in my near future... yeah - not a bad experiment at all. :)

As an added bonus - my attempt to simultaneously make candied orange slices completely failed (I think it was boiling too rapidly as it pushed all the fruit out of it's shells) and I made a spiced orange syrup to use for some new cocktail ideas. I love when good things come from something going all wrong. :)

1 comment:

  1. Well done. I think the idea of putting the peels in brownies is interesting... but scones are always good!
    Love the photos, such lovely color.