Friday, December 24, 2010

How to Make Candied Citrus Peel

Candied citrus peel, or “candied peel,” is used in many recipes for festive holiday breads, such as panettone and Dresdner Christollen (Christmas stollen). You'll also find it used in cookie and candy recipes. They can also be enjoyed on their own.

Candied peel can be hard to find in the grocery store, and is somewhat expensive. Making your own is actually pretty simple, but it does take a bit of time. It can be made with several different kinds of citrus fruit, oranges, lemons, limes, or grapefruit are all fair game.

I originally got this recipe from Elizabeth LaBau. I modified her recipe only slightly, to make it just a bit easier for home cooks. Her recipe uses oranges, but she also uses them as a simple baseline for other fruit. Her conversion works pretty well: 1 grapefruit counts as 2 oranges, 2 small lemons or limes count as 1 orange. You'll want to use about 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon of water and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar per “orange.”

It is best to use organic fruit for this recipe. If you can't get organic citrus fruit, wash the outside thoroughly to remove the residual pesticides.

Equipment needed
paring knife
medium saucepan
measuring cups
baking sheet and parchment paper or fine mesh cooling racks

4 oranges
4 1/4 cups water
2 1/2 cups sugar plus 1 cup sugar for dredging

Using a sharp paring knife, cut the top and bottom off of an orange. Score the peel into quarters, and then again, into eighths. Peel the orange carefully, trying to keep the peel intact.

Next, cut away the bitter white pith from the backside of the peels. It's easiest to do this by laying the peel flat on a cutting board, and carefully running the knife between the pith and peel. It's okay is a little bit of the pith remains on the peel. Discard the pith. The remaining outer peels will be about 1/8 inch thick.

Repeat this process with the remaining oranges. The peels can be set aside in the refrigerator until needed. They'll keep for a few days in case you need to build up your supply.

Combine 2 1/2 cups of sugar and all the water in a medium saucepan, uncovered, over medium heat, until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, boiling it uncovered for 5 minutes. Add the citrus peel strips, pushing them down into the syrup with a spoon, and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook, uncovered, until reduced to about 1/4 the original amount. The peels should be just covered by the syrup at that point. DO NOT STIR. The sugar is so concentrated that stirring may cause a chain reaction, giving you large sugar crystals instead of syrup. Reducing to 1/4 the volume will take about 2 hours.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool. Drain the peels in a colander. You may be tempted to use the remaining syrup, but I find it too bitter, in spite of the high sugar content.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Put the remaining 1 cup of sugar in a shallow dish. Dredge the peels in the sugar, both sides, and place in a single layer on the baking sheet. Add more sugar for dredging as needed.

Place the baking sheet on a rack in the upper third of the oven and let dry for 1 hour. Check the peels every 20 minutes to make sure they are drying and not cooking. Alternately, you can put the peels on cooling racks and let them dry overnight.

Once the peels are dry, scrape off any large sugar clumps. The peels can be stored in a cool, dry place for a few weeks. Candied peels can be used as directed in recipes, or dipped in chocolate and enjoyed by themselves.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Traditions – Aebleskivers

If you're a long-time reader, you may remember that my family spent a generation in Denmark. One of the family recipes that came across the Atlantic when they immigrated to America was for aebleskivers.

Aebleskivers are a cross between a pancake and a popover and are cooked on the stove in a special pan with round wells where the batter is poured and turned as it cooks, giving them their distinctive shape. Most aebleskiver pans are cast iron. There are two varieties available, one for gas stoves and one for electric stoves. The electric stove variety either have a flat bottom or a ring surrounding the wells to better distribute the heat and avoid “hot spots” on the bottom each pocket.

In Denmark, aebleskivers are commonly served before Christmas. In North America, there are several festivals throughout the year that celebrate the aebleskiver and Danish culture.

My mother never made aebleskivers that I remember. Her grandmother made them all the time and became quite famous for them, however. Over the last couple of years my own family has resurrected the old family recipe and the traditions that go with it. I don't use my great-grandmother's old recipe, though. It's a bit too heavy on the eggs. This is another recipe I found in my grandmother's recipe collections, that I like much better, with just a bit of modification to make it easier.

Equipment needed:
Aebleskiver pan
Measuring cups and spoons
Mixing bowls
Hand mixer or whisk
Chopsticks, spoons, or skewers to help turn the aeblesivers while cooking

3 large Eggs, separated
1 cup Milk, or Half and Half
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
3 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 teaspoon Salt
butter, as needed
powdered sugar as needed for dusting

Separate the egg yolks and whites. In a small bowl, beat the yolks until smooth. Mix in the milk and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the egg yolk mixture and thoroughly mix together. Gently fold in the egg whites.

Heat an aebleskiver pan over medium heat and melt 1/4 teaspoon butter in each well. Pour 1 to 2 tablespoons batter into each well. Begin turning over gradually using a teaspoon or skewer, as soon as the aelbelskivers begin to brown. Keep turning until nicely browned and cooked on all sides (you won't need to turn them over more than once or twice).

Remove from the pan and serve hot, sprinkled with powdered sugar. They are also good with jam or syrup.

You can also stuff these with small chunks of apple, a scant teaspoon of applesauce, bits of ham, cheese, green onion, or whatever suits your fancy. Just drop them into the batter after you put it into the wells, but before turning.

Photo credit: WikiCommons

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Provo Gurls (Off Topic)

Okay, I know this isn't food related, but it still made me smile. I just think it's fun when Mormon's embrace the stereotypes and then make fun of themselves with them. This is BYU's sketch comedy group, Divine Comedy, doing a parody of Katy Perry's "California Gurls"

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Lemon Battered Fish

One of my favorite “pub” foods is fish and chips. This lemon flavored variation is a family favorite of ours. Even my youngest, who is one of the most picky eaters I've ever met, let alone spawned, loves these. The batter keeps the fish tender and moist. It takes a bit of work, but the results are well worth it. You can serve this with tartar sauce or something else if you want, but I wouldn't.

Equipment needed
kitchen knife
mixing bowls
measuring cups and spoons
large skillet

1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
3/4 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
1 large Egg, beaten
2/3 cup Water
2/3 cup Lemon Juice, divided
1/2 cup All-Purpose Flour, in addition to the first cup
2 pounds White Fish, cut fillets into strips
Oil, for frying
1 Lemon, cut into wedges

In a shallow bowl, combine 1 cup of flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine egg, water, and 1/3 cup lemon juice. Add to the flour/soda mixture and blend into a smooth batter.

In separate shallow bowls, place the remaining 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/2 cup flour. Dip the fish fillets in the lemon juice, then the flour, and coat with the batter.

Heat 1 inch of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Drop a bit of the batter into the oil. If it immediately rises about half way up, and then all the way to the top after a few more seconds, the oil is hot enough. Fry the battered fish, a few at a time, for 2-3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.

Garnish with lemon if desired.

Makes 5 servings

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gordon Ramsay on Christmas Cooking

Like everyone else, I've been pretty busy preparing for the Christmas holiday. To help us both out, I thought I'd share these tips from celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay about cooking and hosting that amazing Christmas party you're wishing you hadn't volunteered for.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Food Joke Friday - Chocolate Ice Cream

A man approaches an ice cream truck and says, "I'd like three scoops of chocolate ice cream, please."

The woman behind the counter replies, "I'm very sorry, sir, but our delivery didn't come this morning. We're out of chocolate."

"In that case," the man continues, "I'll have two scoops of chocolate ice cream."

"You don't understand, sir," the woman says. "We have no chocolate."

"Then just give me some chocolate," he insists.

Frustrated, the woman asked, "Sir, will you please spell 'van,' as in 'vanilla?'"

The man spells, "V A N."

"Now spell 'straw,' as in 'strawberry.'"

"OK. S-T-R-A-W."

"Now," the woman asks, "spell 'stink,' as in chocolate."

The man hesitates, looks confused and replies, "There is no stink in chocolate."

"Yes sir. That's what I've been trying to tell you."

Photo credit: Larisa Valenzuela